Lucille Ball Taught Her Daughter the Secret To Good Comedy

It’s safe to say Lucille Ball knew a thing or two about comedy. Lucy Ricardo will go down as one of the funniest characters to ever grace our TV screens. Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, says she learned everything she knows about being funny from her mother. And the tricks of the trade are more straightforward than you might think.

Lucille Ball In 'I Love Lucy'
Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Lucie Arnaz worked with her mother on ‘The Lucy Show’ and ‘Here’s Lucy’

Arnaz didn’t just watch her mother perform, she performed with her on The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. But the Jazz Singer actor says she received no special treatment from Ball when they worked together.

“She didn’t ever help me learn lines, God no,” Arnaz told the Television Academy Foundation. “That was my job. You had to do that. She knew I could do that. I was good at that. That wasn’t the hard part. When you’re on the set and you’re not speaking up or you’re not on your mark, God forbid if you’re late–I was pretty good about all that stuff.” 

“I was terrified to be bad,” she added. “I didn’t want to stand out, be her daughter and come in and not be good. God. So I worked pretty hard.”

Lucille Ball reveals the secret to comedy

In her interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Arnaz was asked what she learned about comedy from her mother. She said: “Whatever I know, I’m pretty sure it came from her” and the other actors who worked with her mom “who totally believed what they were doing.”

Arnaz says that’s one of the big secrets to comedy: Seriously believe in what your character is doing, no matter how zany the situation may be.

“[Ball] was very quick to make sure that the writers created a situation that, ‘If they’re going to put me in something outrageous, you better get me there in a totally believable way.’ But then once they got you there, you had to believe and you couldn’t do it like it was funny, like, ‘Here comes the joke,’” said Arnaz.

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Ball’s daughter said television actors were “lucky” back then because they only performed in front of a live audience once.

“They only had a live audience once, so you only got to hear where they’re going to laugh once,” she said. “And a lot of people get used to having the audience and they have a dress rehearsal audience and they have a taping audience and they have another audience or you’re in the theater and you’ve done your show for several months and you’ve heard the laughs and you start reading the stuff like you know it’s funny. And then you lose the whole damn thing.”

Arnaz also learned the importance of enunciation and not stepping on her co-stars’ lines from her mother.

“One of the things that I learned was really how to just play the situation and enunciate so you don’t lose the joke,” she said. “Don’t talk over the end of somebody else’s line so they can’t hear the setup, you know, that’s comedy. That’s what you learn from great comedians and it has never changed in all this time.”

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