[Real dressing room Part II] Magic Hands
“What does makeup mean to gagmen?
It’s their dreams, at the same time, their pride.”
– Ahn Yeong Mi *
* Known as “Professor Ahn” in Consumer Report, and more famously as “Senior / Gollum” in Dressing Room’s Strong Ms Kang
article excerpt (by Kim Ji Hye, Na Ji Yeon) and photo (by Lee Ho Jun) from Sports Seoul 2009-03-23
“Gags with makeup are a hit!” — a look at the girls who work to look shocking
“Gyaaaak! (Shriek!!) Is that Frankenstein?”
“Somehow Gollum looks weak today… Young Mi, time to worry.”
“No, senior. The real lead of Dressing Room (the gag) is Senior Yoo Mi (acting as Ms Kang).”
“Why? What character is she today?”
Every Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm, valuable insights can be gathered from the dressing room of KBS-2TV’s Gag Concert (shortened as gagcon). Digital cameras in tow, various gagmen (and –women) are seen taking pictures of their fellow colleagues, to share later for a good laugh. The next reason why they take pictures is apparently because gagmen cannot laugh when they look at each other’s faces. Why? The answer lies in the process of creating these mad-cap makeup.
2 hours before recording Gag Concert, 4 ladies each haul a 8kg black box into the dressing room. Marking their seats with their black boxes, they dig into their own unique stash and start to unpack their tools – various foundations, more than 10 types of eye shadows, oil-based liquids of a myriad of colors – arranged in palettes spread out on the makeup tables. Preparation is finished.
With the approach of broadcasting time, the brave souls of gagcon enter the dressing room one by one. After finding their seats, as if in a restaurant, the gagmen place their ‘orders’ to the makeup artists. If they can’t describe what they want verbally, they produce picture samples prepared beforehand.
“Oh….. like this? Ok. Why don’t we give it a try.”
Magic Time in the dressing room… Do it faster! Make it more shocking!!
“Please extend a hair out of my mole”
“I need some mucus out of my nose”
Busy. No time to think. Stress. With recording in 2 hours’ time, the gagcon dressing room is no different from a warzone. More than 40 characters are created in the dressing room during these 2 hours. The key to this time-challenged task is speed. Male characters take 5~10 minutes, females require more than 20 minutes.
The overall-in-charge of gagcon’s makeup is Ms Bae Mi Ha, from Korea Makeup (company). She says, “We don’t rush. We have to be very accurate in our details… Because we have to ensure that the audience sitting 50 m away can see the dark circles, drooling etc. on the gagmen.”
The speed and accuracy of the makeup artists give strength to the comedians and their intended gags. The artists’ biggest worry isn’t “How do I make them look more embarrassing” but “How do I enable them to get the laughs”. Therefore, besides putting on makeup, they provide whatever extra ‘works’ that the gagmen need.
These days, talk of the town “Dressing Room’s Strong Ms Kang’ is the makeup artists’ most ambitious production. From the bald-cap (wig for baldness) to the other wigs and masks, the process required is akin to that for a blockbuster movie. Ms Seo Ju Hyeon, also from Korea Makeup, says,
“A day before the recording, we receive proposals from the gagwomen and start researching (into the makeup)… We often brainstorm over how the makeup can be more real (than the picture samples), how the makeup can be expressed in an entertaining way. Although it’s difficult, it is very well worth the effort.”
The dressing room that makes you explode in laughter… Laughing through your ears, laughing through your eyes
In the gagcon dressing room, the 4 characters of “Dressing Room’s Strong Ms Kang” are engrossed in their makeup transformation. For them, makeup has become a routine. Gagwoman Jeong Gyeong Mi says,
“It’s as if my face is a blank canvas… I’m wondering how the appearance I’m going to get today will look like and I look forward to every Wednesday of the week.”
Today’s “Dressing Room’s Strong Ms Kang” is based on the horror concept. Kang Yoo Mi (“Ms Kang”) will be the evil Joker from Batman, Kim Kyeong Ah will be Chucky, and Jeong Kyeong Mi will be Frankenstein, in this gag about the interactions between seniors and juniors in the workplace. Besides the three, 4th member Ahn Young Mi develops her makeup based on the character of Gollum, to give a refreshing angle to the gag.
The gagmen’s makeup includes a diverse array of ingredients. Makeup artist Ms Bae Mi Ha says “While we do use the oil-based dye ‘Dorani’ to redden their face, we also go to the extent of using hair color spray to show the original colors of their skin.”
The most valuable workers in the gagcon dressing room … “Of course it’s our magic hands!”
We call the professionals of makeup application ‘makeup artists’. But what should we call the professionals of costume makeup application? The costume makeup artists, or masters, of the gagcon dressing room are not addressed as ‘makeup artists’, but as ‘magic hands’.
Ms Bae Mi Ha explains, “I have been in gagcon for 5 years. From “Pregnant Dracula” to “Mabbaki”, Gollum, there’re no character that hasn’t gone through our hands… Now, when we receive the makeup proposals, immediately we draw the characters in our minds.”
Today, a proposal was received for a new character appearing in the first acts of the “Classroom of Touch-Me-Nots” gag. The character is “Min So Mae”, a parody for female lead “Min So Hee” of the drama “Temptation of Wife”. Gagwoman Jang Do Yeon will be wearing smoky eye makeup and an asymmetrical cut wig to portray “Min So Hee – but 2 % less”.
Ms Bae Mi Ha, together with her 3 makeup artists, treats Wednesdays like examination days. By giving gagmen their perfect transformations, it’s as if Wednesdays are the deadlines for weekly homework submissions.
“Working for the past 5 years, every Wednesday still feels like a beginning. Finishing their makeup is not the end of our work. We will monitor the gagmen as they go on stage, and look for the tiniest flaws that only we know ourselves. And we also have to prepare for the next assignment on the following Wednesday too.”
What does makeup mean to gagmen? It’s their dreams, at the same time, their pride.
Gags with makeup were considered to be low standard gags. From the 1970s, these gags gained popularity in the gag programs of broadcasting stations, where comedians caught attention from the viewers not for their gags, but for their makeup.
In the 80’s to 90’s, with non-makeup hit gags like “Yonggu and Menggu”, gags with makeup began to decline. This is because rather than gags with a plot (like a skit), commentary gags were becoming more popular. However, currently in 2009, gagmen are wearing the baldcap (wig for baldness) once again, and ‘sprint gum’ (makeup dye) is used to give them a white cast on their face.
Makeup does not cheapen a gag. Hiding one’s real face so as to enable the audience to meet the gag character is one of the highest forms of comedy expression. Kim Kyeong Ah says, “The most coveted gag roles that gagmen want come from gags with makeup… because it enables us to dramatise and objectify our individual gag styles.”
What’s more, gagmen nowadays do not entertain just by putting on makeup. Story plots and popular phrases must be perfectly weaved into the gag before it gains recognition.
Ahn Yeong Mi, who’s recognized more as Gollum than herself, says that gags with makeup are made up of the gagmen’s dreams and at the same time, pride. From her words, we can find the reason why we can do nothing but support gags with makeup with enthusiastic applause.
“When people ask why I have to go to that extent, I usually joke that “it’s because I need to eat and survive”. However, ever since the debut of the character Gollum 5 years ago (from movie Lord of the Rings), it’s most popular version (in South Korea) is me. Gagmen are not remembered by their (made-up) faces, but by the characters they portray. Thus, with regard to that point, I am the coolest and strongest portrayal (of Gollum) that is recognized.”