When I decided to teach a comedy class I did it for these reasons.
- I had watched too many open mics where comedians continued to make the same mistakes on-stage that I was confident I could help correct.
- So many comics had contacted me (especially since I started this blog) asking me to help them with different parts of their standup.
Now I have been pretty accessible to comics who need help, but considering my schedule is pretty busy I thought I could be smarter with my time by telling a group of people stuff than just doing it individually. I also have worked hard the past 2 decades developing my theories on standup, so I didn’t want to just give the stuff away. I kind of saw it like I see standup shows. If people pay for it, they are going to treat it with more respect.
Between what I would offer up in the classes and what I would do helping people work on specific material through email, I feel like everyone who took the class really benefited. That is what the people who have taken the class have told me. Now would I tell you they felt ripped off if that is what they told me at the end? No. But I do feel comfortable saying the first 4 week session has been a success by the standards I set for it.
Last night comics Dan Cummins and Shane Mauss spoke to the class. If you don’t know who they are, you are out of the loop with standup. They are both great comics and they both have really unique comic voices. They are great examples of Fly Over Comedy, as Dan grew up in Riggins, Idaho and Shane is from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Dan mentioned to the class how he had heard Jerry Seinfeld say people who hate their jobs work 8 or more hours a day at them, why couldn’t he work on his job that he loved at least half that much? This is one of the things that sets Dan apart from so many other standups. His work ethic. Shane brought up a great point about writing on things that interest him and not worrying so much about catering everything to the audience. I think this is great advice as if you are interested in the subject, you are going to work harder developing the material on it. He also mentioned how he took a comedy class when he started and he feels like it helped him get off to the right start.
Now is the part where I bitch a little. I know standups who are always questioning why they aren’t getting more opportunities in the business. These same comics had a chance to take a class where they could possibly get better and they didn’t want to invest any time or money into doing it. Even if you don’t want to be a touring standup, I would think you would at least be interested in being better at what you do. If you want to play guitar or swing a golf club, you generally take lessons from a pro so you can skip a few frustrating steps and not develop bad habits right out of the gate. As Dan Cummins mentioned in the class, he thinks a lot of open mike comics get into it because they are lazy people who think it will be easy. (paraphrased) I couldn’t agree more with this theory. I am not going to say that just hard work will make you a touring standup anymore than hard work will help you win the British Open. What I will say though that if you are a standup or a golfer, the most successful in either profession put in the time. (See Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for more examples of this)
Here is the part where I want to thank my class. There was a wide cross-section in the writing class, from people who have never been on-stage to people that have done weeks as a professional standup. The thing that surprised me about teaching the class was how much I gained from it. This is especially in regards to when the people in the class emailed me material (jokes) that I worked with them on. I hope I helped them in tightening their material and providing them with tags, but what it did for me was it helped me work my comedy writing muscle. Working on other people’s material is good, as it opens your mind to different styles of comedy. The writing comedy class was fun and rewarding to me. I’m looking forward to the second session, working more specifically on delivering the material on-stage.