Monday, January 26, 2009

'Big Bang' has laughs down to a science

My wife and I recently attended a taping of "The Big Bang Theory" to do some reporting for a story I've written about the real scientists who consult for TV shows about science. We've followed this CBS sitcom since the pilot and over the past year it's found its voice by repositioning the character of Sheldon -- a fastidious and neurotic physicist -- from an orbiting role to the show's nucleus.

It's truly an ensemble show, though, and that team spirit was very much evident over the three hours it took to film 22 minutes of comedy. (The studio employs a great comedian to keep the crowd energy up -- the show doesn't use a laugh track -- and they hand out pizza and chocolates.) What impressed me the most was how much fun the cast and crew were having despite the intense pressure of shooting live comedy. You could see the cameraderie of everyone from the makeup lady to the boom operator to the cameramen. In fact, the crew seemed to delight in turning around to the audience during moments of downtime to watch the comedian. The show's coproducer and head writer, Bill Prady, even ambled over to say "hello" to me several times, and my wife reports that head producer Chuck Lorre (creator of megahit "Two and a Half Men") was quite the gentleman when he was right behind her in the security line to enter the soundstage.

It was great to watch the cast interact. Kaley Cuoco, the actress who plays Penny, a blonde waitress who wouldn't know the difference between Bill Nye and Bill Nighy, is a ball of energy and gets along really well with Jim Parsons (Sheldon). Johnny Galecki (Leonard) seems a little more intense in his devotion to his craft but took time to crack a joke with the clapper-board girl. The actors obviously love what they do. Some hilarious moments of people flubbing their lines, too. Jim Parsons had a line that goes, "Leonard helps me fold my sheets when they come out of the drier" but he ended up saying,
"Leonard helps me fold my sheets when I get out of the shower!"

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