But seriously, folks …
How I learned to do magic at the Comedy Parlor’s stand-up class
Ashley Heider Daly practices the art of stand-up comedy
I don’t know what it says about me that I wanted to try stand-up comedy. But I think it says something about stand-up comedy that I wanted to explore this intimidating arena first by taking a class—peeking behind the curtain before stepping on stage.
Comedy writer Peter Bedgood runs the stand-up class at the Comedy Parlor. He wears a sketchy fuzzy coat, is borderline late a lot and seems tired. But he makes writing comedy feel noble, like the salve to all of life’s problems. The class is more of a workshop. Bedgood asks us if we wrote that week, then each person takes a turn on stage talking through any new material. He gives feedback while we’re on stage and, as the class progresses, we also give each other feedback. “That’s funny!” “Switch those lines.” “What if you said it this way?” Everyone gets behind the mic—everyone is vulnerable—it feels like the safest place to say anything, funny or not.
Before I attended my first class, stand-up seemed like magic to me—comedians create laughter where there wasn’t any. I couldn’t wait to hear all the tips, tricks and gimmicks on how to be funny. The eight-week class was two hours each Sunday and—if we wanted to learn and grow faster—a few more hours after class at open mic. During that time, I’ve learned that the magic lies mostly in showing up. Show up to your writing desk. Show up to class. Show up to perform.
However, in the first 20 minutes of the first class, Bedgood shared a few get-started secrets:
1 // People are more willing to laugh with someone they know, so get the audience on your side immediately.
You start by saying your name and something about yourself. The audience wants to like and relate to you. My set starts with a story about my mom saying something pretty weird. Everyone has a mom, and most moms say weird things.
2 // An integral part of stand-up writing happens onstage at open mic.
There is no better way to find out if something makes people laugh than to get onstage and say it. It takes some of the edge off your first open mic when you remember that this is part of the creative process. All comics adjust and edit their jokes after seeing how they work in a real performance.
3 // If you have any weird hangups, dig into them. Anything painful or humiliating; that’s the meat of comedy.
I talked about depression. Other students worked with losing a medical license because of drug abuse, experiencing post traumatic stress disorder after returning from Afghanistan, DUIs, death, the indignities of dating in your thirties, poverty and wedding planning.
This secret builds on the first secret of being relatable. If you are honest and brave, people respond to you. When people go to see stand-up, they go to see victory over tragedy or strife. Relating a painful experience with levity is a win for humanity. At the very least, you can step off stage proud you grappled with material that could bring catharsis or meaning to someone, even if it’s only you.
Eight-week classes at the Comedy Parlor begin the week of Jan. 11 and conclude with performances. Offerings include Stand Up, Improv For Fun, Performance Improv, Sketch Development, Comedic Acting and Teen Improv. $125-150. Find more info at comedyparlor.com/classes.
For more on the Tulsa comedy scene, check out George Romero's piece on Crayons! Improv. Want more stories from Ashley? Venture with her into a year of less and take her tour of a vintage-inspired Tulsa home.