"Lucy the Lecturer"
October 31, 1959
Last Updated: August 14, 1997
Formatted by: Ted Nesi
Scanned and Provided by: Garth Arrik Jensen
With one semester under her belt, she's looking forward to conducting
another class in comedy.
Lucille Ball, vice president of Desilu Productions and two-time Emmy
winner, goes back to school this month in a rehearsal hall on La Cienega
Boulevard in Los Angeles. Assisted from time to time by Vivian Vance,
her long-time cohort in I Love Lucy, she will again take up her
self-imposed duties as lecturer on comedy at Ben-Ari's Actors and
Last winter Lucy gave 18 lectures before some 90 students in two
nine-week semesters, her students ranging in age from the late teens to
the late 50's and in experience from virtually none to quite a bit. How
many classes she will be able to squeeze into her schedule this winter
is still a matter to be worked out.
A visitor to one of these sessions is instantly impressed by the
fact that very little laughing goes on during Miss Ball's lectures.
Acting, be it comedy or drama, is serious business and no one is more
serious about it than Lucy.
She receives no pay for her work. "I do it because it's fun and
because it's always a good thing when there are people who are willing
to work hard and learn and improve themselves in this industry."
Because Lucy considers comedy just an aspect of acting, she makes no
attempt to teach her charges how to mug or take falls or time a laugh.
Instead, she divides her two-hour sessions between informal lectures and
workshop scenes staged by the students. Her criticism of their work is
sharp, direct and straight to the point. "That," she said of an original
comedy sketch that failed to come off, "was as bad as anything I have
ever seen. It was in bed taste and there is never any excuse for bad
She has little time for hurt feelings. "There is nothing personal
in criticism," she says flatly. "People who spend weeks moping over a
turn-down or a harsh critical review are just wasting time being sorry
Lucy lays her cards on the table right at the beginning. "All I
have to offer," she tells her class, "are my own experiences and my
reactions to them. I don't know what the heck you're going to learn
about acting here, but I do hope you learn something about attitude."
Some of Lucy's own attitudes, culled from her lectures:
* "Learn the art of taking care of yourself, and remember that there is
a very fine distinction between being selfish and taking care of
yourself. If you take care of yourself, others won't have to."
* "Your first goal must be as diligently pursued as the later and bigger
goals. The habit of having a goal is the important thing."
* "I loathe bitterness. It shows in everything you do and eats the liver
right out of you."
* "It is so important to have what I like to call the enchanted sense of
play. Many, many times you should think and react as a child in doing
comedy. All the inhibitions and embarrassments disappear. We did some
pretty crazy things in I Love Lucy, but we believed every minute of
them. It's like getting drunk without taking a drink."
* "I think imagination is the most important thing an actor can have.
But remember, there is a vast difference between losing yourself and
Lucy readily admits that she gets more out of the classes than her
students and that she uses what she learns to the advantage of her own
group of 22 Desilu Workshop contract players.
"I am not a teacher," she shrugs, "but apparently I do have
something to say that is helpful."
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