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In this 8 week course taught by comedy veteran D.F. Sweedler, you’ll learn the tools of the trade and hone your craft. At the end of the 8 weeks, you’ll take to the legendary Comic Strip Live stage in front of a live audience and get a DVD of your performance.
Former students have appeared on: Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and created network sitcoms!
NEXT CLASS STARTS MONDAY, OCTOBER 28TH!!
- WHEN: Mondays @ 5:45 to 7:45
- HOW OFTEN: Every 8 weeks
- INSTRUCTOR: D.F Sweedler
- PRICE: $400 or $225 for returning students
- Private tutoring is available
What You Get
- Eight weeks of hands-on instruction by a seasoned veteran in an intimate class setting
- Free admission to watch shows at the club during class enrollment
- Free DVD of your graduation performance
What to expect from Comedy Classes
Written by Tara McCarthy for Swing Magazine.
Stand Up: A comedy workshop by Comic Strip Live
I was once flip and cool on the subject of stand-up. I’d watch comics and think, “I could do that” – no problem. But when I called New York’s Comic Strip Live to sign up for their 8-week stand-up workshop, which culminates in a performance, suddenly my confidence crumbled. The guy at the club was just taking down my credit card info, but I imagined him smugly nudging someone beside him as if to say, “Hey, we’ve got another idiot here who thinks she’s funny.”
And I kind of do. But I kind of don’t. And therein lies the challenge…
– Week 1 –
Once there are about 15 people assembled in The Comic Strip, our teacher introduces himself as D.F. Sweedler. So already I/m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. The guy’s got initials for a first name, and he won’t say what they stand for. Is this man with the slick hair really going to make me funnier?
D.F. lays out the basics of stand-up form and gives us some general advice — “Don’t listen to anything your friends have to say. They have no idea how to do this.” — then we all get up on stage to introduce ourselves. I mention the experimental nature of this article as my excuse to suck, which I’m now confident I will. My complete lack of stage presence is going to be a problem. The other four women are actresses.
Homework: two minutes of material – written down, not memorized, because D.F. says it’s all going to change anyway. What confidence in his pupils!
Two days later I’ve settled on a topic: confusing signs on public restrooms. I go to bed with stand-up on the brain and turn the light on several times to jot down ideas. In the morning the only thing that’s legible and meaningful is “John Gray’s Papaya.” Last night the idea of a hot dog joint with pictures of Mars and Venus differentiating the bathrooms was funny. This morning it’s not. Do they even have Gray’s Papaya outside of New York? D.F. warned against geography-specific jokes.
– Week 2 –
Felt confident on the way to class. I’ve got a bunch restroom-related jokes and I think they’re an okay start.
It took me a while to get used to these unisex bathrooms they have more and more of these days. One time I came across one, there was this door with hologram sticker on it and when you looked at it, it changed from a man into a woman. So this was in a club in New York, so I’m standing there thinking, “Wow, transsexuals have really come a long way, but where am I supposed to go?”
I go third-to-last and by then I’m not feeling so sure of myself. Rodney has already proven he’s going to be the star pupil. Great material, great delivery, I hate him. And Dylan’s got a really nice, warped, drug-addicted pedophiliac shtick going. I’ve no shtick to speak of.
D.F. annoys me when he points out all these picky things in my material that don’t make sense. He said last week that he was a tough teacher but come on! Does this guy think anything’s funny?
– Week 3 –
I’ve stopped watching “Make Me Laugh” on Comedy Central because it’s suddenly profoundly depressing. The comics almost never get the contestant to crack up. I feel their pain.
– Week 4 –
After much revision, my bathroom material’s tighter.
If I owned a bar, I wouldn’t even have signs on the bathrooms, I’d cut right to the chase. There’d be a long line of pissed-off looking women mannequins outside the women’s room so we’d all know where to go, and you guys wouldn’t even get a room, just a fire hydrant in the back corner.
On the downside, I’m getting sick of it. I ask D.F. whether it’s a function of the process that your jokes seem less funny each week.
Some of my classmates seem to getting frustrated, too. D.F.’s crystal clear ban on jokes relating to masturbation and the like suddenly makes sense. People are resorting to the lowest common denominator to get laughs.
– Week 5 –
During class, I deliver two minutes of new material, e.g.
The weather really is just getting stranger and stranger. Like Texas this summer, where it was like 120 degrees for like 60 days. That kind of weather doesn’t anybody any good, unless of course you’re in the slow-roasted chicken business.
The room is a vast laugh vacuum – bomb-a-rooney – D.F. says, “Well, that sure was a lot of stuff about the weather.” He picks apart the jokes (in as much as there were any) and offers advice but I’m discouraged. Turns out I don’t like things that don’t come easily to me. I come from an Irish-American family that prides itself on wit and whatnot. Stand-up was supposed to be a snap, like it seems to be for Rodney. He’s just too damn funny.
– Week 6 –
Rodney must die. No, wait. Scratch that. A line I suggested has made it into his bit about a multi-cultural pre-school. I beam with pride.
– Week 7 –
My brother keeps asking me if I’m going to “kill.” I am. I’m going to kill the next person who asks me to do some of my “bit” for them. I run through my whole five-minute set in class and it’s D.F.-approved for the next week’s performance. There are a few jokes new to this week that I like.
I’ve been single for so long I decided I needed a new marketing strategy, something to drum up business for my love life. So I just had a t-shirt printed up that says “I SELL BEANIE BABIES.”
But I’m not sure I’m crazy about the rest of it. It’s like I’ve created this character call Dry Girl and I’m not sure I like her. Will an audience?
– Week 8 –
An hour and a half before the show, I can no longer function normally, so I head toward the Comic Strip and find a bar. I know it’s ridiculous to be so nervous. So what if I make a fool of myself in front of a bunch of strangers and the handful of close friends and family I dared to invite … I do that at my local bar practically every Friday night anyway.
As the club fills up (145 people!) and as my classmates start to perform and be far funnier than they’ve ever been in class, my nerves only get worse. I confess my anxieties D.F. backstage minutes before I go on and he reassures me he wouldn’t let me – or anyone – go up if he didn’t think they’d be okay up there. Suddenly D.F. seems like the warmest, most trustworthy man in the world, and I realize that my material wouldn’t be anywhere close to presentable without all of his damn picking, which I now see was actually remarkably good teaching. But there’s got to be something wrong with him. Because why on earth would anyone do this for a living?
Well, because when you’re up there, it’s completely amazing – albeit completely weird. You’re acting as if you can actually see people when in truth the audience is little more than shadows beyond the faces right up front. Once you get your first laugh, you relax a little, then a little more with the next, but you’re preoccupied the whole time with remembering what comes next. Five minutes feels, at once, like a blip and a lifetime.
But my God, it’s fun. Because, to paraphrase Sally Fields, “They liked me!” I’m sure this was one of the most generous stand-up audiences ever – all family and friends of the comics – but they laughed when they were supposed to laugh and even laughed at things I wasn’t expecting them to laugh at. I think I even pulled off some semblance of stage presence. Sweet relief!
So I’m going to do it again. And then maybe again. Because maybe it’s the fact that it’s completely horrifying that makes it so invigorating. As much as I hate to use the analogy, it really is like a rollercoaster ride – only in this case it’s like you built the coaster yourself. Mine’s admitted pretty rickety – more like Coney Island’s Cyclone than some Six Flags creation – but maybe that’ll improve with time. You really do never know until you try.