Halpern runs the famed iO Theater in Chicago, formerly the Improv Olympic. She recently found these notes written by Del, who was a guru to Murray, Ayckroyd and Belushi, who called him his “biggest influence in comedy.” Close invented a form of Improv reluctantly called “The Harold” and his life imitated his art in many of his hilarious personal episodes. I had the privilege of working with Del on the George films.
Legend has it that Del’s skull was secretly removed and given to Chicago’s Goodman Theater so that he would be credited for the part of “Yorick” in future productions of Hamlet. But further investigation revealed that the skull in question is in fact an impostor.
DEL’S NOTES ON THE HAROLD
1. You are all supporting actors
2 Always check your impulses.
3 Never enter a scene unless you are needed.
4 Save your fellow actor, don’t worry about the piece.
5 Your prime responsibility is to support.
6 Work at the top of your brains at all times.
7 Never underestimate or condescend to your audience.
8 No jokes (unless it is tipped in front that it is a joke.)
9 Trust…trust your fellow actors to support you; trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them; trust yourself.
10 Avoid judging what is going down in terms of whether it needs help (either by entering or cutting), what can best follow, or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is called for.
* IF THE WHOLE IS TO BE ART, THE PARTS MUST NOT TRY TO BE.
* HAROLD IS LIKE A DOCUMENTARY FILM- PART AUTOBIOGRAPHY, PART BIOGRAPHY, PART SIMPLE FACT.
* THE TOTAL MAY RESEMBLE A “PLAY” (a dramatic work of fiction) BUT IT ISN’T FICTION ANY MORE THAN A THEORETICAL SCIENCE PAPER IS FICTION.
* NOTICE HOW “YOU” ARE A PART OF A HAROLD. HOW YOU FIT. THEN SIMPLY ENTER-JOIN.
* HAROLD IS GREATER THAN ALL OF YOUR ABILITIES-OR YOUR INTELLIGENCE.
* HAROLD NEEDS ALL OF YOU-YOUR BEHAVIOR, NOT YOUR DESCRIPTION OF YOUR BEHAVIOR.
“The three greatest influences upon my life have been PSYCHOANALYSIS, NARCOTICS, and IMPROVISATIONAL THEATER.”