SFCC BLOG: Common misconceptions about comedy training!!

Published on September 3rd, 2013

The SF Comedy College Blog

Common misconceptions about comedy training

No one asked me to write a blog. I wish more comedy instructors would be honest and say that. Generally, they start these things with “I’ve had hundreds of requests,” “People ask me everyday,” “Mail has been coming to me from Nova Scotia,” Blah-blah-I’m-kind-of-a-big deal-blah, and so on. It’s as disingenuous as the information some of them provide.  The truth is that the stand up world is small and the industry, although alive, is going through a major transformation.

If you are reading this, then you are one of very few. You are a brave soul and a special person that dreams of creating laughter and speaking your opinion to the masses.  Pretty narcissistic, eh?  Perhaps, but that’s an issue that you should probably bring up with your therapist. Lucky for you, there is generally not a stampede of people who want to get on stage and become professional comedians.  However, many people are wise enough to know that they probably need a little help when speaking in front of people to garner laughs and some who just might want help to be funny enough to create better and deeper relationships with any type of audience.  Everyone is welcome here and thanks for reading this far. 

Here are some common misconceptions by new people entering the world of funny:

1.    I have a great sense of humor already and I don’t need assistance!

Unless you are getting laughs from strangers who are paying you to make them laugh, it’s possible you don’t really have a great sense of humor. Frequently, laughter is given to a person out of respect, fear or as a way to show a person’s affinity for you. We all think we have a great sense of humor but until it’s put to the test of a paying audience, we are probably misguided. If you live in a town with a great training program it would make sense to learn the ins and outs of professional comedy and performing before you jump onstage. The reason that stand up audience numbers are low around America is because the majority of the new talent pool is god awful and the belief that one is someone ready without training and knowledge is the biggest culprit. Do you want to part of the problem or the solution.

2.    You can’t teach a person to be funny!

We’ve heard that since 99 and yet 7000 people have come through our doors from all walks of life and are indeed funnier than when they came to class here. So We aren’t buying it and can provide real world examples to disprove this old wives tale.

Gwnerally, when a comedian says this he is demonstrating a protective form of denial used by people to not better themselves. Sometimes this phrase is used by narcissists to protect their false construct of the world. Becoming funny is something taught and learned in this lifetime and there are techniques that employed by funny people that not used by those that are not funny. However, you need to be teachable to learn the lessons. So, if you can’t train with us, please find someone in your town who teaches comedy for a living. 

3.    Either you have it or you don’t!

This is a ruse mostly employed by professional comedians who are trying to hide the fact that anyone with desire, patience and willingness to be teachable can also be funny.  I think we’ve all learned since the comedy crash of the ‘90s that anyone can get on stage and generate as many if not more laughs then the “talent” being jammed down your throat by one particular (Yes, only one!) cable channel and a few producers who want comedy in 2013 to be edgy, insulting and a temporary rush for an audience with no attention span. Let’s face it: If a TV network wants ratings, then they have to come up with a version of stand up that competes with car chases, cop shows and the three (yes, three!) channels devoted solely to food. Making one funny is easy. In fact, I can give you a joke and if you can remember it and tell it then you would get laughs which by definition makes you funny. However, if you mean some people are likable and some people will never be then we would agree and we are pretty sure that would be the only acceptable us of ‘either you have it or you don’t’.

4.    Comedy training is a scam!

I love this one as our proven techniques have created funny people for over a decade. This claim is generally made by new talent comedians with less than 5 years of experience or by people who are so insecure that they can’t fathom the fact that they possess no talent that differs from anything that one off the streets could bring to the stage. There are many fine comedy training facilities in the US with proven track records! Feel free to do the research and set your ego aside. The real scam may be that there are people on stage in low end bars with little definable talent that differs from what you possess charging you money to watch them rant into a microphone.

5.    Comedy teachers are failed comics!

 The call to teach others is a noble field. Few are decent at it and most do not offer technique. Being a great comedian and being a great comedy teacher are two different skill sets. The majority of comedians are so caught up in their own drive for attention that the idea of stepping out of themselves to help others is a leap too big for most of them to make.  There are many great comedians who can only give their opinion of what is funny or describe their path to funny but have no technique to develop a sense of humor in others. Just as there are many great athletes who are terrible coaches, there are many great comedians who are terrible teachers. Frankly, I love watching new comedians succeed when they are doing comedy for the right reasons; because it’s great fun and they like creating joy in others.  Eddie Brill, the talent coordinator from the “Late Show with David Letterman,” has said that we learn more from teaching then performing and he is so on the money there.

I’m not sure how to define “failed” in this instance, but I still perform and I get laughs every time I get on stage, as all of the staff at the SFCC does. There is a huge difference between being competent on stage and having fame or TV credits.  The funniest comedians tend to remain undiscovered, especially in a television comedy world that is driven by train wrecks.  There are many comedians who attack comedy training out of fear, judging all comedy teachers to be “failed” comedians. Unfortunately, this judgment only serves to demonstrate their fears and insecurities rather than providing a true basis for criticism. 

Please feel free to send questions, comments and poorly thought out rants to comedydoc@aol.com.  I’ll be posting the best responses here.

Thanks for reading, 

Kurtis Matthews, your friendly comedy instructor!

Kurtis is one of only two instructors in the United States who offer “process-based” comedy training that anyone can use to be funny. His seminars have been widely applauded by the National Speakers Association of Northern California, The Harvard Club of Silicon Valley, Laugh Lovers of Oakland, The Great American Comedy Festival and the Scottsdale Comedy Festival.

As well as being a great comedy teacher, he can also be seen nationwide as talent in the Comedy Addiction Tour (www.comedyaddictiontour.com) and in the UK as the star of BBC1’s “Find Me the Funny.”

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