A comedy course? You must be joking
Stand-up comedy is an interesting instance of the nature vs. nurture debate. Are good comedians just naturally funny people, or have they painstakingly crafted their acts over hundreds of performances so they can push our laughter buttons and get results?
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. We can tell when a comedian is ‘manufactured’: you know the ones. They have clearly worked hard on their routines but somehow just aren’t that funny. The laughter is polite rather than coming from the gut. Then there are the ones who elicit gales of laughter just by walking on stage and standing still at the mic. Can that be taught?
There’s only one way to find out. Ask a comedian to teach you how to be funny. If you don’t happen to have a comedian handy, there are plenty who will relieve you of some cash if you sign up for their classes. Does this give them the last laugh? At least it should be fun finding out.
Much of learning the stagecraft of comedy comes from conquering the sheer terror of standing in front of a room full of strangers and trying to make them laugh. An audience can smell fear at concentrations as low as one part per million. Once they have sensed it, the whole dynamic of a performance shifts in a way that hands power back to the audience, and the performer has to either climb out of the hole they have dug or crumble.
Practice is key, even if the performer has loads of natural talent, because they need to organise their routine and practice it until it comes smoothly and they are able to improvise around it. So maybe the value of stand-up comedy courses lies in the opportunity to practice in front of an audience and gradually shake off those nerves.
If being a stand-up comic is on your bucket list, the process of developing a solid five-minute routine is no laughing matter. Indian Joe, a student at The Comedy School in London, England, says, ‘Doing a workshop is a great way of making that transition from merely being funny with your friends to organising your humour in such a way that you can then go out and entertain the public.’