I’m teaching a 12-hour comedy class over four weeks for novices who want to learn the basics, amateurs who want to make the leap to paid gigs, and professionals who want to improve their game. The course will focus on the Art, Business, and Craft of stand-up, including time to workshop material.
Classes for the new year are now open and because this is a workshop, enrollment is limited. Sign up now! The objective of the course is to give you the tools to make your writing stronger so you can perform with more confidence and experiment on stage to eventually find your comedy voice.
Four 3-hours class sessions, professional headshots, a 30-minute conference call, and a high-definition video recording of the Graduation Show performance are included in the $400 tuition. Early bird tuition (before January 6) is just $300. I also have one partial tuition waiver for someone who can help with some administrative tasks and some a/v work. To sign up now, get the Early Bird discount, apply for the tuition waiver, or ask questions, please email me.
Classes will meet at the DC Comedy Loft in the Bier Baron Tavern on Sundays, noon to 3pm. To allow student ample stage time to prepare for the Graduation Show, there are off-weeks in the schedule. Our tentative schedule is January 12, 19, 26, and February 9. The Graduation Show is scheduled for February 16, which precedes MLK Jr. Day (ie, we can expect a nice turn out).
There is not nearly enough time in class to work on material. Students are expected to attend open mics throughout the course to test-drive their material. A list of open mics will be provided, as well as advice from former students on which “mics” are best and what to expect. Like any new skill, practice is crucial, and students often sign up for mics together and build a support team to get on stage, get their feet wet, and get better. While performing is a solo endeavor, becoming part of the local open mic scene and bouncing ideas off each other is a team effort. I strongly urge finding writing and performing partners to make the process easier. Open mics are a necessary experience in becoming a comedian and are notoriously difficult: they can be in inappropriate locations, have small crowds, have no crowds, have only comedians as crowds, or any combination of these. They are for rehearsing material and teaching the basics, including giving you a thick skin.
You are also expected to participate in the Graduation Show, which is not an open mic. Some former students mistakenly thought that this show was another mic. This is a ticketed show, meaning the audience has to pay to attend. It is a “real” show at a real club. Paying for a ticket makes them invested in the show and being a friend/co-worker/relative of you makes them invested in your success. This show is more of a party than an open mic and your performance in front of a supportive, paying audience will be recorded. This is what we’re building toward and the recording can be used to show your grandkids some day or be used to audition to clubs or festivals.
Each session will cover some of the Art, Business, and Craft of stand-up, but with a specific focus on generating material. The first session, Understanding Comedy, covers some of the fundamentals of comedy: what makes people laugh, how those triggers show up in comedy, how to watch stand-up as a fan and an analyst, what skills are required to be a comic, and the basic “laws” of comedy that influence the performer/audience dynamic. This first session will also include the course overview (including the Graduation Show project) and basic definitions of comedy from a variety of perspectives. This session is mostly lecture, but chock-full of important principles that show up throughout the course.
During the second session, Writing Comedy, we’ll really dig in to the joke-writing process. We’ll look at what jokes are, what they make audiences do, and examine some of the most popular joke-writing techniques. We’ll break down joke structure and discuss the “tool box” you need to write your own. We will also have a group exercise to help classmates find the “blind spots” in their material. This session is really the nuts-and-bolts of how jokes work.
Sessions three and four are Performing Comedy and also include the invisible side of performing: editing. Each session will allow each student to practice their set in front of the class; in the third class you can use notes, but by the fourth class you should be off-book. It’s performance and feedback—record these sets and keep recording as you get feedback from the rest of the class. Comedy is about polishing material, and the input from your classmates is very helpful. We will also discuss tips to make your performance more accessible, streamlining your jokes, and what to do as an MC when you’re ready to break into the business.
I’m bringing 25 years of experience and all the insights I’ve gathered over that time, from the mundane to the monumental. What are you going to bring? (A notepad and pencil would be good for starters.)
Some of my qualifications:
- 25+ years working professionally in comedy clubs (as well as cruise ships, colleges, etc.) around the country
- Grand Prize winner of Comedy Central’s national stand-up competition (Laugh Riots)
- Two specials on Dry Bar Comedy
- Numerous competitions and festivals, including Just for Laughs in Montreal, San Francisco, Boston, and others
- Ranked as one of the “Top 100 Comedians” in an industry poll
- Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central, The Learning Channel, Late Friday and more
- I think my work speaks volumes: check out sample clips at robertmac.com/videos