Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Comedy College, unsurprisingly, was pretty entertaining. Maybe it was because taking a class in stand-up comedy was completely orthogonal to all the other major activities in my life. Or maybe it was because the instructor was a pretty funny comedian. Either way, I looked forward to walking into that class each week.

The first session was a little off-putting though.

The instructor asked each one of us in turn for a little bit of background. When I told him that I was a computer programmer, he immediately exclaimed that he had spent some time in the software industry and that he found quite a few funny people in that world. Something in how he said this made it seem like he was trying to comfort me, as though I were the lone African American applicant to a high powered job and the interviewer was assuring me that he had met smart black people before.

There there, computer boy. I'm sure your ones and zeroes jokes will be knee slappers.

Then when the instructor found out the student in the back of the room was 43 years old, he assured that student that there were plenty of venues to do comedy outside of traditional comedy clubs. The instructor said that there were corporate gigs, cruise ship jobs, and quite a few old-age homes hired older comedians.


I mean, I wasn't planning on quitting my day job or pursuing stand-up comedy in any serious capacity, but as a fellow man in his 40s, I was somewhat dismayed to get relegated to the retirement home circuit before I had even stepped on stage.

Then, we launched into a question-and-answer session where my fellow students asked a series of idiotic questions. One guy wanted to know how often comedians got beat up by offended audience members (answer: not often) and another guy was interested in hearing about the frequency of comedy groupies (answer: even less often). Several other students cracked open their weathered notebooks and haltingly read aloud some of the material that they had apparently been squirreling away for quite some time. They sucked.

But, by the time the fifth class had ended, we'd covered some good material, including:

1) A detailed process on how to take a topic and brainstorm your way to some jokes

2) Techniques on how to rehearse and refine your material

3) Suggestions on what type of personas work well with audiences

And most importantly, the advice to just get up on stage and start trying. The instructor drilled into us that we were going to suck and fail pretty often at first and it was all part of the learning process. I'm not a big fan of failure, but it made sense that it's difficult to emerge onto stage the first time as a fully formed comedian.

I may go back for the next round of classes in the future, but for now I'm pretty content to sit back and let some of this soak in.

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