This I Know: Timing

American asks four wonks to weigh in on a single topic

Illustra­tion by
Traci Daberko

Illustrations of a microphone and sneaker

Alessandra Conti, SOC/BA '12

I work with men and women who've decided that this is the moment to start dating with intention. I see this especially with male clients. A guy might have dated the most incredible women in the past, but if he's not ready, you could be Beyoncé and it's not going to work. They have to be in a place in their lives where they're open to love. An example: one of our bachelorettes is serious about her faith and went to talks at religious organizations around Los Angeles. We set her up with a fantastic guy and they fell in love. A few months into the relationship, they discovered that their paths had crossed before—they were even at one of the same talks. It wasn't that they saw each other and weren't interested, it just wasn't their time. I'm a romantic at heart; I believe that if two people are supposed to be together, it will happen—when the time's right.

Conti is a professional matchmaker at Matchmakers in the City in Beverly Hills, California.

Liz Russo, SPA/BA '00

Timing is everything in comedy. Some people have it naturally; most do not. Comic timing involves rhythm, tempo, and most importantly, the—wait for it—pause. Using the pause at the right time and for the right length of time will make your punch lines more impactful and affect the audience's response. If you pause just a second too long or unintentionally, everyone feels awkward and all you'll hear are crickets (chirp, chirp). But if you pause perfectly and intentionally before a punch line—for just the right length of time—bam! You get the big payoff of laughs and an applause break. It's an exhilarating art to manipulate words and silences and to create a comedic melody of bits and beats. Create tension (set-up). Relieve tension (punch line). Repeat. If you dare to shut up once in a while, you'll find the real power of timing is in the silence.

Russo is a standup comedienne in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Nobue Matsuoka

Timing is an essential part of our lives. There are two kinds of timing. One you can't control—that happens incidentally. The other is something you can control. The world of music and performing arts is all about timing. If you're talking about a symphonic orchestra, a big cymbal crash can enhance the music and make it dramatic, or—if it's bad timing—it can ruin the music. Percussion provides the foundation for everyone to be together in an ensemble setting. For example, the timpanist is almost like a second conductor. They have control of the tempo, so they have to be in sync with the conductor. Timing is one way to express yourself in music. Tempo and rhythm are all about timing. They give different characteristics to the music depending on how and when you play. The same things can be said of life in general.

Matsuoka is AU's music/performing arts librarian and an orchestral percussion instructor in the Department of Performing Arts.

Brendan Johnson, CAS–SPA/BA '17

I've been a competitive runner since my freshman year of high school. In running, time trials are a check of your fitness at practice. It's just you against the stopwatch. That's always a frightening track workout, because you don't know what kind of shape you're in. [AU Coach Centrowitz] always says there are three gods of running: the weather, the stopwatch, and the coach. In a competitive event I'm usually just worried about the people I'm running against. Even though timing is important to qualify for certain NCAA events, in cross country especially we try to avoid talking about our personal records because every course is different. You want to stay relaxed as long as possible in any distance event, just biding your time and trying to be as comfortable as possible. Runners want to race our seasons like we race our races. We have to stay comfortable throughout the general season and save some for the burst at the end of the year.

Johnson is a runner on AU's cross country and track teams.