Adding a Bit of Levity

One of the biggest drawcards making their way through international theatre this season is Bradley Cooper in the highly acclaimed The Elephant Man. Celebrity vehicles always generate enormous amounts of publicity for shows, but a recent couple of television appearances show the massive impact a big name alone can have on an offering.


I recently listened to an interview with the director from one of the biggest entertainment publicity firms in the US. Whenever they get the opportunity to publicise a celebrity driven offering, they likened their job to that of a receptionist. Interest doesn’t need to be generated for media outlets. It isn’t a hard sell. And media outlets already want to take advantage of this new opportunity for a celebrity interview that would help increase their readership or viewership.

The Elephant Man on Broadway is a classic example of this celebrity driven vehicle. Bradley Cooper forms the front and centre for the publicity strategy. As one of the hot property actors of the moment, he is already doing the rounds on talk shows promoting his latest projects and he is already receiving huge attention from the public. Hence, putting his face on the posters and increasing his appearance across night-time talk shows is an ideal way to capture a potential audience for the show.

But his appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon emphasise the lack of importance of the actual production.

Doing a funny comedy skit with hats, the two comedians realise that half way through the interview they are still wearing these hats while discussing the incredibly depressing and serious nature of the play. This then leads to uncontrollable laughter and an inability to compose themselves for the remainder of the interview creating a video which goes viral on YouTube.

This video is completely out of context with the play. It is incredibly serious. It is depressing. And it certainly doesn’t have a happy ending! Hence a comedic video shouldn’t work in promoting such a work. However, in a recent reappearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, Bradley Cooper discussed the huge increase in sales after that hilarious segment went to air.

The comedic promotion made a significant impact on sales of a dramatic work. So what does that suggest?

Two things. Firstly, people like comedy. They relate to comedy and the remember comedy because it creates a physical response for the audience whether in the studio or watching at home. They laugh.

Secondly, it shows the importance of the star. The people who booked after Bradley Cooper’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show didn’t book to see the theatrical retelling of Joseph Merrick’s story, they booked to see the Bradley Cooper show. Many people will proclaim this is a bad thing, but if it gets new people into the theatre who were previously only fans of Bradley Cooper and they have such a great time that they go and see another entertainment offering, how bad can it really be?

Check out the video below: