Stand-Up Comedy Training FAQs
Who takes SFCC workshops?
Anyone who wants to be funny or funnier attends our workshops. We train public speakers who want to bring more humor to their presentations, the salesperson who wants more effective and genuine interaction with their client base, housewives, Mr. Moms, engineers and accountants who want to fulfill their dream of getting up on stage and making people laugh, professional comedians who want to explore new techniques for writing, rehearsing and creating, and beginning comedians who want to learn the basics of comedy and audience rapport. We also are very popular with trainers and corporate clients that need media training for their lifeless executives.
Can a person learn how to be funny or funnier?
Absolutely, if they want to be! In fact, becoming a competent funny person is something ANYONE with desire, patience and the ability to take direction can do. We can’t give someone a sense of humor but the process of learning to be funny in front of strangers is a combination of focused immersion and good direction. The fact that all of us possess the ability to get laughs from strangers is a welcome truth as we begin this journey. Some people (comedy coaches with no technique or comedians attempting to protect the illusion they have a unique talent not attainable by others) think being funny is a “gift” one is born with and cannot be taught. The claim that you “have it or don’t” has never been proven and is one of the biggest old wives’ tales passed from generation to generation. We understand comedians might need to perpetuate the myth that they possess a unique talent to sell tickets or preserve fragile egos, but it does nothing to change the facts; arguing that a skill can be learned but not taught makes no sense and has been proven false here since 1999.
We speed up your learning process and cut years off the learning curve so you won’t spend years performing in low end, poorly lit bars while attempting to sort through misleading input from sub-standard audiences about what is funny. The current stand up club scene in America creates saloon/bar/club comedians with little to no chance of making a transition to large paychecks that can be received from high end television and theater audiences.
The BBC Show, “Find me the Funny,” was our stage to prove that ANYONE could be taught to be competent, unique and entertaining comedians. We chose a group of civilians and set out to provide evidence that being funny has never been a skill reserved for a chosen few. The journey for those Northern Irish comedians in FMTF with a killer final show in Edinburgh was a great victory and concrete historical evidence of our successful training program.
What is different about SF Comedy College Stand Up comedy workshops?
We encourage you to value your own voice and instincts when bringing your life experiences to the stage. Your opinion of what is funny is as valid as ours. If you get laughs, you are correct and there are no other rules. A great teacher will not edit your act, your jokes or correct your natural sense of humor. A competent comedy teacher will lay all available tools for accessing laughs at your feet and allow you to implement the ones that suit you. In this environment, you will learn to make your own comedic distinctions and find your version of what is funny from an audience. Our process expedites one to develop and discover their own unique comedic voice, which is why no two students from the SFCC ever sound the same.
What is the benefit of the group versus one-on-one comedy training?
Group workshops have the benefit of offering networking opportunities. The ability to succeed in stand-up is based upon a number of variables, the most important being the ability to network with people. The larger the network, the more one will work. The more work, the longer the career. It’s no mistake that 70% of the working comedians in the Bay Area have attended SFCC workshops and that our reputation among working (paid) comedians is excellent.
Groups of comedians offer multiple points of view on your act. Your job is to make many people laugh and this training begins the process of your learning to get laughs from all walks of life. To work with one instructor with no group feedback means that you will possibly learn to make one-person laugh that will also be the same person cashing your check. One-on-one teachers laugh at their students because the student is doing the jokes that the teacher thought were funny to begin with. However, who else is laughing?
The risk of working with only one comedy coach with no technique puts you at risk that you may become a “cookie cutter” comic who sounds like the teacher. If one lets a writer/comedy coach make decisions about your act or write jokes for you, then you will adopt her or his sense of humor and writing techniques. This effectively takes away your ability to develop your own style and make unique comedic distinctions about what gets laughs. And if any comedy coach tells you that being a stand-up comedian is just about writing a lot of material and memorizing it, that person is effectively setting you back years in a business that is dominated by excellent performers more so than great joke writers. Our beginner classes focus on your natural sense of humor and bringing audiences closer to your point of view rather than wasting your time and sending you in the wrong direction by transforming you into an actor reciting memorized lines written for you by someone that has a different sense of humor than yours.
The comedy coach who offers one-on-one “opinion-based” or self-described “experience-based” instruction is attempting to perpetuate the illusion that he has a special knowledge about what is funny. He does not. It is just one more comedic opinion that is as valid as your own! We’d suggest that if you are going to get an opinion on your act, get as many as possible. That is why our advanced classes with our many paid working comedians combined with our multiple weekly open mics for students is and will continue to be the best comedy think tank in all of American stand-up comedy.
The biggest key to great comedy teaching is to remove all the internal blocks in a performer that keep them from being real on stage. The first big journey as a performer is being comfortable in front of strangers and acting and reacting in a natural conversational style. Once there, you alone decide what you want to talk about and how to get laughs with YOUR sense of humor.
Remember, good stand up is specific to the creativity of each performer. Each comedian must decide for themselves which techniques create the most laughter for them. In a group environment, you are able to begin the journey of finding your own point of view without interference from one biased source. If the mantra is stage time, stage time, stage time then you will find that the SFCC provides access to more quality stage time for new talent comedians than all clubs in Northern California combined, including Rooster T. Feathers, The Punchline, San Jose Improv, The Sacramento Comedy Spot, Laughs Unlimited, Cobb’s and Tommy T’s. Our shows at THE Purple Onion at Kells are not papered with non-paying audiences who will laugh at anything, and the weekly shows offered to students are carefully monitored to maintain show quality and to discourage long, painful shows and hecklers who are found in venues where the audience gains admission for free.
Should I take the Free Stand Up Comedy Intro Class?
Absolutely! We believe that you are entitled to receive complete information about what we teach and how you will benefit from our training before you sign up. We think you should meet our teachers and find out who they are and what they bring to the table. We are also the only comedy school in America that offers free intro classes with a money-back guarantee*.
What should I look for in Stand up comedy instruction? Should I take a class?
If you ever hear someone say that you should never take a comedy class, they are not aware of what we teach and offer here. Ignorance is bliss for most comedians and civilians who have no clue what we teach at the SF Comedy College. We have over 7,000 alumni, and we are unlike any other school in the history of American stand-up comedy training. You will learn more from our staff who have been there and done that than anything you might glean on your own in your first five years of performing comedy on your own or by only listening to the voices in your head or taking bad advice from open mic level comedians who will most likely never have a full time stand up career.
Here are a few articles on evaluating stand-up comedy instructors from Greg Dean, the grand father of the SFCC, author of Step by Step to stand-up comedy, and owner/operator of the longest running stand-up comedy school in America:
An Assessment of Stand-Up Comedy Instructors – Part One
An Assessment of Stand-Up Comedy Instructors – Part Two
1. Free Intro
Always get a free consultation introductory class. Teachers who ask for money up front or do not offer a money-back guarantee seem unethical to us.
2. Your Instructor in Front of a Crowd
Watch your potential instructor work a crowd as it will answer a lot more questions than their press. Watch them teach and watch them perform; these are two different skill sets. However, there are many teachers who can teach comedy but aren’t very good onstage and there are some great comedians who can’t teach you one thing about becoming a great comedian. We’re excellent at both and welcome you to check us out.
3. Instructor Performance Resume
There are a number of wannabe stand up “comedy” teachers who are writers, monologists, speakers, ‘alt comedians’,columnists, academicians, bar comedians, high school teachers, restaurant owners, friends of famous comedians, improv students, open mikers and booking agents. If your teacher hasn’t headlined clubs nationally, worked the road, or doesn’t have an inner working knowledge of the current stand-up comedy then you could be wasting time and money. Demand the performance resume of anyone who claims to teach comedy. It’s your guarantee that the instructor might possess knowledge that you can use.
Kurtis Matthews, Tom Smith and Sal Calanni are nationally touring comedians. Kurtis’ teaching resume spans fifteen years, his performance career almost three decades and he still performs in clubs, private and corporate functions.
Some (new and career non professional comedians, mostly) say, “Those who can’t do, teach.” However, what can one say about those who do both? ALL OF OUR TEACHERS DO BOTH and still make the time to make comedy teaching a priority to assist you to not to make the same early career mistakes we encountered.
4. Instructor Teaching Resume
Being a talented comedian doesn’t guarantee that one will make a good comedy teacher. Just as a great jockey might not be a talented horse trainer or a great ball player may be a terrible coach, one skill doesn’t guarantee another. A minimum of five years teaching is a good indication that someone is heading a successful program and not just cobbling together a workshop passing for a quick paycheck. In addition, look for a long term class schedule posted on their websites as it will show that this person is serious about teaching, has a healthy program and in interested in your long term comedy future.
5. Comprehensive Career Support
Does your instructor offer direct access to stage time? Can they help you with a problem that you may encounter many years into the business? If the teacher doesn’t have a lengthy stand-up comedy career, they can’t help you with unique performance and career problems that may creep up in year 5, year 10 and so on. Furthermore, if the class offers little or no access to public performance opportunities, then it may not be offering you every opportunity to grow as a performer.
Does the instructor provide you access to real comedy club stage time and positive working comedians who are progressing in their careers? The SFCC comedy and booking network will provide you with five to ten times more stage time than you would receive by working with teachers who work independently or have some indefinable self-proclaimed connection with the comedy industry.
7. Emphasis on Performance
Will your instructor get you in front of paying audiences? Stand-up comedy is an art form done in front of people. Poor instruction will put emphasis on writing material, which may help you become a decent comedy writer but will not help you in your quest to become a powerful performer. Killer stand up material is best created on stage. The comedian makes the material, not the other way around. Most of the time, as many people say, “Comedy is what happens between the punch lines.” Focusing on material, memorization and reciting lines early in a career will stagnate your growth as a comedian and keep you from discovering your unique point of view in a rapid fashion.
Does your instructor offer access to people who will vouch for their talent? Do they claim their events always sell out when they never do? Do they offer a “comedy system” that feels as if they only want to separate you from your money without hands-on instruction? Does your teacher sit in the back of the room and spew empty comments about how to hold the mic and to focus on a point over the audiences head? Get referrals and ask working comedians for recommendations. We welcome and encourage you to do your research before you attend classes.
9. Location, Infrastructure and Stage Time.
Does your instructor have a legitimate, safe, public space in which to teach comedy or are they running a flailing side business out of the back of their house? Location, legitimacy within the city in which they operate and the ability to excel as a business speaks to the success and quality of the program being offered. Question the PT Barnum-type comedy seminars that blow through town and leave nothing for you in their wake except an empty wallet, a few promises and an email address that may or may not work. And please if you are in market with poor or no comedy venues let us work with you via Skype. You aren’t alone!
10. Verifiable References from Alumni
If your instructor will not or cannot provide verifiable contact information for students who they claim to have coached in the past or use one’s acting credits to validate their ability to teach stand up, they are most likely frauds, morons or all three. : )
Comedians who value the instruction they have received from a teacher provide links to their instructors and put them on their resumes. Ask us for working professional comedian references at any time.
When a comedian is ready, does the organization provide paying gigs and job placement for their students? We can and we do! Rich Stimbra of SFCC Entertainment and Recovery Comedy is always looking for new talent and draws first from the SFCC talent pool. SFCC Entertainment has a large network of private, club and corporate gigs.
Every successful comedy training business around the world should have their own club. We do (www.purpleonionatkells.com) and our comedians get multiple nights of stage time every week. If it’s just a class with a showcase at the end why bother? How does that benefit your long-term growth?
Is the Bay Area a good place to start your comedy career?
Yes! San Francisco, much like Boston, Austin, Seattle and Chicago, is a great “B” level comedy town to hone comedic skills on your way to LA or NYC. Of course, if your goal is to stay in the Bay Area, you can do that and have a nice career. We offer many places to work and there is lots of open mic time available!
Don’t I just need stage time to become a comedian?
You need good stage time to become a good comedian. What we mean is that if you are working in front of audiences that have paid to see comedy you have a chance to move to the higher ranks of the industry.
Sadly, in 2015 very few if any clubs offer you a place to make mistakes and only a few nights to work out. One nighters are crammed with weak talent who fight to get a few minutes a few times a month at low end venues. Even if that ‘old saw’ was true unless you have a network like the SFCC or are a paid regular at your local comedy club, you are out of luck in finding stage time that will help you get paid work. In the 90s, there were many quality open-mics where one could grow as a comedian. However, these days, many open-mics in Northern Cal are poorly run by ‘producers’ that will never be professional comedians and people that have little business being in this business. These low end showcases and mics attract audiences that are trained to pay nothing for stand up and are more interested in drink specials and heckling than in well performed/written comedy.
It is true that you can be a bad comedian by showing up to years of open-mics with no instruction. You can also become a poor piano player by sitting at a piano for a long period of time or a mediocre surfer with a surfboard and some ocean. It’s possible, not probable and better with instruction and a network, as you’ll get to your goals more quickly.
There are many bad gigs all over America where you can learn career ending habits as a comedian. Poor stage time is detrimental, and some funny people will quit comedy early when they take a bad gig on the wrong night and have no mentors to provide clarity and talk them off the ledge. Every SFCC open mic is populated with teachers and paid comedians who will gladly give you support, honest feedback, material and direction. Currently, in addition to in class performances the SFCC Advanced students are offered stage time a minimum of three times a week.
I write material, memorize it, and then perform. What else is there?
Great! Now you are an actor with a script. Material is the LEAST important aspect at the beginning of your journey to become a competent comedian an exciting live performer. Your ability to write funny material comes after you learn to be natural in front of an audience. The tired advice of write, write, write will make you a great writer but will do little to help you discover your natural sense of humor or find your comedic point of view. Our training emphasizes performance first, and it is why we produce so many unique voices in a short period of time. The time to get onstage is NOW!
Are we done yet?
All active students receive:
(1) Stage time, Stage Time, Stage Time, Stage Time
(2) Network, Network, Network
(3) Membership on the SFCC working comedian e mail list
(4) Advanced invitations and discounts to SFCC events and field trips
(5) Flexible Make-up classes
(6) Free Writing Sessions
(7) An on-call staff of working comedians – teachers with national TV credits, years of performance experience and answers to all your ongoing issues
Another nice thing about the SF Comedy College is that it’s a safe place to experiment and be not funny Truthfully; the only way any comedian can become good is by being pretty weak at first. We’ll encourage you to have fun while sucking in grand fashion. The SFCC open mics are chock-full of brand new comedians, and you will be surrounded by many learning the craft just like you!
In any given term, the Comedy College in the Bay Area and our sister school in Hollywood have over 200 current students, and we’re constantly adding to the ranks of successful alumni who work movies, radio, television, clubs and colleges across America.
We are the only comedy school in Northern California that was chosen by the world-famous Improv chain and Rooster T Feathers to develop comedians for their clubs. The SFCC Clubhouse was called “Best Comedy Club in San Francisco” by the (6/19/05) San Francisco Chronicle, Best SF Comedy Choice by Yelp.com, Best of 7×7 and San Francisco Magazine and Best Comedy Club in SF by the voters in the AOL City Guide. We are the only comedy school in America that has auditioned a talent pool for the HBO Aspen festival as well as hosted multiple audition shows for The Late Show with David Letterman! And we are the first comedy school in America to offer a money-back guarantee* that you will be funnier!!!
Funny Back Guarantee!
* If we aren’t everything we say we are or we just don’t fit your style after a free intro and your first beginner class just return your workbook and we will gladly refund your money minus the one class pro rate.