Just one short month ago, we were all waiting in breathless anticipation for the World Television Premiere of JONAS. The series arrived amid the ballyhoo that is par for the course with any Jonas endeavor. Judging from the response comments, I would say that the Revelers are feeling positive about the series. I personally am thrilled with how good it is. But now, as the month of premiere wanes and all the hype is clearing away, I’m feeling moved to take another look at the series and ask: Now that we know what the series will be – what about it? I’ll analyze this question, here and in future posts, by looking at what each of the brothers is individually contributing, thus far, to the series.
Join me for the discussion, after the jump!
Like all of you, I have been watching JONAS and have been enjoying it immensely. However, since I can’t ever turn off my critical eye, I have also been considering my opinions on the emerging acting performances of each of the brothers. Acting, though certainly as much of a mysterious process as other aspects of performing, is something that can be taught. There are basic acting techniques that can be translated from one person to another. Almost any willing person can be trained to be the best actor they can be, which is not to say that all actors will be equally good. The technique used in JONAS is film acting, which is the style of acting seen in movies. Generally speaking, film acting is an easier technique for the novice actor to acquire than stage acting, which is closer to the style used in most television sit-coms. There is no stopping once a play begins, therefore stage acting requires an actor to maintain a character for much longer periods than film acting, which is shot in short segments, or takes. Good film directors who know what they want will be able to express their objective to the actors, and multiple takes will enable the objective to be achieved. In my opinion, the JONAS directors (Jerry Levine, “Wrong Song”; Paul Hoen, “Groovy Movies” and “Slice of Life”; Lev L. Spiro, “Keeping it Real”) whose work we have seen thus far are doing a very good job of working with the Jonas Brothers.
But more importantly, working with the Jonas Brothers is probably a far easier gig than any of these directors had anticipated, given JB’s relative lack of acting experience coming into the project. All three of the Jonas Brothers are articulate, intelligent men with innate charm and charisma, happily possessed of handsome, camera-alluring looks. They are also musicians – which means they have natural rhythm, and rhythm translates well into timing – an essential ingredient in comedic acting, whether on stage or film. Timing is the sense of when to deliver a line for maximum effect. Any scene, comedic or dramatic, has a rhythm. An actor in a scene plays with the rhythm or against it, and a desired effect occurs. Comedy, in particular makes use of timing and rhythm for laughs. An audience watching a comedy may not always be aware when the timing is on, but will always know when the timing is off.
Comic timing is a skill that no one hoping to succeed as a comedic actor can do without. And Kevin Jonas, as I have happily discovered in the last 4 weeks, has impeccable comic timing. I was somewhat surprised, even loving Kevin as much as I do, to discover what great timing he has. He has been hilarious in many a radio interview and YouTube video, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he had actual comic timing that could be consistently employed for getting laughs in a filmed television show. However, this is exactly what he has been doing week in and week out on JONAS, and he is nothing short of delightful.
A staple of comic by-play is the Rule of Three. Herein, a pattern is set up, the pattern is reinforced, and then the punch line breaks the pattern and gets the laugh. Kevin is very good at this. For example, in “Slice of Life” when Stella quizzes the guys about the color of the Pizza Girl’s eyes:
Kevin: I’m pretty sure she had two.
Followed immediately by this bit, when Stella asks them to name one thing the Pizza Girl did besides deliver pizza:
Joe: She rang the doorbell.
Nick: She smelled good.
Kevin: She delivered garlic bread!
Both times, it is up to Kevin to deliver the punch line, and both times, he is stellar.
In fact, the first time we ever see Kevin in the very first episode of JONAS he is playing on a Rule of Three. In the opening scene of “Wrong Song”:
Joe: Do you see what I see?
Kevin: It’s a cloud in the shape of a rabbit. Cute!
Joe: No, lower.
Kevin: A rabbit in the shape of a cloud. Even cuter!
Kevin: Nick with a goofy smile on his face. Nick with a goofy smile on his face?
In all three examples, Kevin’s timing enables him to say his line, no matter how much of a non sequitur, to maximum funny effect.
Another thing Kevin does well is a take (in the sense of a visible response or reaction, not in the sense of a single continuous recorded performance). Takes require timing, such as in the lovely takes Kevin does while filming his lasso-throwing reenactment scene in “Groovy Movies.” Every look Kevin gives the camera in response to screwing up the lasso throw (i.e. when the glass shatters, when the cat howls, or his crestfallen look at Joe and sheepish turning away) is a beautifully executed take.
Kevin also appears to have a gift for full-on physical comedy. In“Keeping it Real”, he does both a flawless unconscious-no-hands face-slide down the Horace Mantis Academy’s lockers and a fine sleepy- fall-down-the-fire-pole. Kevin’s background as a gymnast is serving him well. Moreover, he is willing to look foolish, and this is a place to which an actor must be unafraid to go to play physical comedy.
In my opinion, comic actors fall into one of three types. There are the comic actors who are in and of themselves funny, there are comic actors who play a particular type of character, and there are comic actors who play a wide variety of different funny characters. The popular actor, Will Farrell, would be an example of the third type. Will Farrell is an inherently likable guy who plays crazy characters hilariously.
It’s no secret that Kevin Jonas is a Will Farrell fan. And I believe that Kevin is channeling his idol a bit, as he goes about building his character on JONAS. It’s a good choice, because like Will Farrell, Kevin has the ability to say the most ridiculous things with complete sincerity and without a trace of irony. This is a gift for anyone trying to do wacky comedy. For instance, in the closing scene of “Keeping it Real” he stands adorned in garbage bags as he utters this line with total conviction:
Kevin: Maybe you guys can admit defeat; let others say that the garbage beat you, but not me. This chore will not defeat me! Gentlemen, goodbye.
He then gives a blood-curdling banzai yell as he charges into battle against the fans surrounding the garbage cans. Upon his triumphant return from taking out the garbage, he begins a goofy Chariots of Fire-esque victory celebration. Nick then asks:
Nick: What are you doing?
Kevin: Oh, I thought this would look cooler in pretend slow motion.
Kevin Jonas, savvy guy that he is, has embraced the quirky, eccentric qualities of Kevin Lucas. He is trusting the show’s writers, is committing to playing the kookiness of his character without judgment, and is utilizing his comic timing along with his earnest and likable sweetness. The result is golden, and I look forward to seeing more.
I’ll leave you with a Kavalkade of Kevin. Enjoy!
“Do You Want To See A Play?”
“I’m Going Up Against Two Real Playas”
“What? It Smelled Delicious”
“Her Name Rhymes With Flenny”
“Oh! Right, Me, OK”