Making something scripted seem like it’s actually happening sounds easy until a camera’s switched on. Once tape’s rolling, too many actors’ bathroom mirror rehearsals become overdone regurgitations, unresponsive to others’ performances. When dramatic performers fall short, it’s painfully apparent and we label them “hacks.” Less believable comedic actors, on the other hand, sometimes get a pass because their punchlines distract audiences from a lack of training. Viewers are too busy laughing to realize that what’s going on is phoned in.
A talent who blends the visceral realism of drama with the snappiness of comedy is unusual. For such a talent, successes may come in the form of projects with genres as varied as they are high profile. I say all this to say: For Ann Carr, “The Actress” could be the start of something great.
Created by and starring Carr, the web series about a struggling New York City actress (now in its second season) is not to be played in the background. Dry, layered, and artfully paced episodes are much more akin to something from across the pond — a Pegg-esque deadpan — than a brain-eating-zombies-are-on-the-loose, hyper-jokey, watch-while-you-pregame YouTube riff. “The Actress” underscores smart, natural humor with true to life reactionary emotion. In its best moments, the show seems much more voyeuristic than performed, providing laughs alongside an authentic immersion that every escapist entertainment enthusiast craves.
Here are three reasons to watch if you’re in one of those “why should I?” moods.
Making people laugh is hard. Making people care about what you say in between jokes is harder, and depends largely on believability.
There’s something to be said for loud, boisterous, watermelon-smashing humor, and those who employ it often garner laughs as plentiful as their antics. But subtlety requires risk, uncertainty, a belief in concept that rewards viewers who appreciate comedy as much for the laughs it inspires as the complex process that evokes them.
Web series are often too short to allow for rich character exploration and tend to fall more in the sketchy, two beats and heighten camp than in the exposition camp. “The Actress” episodes are long enough to showcase characters’ smaller idiosyncrasies and, because they’re so spot-on, that attention to detail takes up character-based humor a big notch.