It all depends on what you want to get out of it. I'd say the benefits of taking a class are, in order:
1) Forcing you to write every week. You leave class having written six sketches in eight weeks, all of which you've received notes on.
2) Getting extensive notes from an experienced comedy writer.
3) The curriculum itself; that is, the specific vocabulary and philosophy of the UCB approach to sketch writing.
4) meeting other comedians and writers who you might want to work with, though my sense is that this happens less in sketch classes than in improv, simply because the work is less collaborative. (In improv classes, I'd rank meeting other comedians as least the number two benefit.)
The first two -- writing constantly and getting feedback on what you've written -- are essential to being a writer. That doesn't mean UCB classes are the only place to get them, of course -- you could join or start a sketch group that commits to writing and performing a lot -- this is what I did in college, and what groups such as Meatsteak have done, to great success. Or you could simply force yourself to sit down at the computer and grind it out every day, then force your friends and co-workers to give you notes, but I don't recommend it. If these options aren't open to you but you still want to improve your writing, taking a UCB class will give you the structure you need. It also gives you access to an experienced comedy writer who will tell you how to improve your work and help you isolate the areas in which you can improve. The other teachers and myself have each written and given notes on hundreds of sketches, so we're able to give fast and effective answers to the question, "How can I make this sketch better?"
The third benefit, the curriculum, is definitely useful, but not strictly necessary. The UCB curriculum crystallizes a lot of useful nuggets of sketch wisdom -- the differences between parody and satire, for instance -- but a lot of it is stuff you could figure out yourself by trial and error if you wrote sketches constantly for five years, like I did. Maybe think of it as listening to the WTF podcast every week -- by doing so you learn a lot of great stuff about comedy that can give you a leg up, but hey, you can learn the same stuff by doing spots every night for five years. That said, taking a class can help you quickly pick up a lot of wisdom that you would have had to learn the hard way otherwise.
The last consideration is that if you complete the sketch program at UCB, you may be eligible to apply to join one of the theatre's Maude Teams. These are the house sketches teams at the theatre, analogous to Harold Teams for improv. These teams are hard to get on -- a ton of people submit -- but if you make it onto one you'll be writing and producing a new sketch show every month on the UCB stage in front of one of the greatest comedy audiences in the world. It's a constant trial by fire, which will make you a really strong writer really fast.
So: Is it worth $350? If you're already writing, revising, and getting feedback on your work every week, maybe not. But if you wish you were writing more than you are and are interested in comedy writing in general, AND you can afford it, then totally. And, as opposed to improv classes, where you can leave without anything tangible, (especially if all you do is take Improv 101, then call it quits), if you take a single sketch class you'll leave those eight weeks with six scripts you've written and an armful of information about the structure of comedy and comedy writing in general.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/29/2011