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“It’s not a toomah!”

“La-dee-da, la-dee-da.”

“Coffee’s for closers.”

“Is it safe?”

“May the Force be with you.”

“Big gulps, huh?”

When you read those words, I know you heard the actor’s voice in your mind. Not just the timbre, but the emotion.

A few simple words can sum up a scene, a character, a play, or sometimes, a whole TV series. And as Schwarzenegger proved, you don’t even have to speak a language fluently to make a lasting impact.

Photo © Klapi

Photo © Klapi

While we don’t recommend you rely on catchphrases as a crutch, they can often be useful in defining your character.

The next time you blurt out something on stage, take note of what you said and how you said it.

A word, a phrase, or even a sound (like Annie Hall’s “La-dee-da”) are so much more powerful when accompanied by emotion.

You can explore and heighten whatever you said, or simply repeat it.

For two extreme examples of character and catchphrases, check out Tommy Wiseau’s disaster epic, The Room, and Community‘s Magnitude character.

Improv Side Note: Jack Nicholson’s “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining and Robert de Niro’s “You talkin’ to me?” from Taxi Driver were improvised. Now try to imagine their characters without them. Impossible!

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