Comedy isn't dead, females are funny and Sue Sylvester is a man.
At least, that's what we learned after two panels Wednesday during the winter TV previews. The casts of Modern Family, Glee, How I Met Your Mother and Raising Hope gathered to discuss what makes each of their shows so, well, funny.
10. How I Met Your Mother Shoots Without an Audience: The actors have to hold for a laugh that isn't there. "You get to guess how funny your joke is," Jason Segel says. "I'm going to give this one four seconds!" Adds co-star Neil Patrick Harris: "In Season 7, I'm going to start opening the door and waiting for entrance applause."
9. Julie Bowen Seeks Therapy for Laughs: Without even a laugh track on Modern Family, Julie Bowen is desperate to get her fix. "I'm wildly insecure and I like an instant laugh, but that's why I have a therapist," she says. "She laughs at me for two hours a week."
8. Ladies, Beware of Barney Stinson (Duh!): Harris has advice for women on how to handle Barney: "Steer clear. Expect a lot of bondage." Harris, the proud new papa of twins, says he cherishes being the funny man of Mother. "For four years [on Doogie Howser], I was used to playing this everyman center of the show where wacky people played around me, so it's been a really fun second life to be able to be the wacky one."
7. The Best Comedy Is Based on Reality: Modern Family, in particular, is inspired by the personal lives of creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd — which, Ty Burell hopes, continue to falter. "We're basically continually hoping for catastrophe in our writers' lives," he says.
6. Comedy Isn't Dead: "The pendulum swung too far on reality TV," Segel says. "Slowly, people got tired of it and they wanted to sit and laugh." Adds Julie Bowen: "I don't think comedy has ever fallen out of fashion...it's just a matter of getting the right alchemy."
5. Comedy Keeps You Out of Trouble: How I Met Your Mother's Alyson Hannigan starting using comedy to her advantage at a young age. "When I was growing up, I knew if I could make my mom laugh, I wouldn't get in trouble," she says. "She was either going to yell or laugh."
4. Females Are Funny Too! Classic comedies featured women as being the beautiful foil for the man. "She's there to make him look like an a--," Martha Plimpton says. "Are women allowed to be funny? Yeah, we're not there because they're allowing us to be there, we're there because...the world is a funny place and it needs women to be funny in it." Adds Lea Michele: "The mold is changing. You can be beautiful and be funny."
3. Sue Sylvester Is a Man, Baby! So says Jane Lynch. The 50-year-old funny lady has taken a few roles from men in her day. "When I first started, I did a lot of roles originally written for men. The role in The 40 Year Old Virgin was written for a man. Sue Sylvester is a man," she jokes.
2. Never Work With Animals, Children... or Cloris Leachman: Lucas Neff has a late addendum to W.C. Fields' axiom: Cloris Leachman. However, he does enjoy working with babies on his show Raising Hope. "They're really truthful, they never break character and...you can't be upset with a baby," he says. "You get a little more patient."
1. Malapropisms = A Career: Sofia Vergara does not mind that a wealth of comedy can be found in her butchering of the English language. "With me, [the writers] have no choice," she says. "I'm so lucky to have this character so perfectly written for me. I'm never going to be able to have another job like this, so I'm taking advantage of my 15 minutes of time — oh, of fame!"