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The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2020 4:42 pm
by Brock
We've all seen, or even experienced, "corpsing" - when an actor or other performer accidentally breaks into uncontrollable laughter at the wrong moment. When I was a kid I had a book called The A-Z of Television by Willis Hall and Bob Monkhouse, which revealed amongst many other things that when corpsing was deliberately faked by comedians in order to get audience laughs, it was known as a "cod dry". (The TV Cream article I linked to mentions this specifically.)

But "cod dry" is a term that it's almost impossible to google, because you just end up with lots of articles about preparing fish. With much perseverance I eventually tracked down this article by the veteran panto performer Keith Simmons:
I always tried to get a ‘cod dry’ into my scripts and now, writing with Ben, we still slip one in. I remember in Dick Whittington, at the Birmingham Hippodrome, Alan and I did the Haunted Bedroom scene with Jeff Holland and Ross King. I’d written that Ross and I would, at one point, lose control and have a laughing fit. Ross was the best I ever saw at doing it. So much so that the DSM put in the show report that “Mr Simmons and Mr King constantly seem to totally lose it”. I had to point out the direction in the script!
Is the term still commonplace, or is it called something else now? "Fake corpsing" brings up a number of Google hits, but I don't know if there's a better term.

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 12:33 pm
by Brock
(In another thread:)
stearn wrote:I've always thought it common courtesy to do as much as you can yourself, then ask if you can't get further and let people know exactly what lengths you have gone to to find an answer so they don't duplicate.
So far I've found a few references to "fake corpsing", "cod corpsing" and "rehearsed corpsing" - but not enough of any of them to convince me that they're in general use.

It may well be that there's no generally accepted term for the phenomenon, of course - but it seems to happen often enough!

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:13 pm
by stearn
But you demonstrated that you had looked and it was a difficult term, and even provided links to the book. I have to confess I hadn't heard the term cod dry, but there have been many others when I have been researching that were just as frustrating. The mention of scripted corpsing reminded me of Frankie Howerd and his various scriptwriters - if they put the hesitations, ums, ahs, etc. in, he would berate them, just as he would if they didn't. Scripted ad libs are another similar phenomenon.

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:41 pm
by Brock
I did find it referred to as a "cod dry up" here:

"The actress Molly Weir also refers to the ubiquitous 'cod dry up' - a device sometimes utilised by comic performers to ensure audience laughter as 'a desperate ruse where the performer pretends he's convulsed with laughter and can't go on with his dialogue, just to get the audience laughing at him'."

But it does look as though the term may have largely gone out of use - in which case it's odd that there appears to be no common alternative. I think we all know it when we see it.

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 5:58 pm
by stearn
That looks to be a fascinating, but not cheap, book.

Is it the term has gone out of use, or the actual cod dry? The book certainly suggests that even seasoned performers frowned on the cheap ways of getting laughs. Whereas it might still be a necessary course for what is left of live variety with a show every night with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday, TV is far less about pointing a camera and hoping for the best and more about meticulous planning and execution.

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 7:22 pm
by Brock
stearn wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 5:58 pm
Is it the term has gone out of use, or the actual cod dry?
That's a good question. The practice of fake corpsing is certainly alive and well - for instance, here's a 2018 quote from Mark Gatiss from "An Audience with the League of Gentlemen" at the BFI Southbank:

"We’re very disciplined (audience laughter) We try to…the one thing we can’t bear is fake corpsing. You see that in shows, where people do it at the same time points every night. In Pop, in the first half, it came…we actually thought, people were coming several nights they’d think we were doing it deliberately." ... t-the-bfi/

I suspect it's more prevalent in live theatre these days than on television, though. Genuine corpsing is generally edited out of TV programmes (you only tend to see it in out-take shows), so any attempt to simulate it is easily rumbled. I've never seen Mrs Brown's Boys but I gather that it was an attempt to bring this sort of business to television, and a lot of viewers saw through it.

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:02 pm
by stearn
Funnily enough, I removed the paragraph I wrote suggesting that the only place it might still appear on television was Mrs Browns Boys as I don't watch is and didn't want to speculate on something I didn't watch!

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2020 8:32 am
by Brian F
I have never seen one but I would suspect this sort of thing would be in the scripts for "The xxxx that went wrong" plays/TV shows"/ Farndale plays etc..

Re: The "cod dry" - does it still exist?

Posted: Fri Oct 30, 2020 1:42 am
by Mark
Sort of, but they are based more on the Amateur Drama type shows going wrong ( there was a "Two Ronnies" sketch along the same lines).

As far as I know, the technique is still used in Panto, but is rarely seen on TV nowadays, ( I have seen some of "Mrs Brown Boys", and it is definitely used in that though).

Sky Arts used to show an Australian stage version of "The Pirates Of Penzance" with the Rock star Jon English as the Pirate King, and that used it as well, despite taking liberties with the Operetta, it was highly entertaining!

Watching Yesterday TV a few nights ago and another showing for "Two Ronnies" series 1, and a musical "Elisabeth R" sketch featured the Actor John Owens who comes running into the room, skids on the floor and stumbles to the ground next to Ronnie B, sniggering, could have been genuine but...maybe deliberate, I could never tell for sure.

The oddest example would be a sketch from the otherwise excellent "Russ Abbot Show" ( BBC) everything in the sketch which was set in an snowy log cabin went wrong , including fluffed lines, leading Russ Abbot to say something like, 'I'd like to see them sort this out in editing'.

It was however very obvious it was all scripted, and if you took out all the mistakes, there wasn't really a funny sketch there in the first placel ( perhaps it was a homage to "It'll Be Alright On The Night").

'Fake Corpsing' is the one that ring bells, but I must admit, not heard any of them for a very long time.