Summary of the stand up class at Manhattan Comedy School

So Brian and I just finished taking a stand up comedy class at the Manhattan Comedy School, which is affiliated with Caroline's.

About the class
Andy Engel, the guy who books the new talent night (aka bringer show) at Caroline's, puts the class together. The teacher was Linda Smith (working comic who's appeared on Conan and HBO and a writer for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, among others). There were about 19 students in the beginning, a few dropped out along the way.

Classes were held at a dance studio in midtown. We met once a week and we slowly built up material. First class, we started by doing two minute sets each. Did more each week building up to a graduation show at Caroline's (it's during the day and the attendees are friends/family of students). Every one did a five minute set at the show and we got a tape of the performance.

Supportive open mic environment
It wasn't so much an instructive class as it was a supportive environment to perform weekly. Linda would offer comments about what was good or not after each set (other students would chime in too) but there wasn't really much actual instruction along the way. The first week we got a handout on some different joke types but that was it.

What was good about this: Compared to real open mics, which are often downers, it was a friendly atmosphere for getting comfortable performing in front of others, learning how to handle the mic, tightening material, etc.

Students
The other students in the class were a mix of unemployed actors, professional dudes who wear cell phones on their belts, a couple of younger hipsters, and random others. Average age was around 30. Seemed like more than a few commuted in from the 'burbs. As performers they were generally pretty bad. A couple were completely delusional (a la American Idol wannabes who can't sing). There were maybe four people with potential, five who were painful, and the rest were somewhere in between.

Was it worth it?
I would've liked it better if there had been tougher criticism involved. Linda was pretty soft on us most of the time. I know you don't want to crush the hopes of beginners but I like constructive criticism, even if it's painful. That said, I understand why she acted that way. It's a delicate situation when some people know what they're doing and some are completely clueless. I think she handled it pretty well.

The class definitely helped me build confidence and it was good to meet other aspiring comics. Yeah, I wish there had been more on topics like premises, act-outs, mixes, calling the room, etc. But it was still worth it.

Plus, I got a solid tape with Caroline's in the background. That's something a lot of comics would kill for.

Bottom line
If you're just starting out in comedy, it's a good way to get your toes wet, build confidence, and meet others. If you're already seasoned, you'll probably feel like someone stuck you on the short bus.

BRIAN ADDS...
I agree with you that the class is really most suited to those whose primary need is confidence, support and the opportunity to get a soft landing the first few times in the air. But I also think that those things are pretty tough to come by in the stand-up game, and that Linda in particular, is genuine in her enthusiasm and desire to help everyone get better.

And I found that both Andy and Linda were really helpful outside class too. That is, I could run material past Linda, report in to her on how my shows were going, get more specific critique by sending her emails or calling her. I don't know if you took advantage of that.

Plus, Andy made a call or two on my behalf to other club bookers recommending that they take a look at me. And he put me up on stage at Caroline's on a Monday night ( I got massacred by the way. I totally choked---no timing, no punchlines, no confidence, I was like Michael Spinks staring across the ring at Tyson in '88, the fight was over before it even started). But still, Andy gave me the shot. Do I think he did it because I'm a screenwriter/producer? I don't know. But for whatever reason, I feel like I got my money's worth out of the class.

The biggest drag to me was that the person I thought had the most potential, in fact, I'd say the one person who seemed to me to be a born comic in that class quit. And I thought it might have been because she was embarrassed to be in a room filled with so many hacks, so many cliched writers, you know? (Nice job by me, huh, calling other writers cliched after I reference Spinks/Tyson...)

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