Do you know what the word “aside” means? How about in the world of theatre?
An aside is a remark, comment, or even speech given by a character, and it’s made directly to the audience. This is often called “breaking the fourth wall” because it breaks the invisible barrier between actors and audience. As the audience, we’re supposed to implicitly understand that this remark is not being heard by the other characters in the play. It’s sometimes used as a way to help the audience members relate better to the character who’s speaking. Occasionally, the remark is something witty and sarcastic. It usually comments directly on the action of the play.
Famous asides in Shakespeare plays include moments in Macbeth and Hamlet. If you’ve ever seen the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or the TV show Malcolm in the Middle, think about those moments where the main characters look directly into the camera and speak. That’s a version of an aside. There are similar moments on TV shows like The Office where characters will look right into the camera and make a face, indicating an opinion about something that’s going on in the main action of the show. That’s a wordless aside!
Here’s a video that shows some of Jim’s looks on The Office: