The Comedy School : This Class Is for Revelry, Not Geometry

Associated Press

At Elliot Frank's school, the three Rs might be rib-tickling, regaling and revelry.

Frank runs The Comedy School, whose classes have been held in a yoga studio and school gymnasiums for people who want to "explore their sense of humor."

"What I run is a very creative workshop that includes improvisation comedy, some comedy writing skills, and it gets silly and crazy and yet it is very serious," Frank said.

The workshops conducted over the past six or seven years have attracted those who might like to give stand-up comedy a shot and those who might like to tap into the zaniness hidden within them.

'Explore Sense of Humor'

"I guess a few people want to be comedians now . . . to explore their sense of humor, or they have a fantasy. They want to do it once, but they really don't want to be stand-up comedians," Frank said in describing those who have been through his eight-week course.

"What I do, in fact, is emphasize that in this workshop you don't have to be funny," at least not immediately, Frank said.

There is a progression toward unleashing whatever sense of comedy his students have.

"One person goes up in front of the other members of the workshop. We're sitting down as an audience, and we just take turns throwing topics at them, and they have to talk to us about the topic until they get a laugh.

"One of my favorite things to do, which is very hard for the new participants, is to just have them stand there in front of us, and they go through all kinds of machinations, body study and visual stuff, trying to be comfortable.

"This is to get them used to the idea that you don't have to analyze it."

Developing one's own sense of comedy and sweating it out in front of other would-be comics is one thing, but the idea is to get ready to cajole strangers into laughing.

"What I'm really trying to teach is all you have to do is be liked up there (on stage). You don't make a lot of laughs, especially at the beginning."

Although his personal favorites among the top comics in the industry include the likes of Robin Williams and Richard Pryor, Frank said that does not color his approach to helping each of the students discover their own style of comedy.

"People go through a change in the workshop," he said. "People who don't think that they're funny . . . (who) laugh and think something is funny, wind up being funny.

"They find that like any other art, that with a little bit of practice and persistence they can get better."

He said comedy is an art, live theater with a cast of one where "you're probably doing your own writing, your editing, your own choreography, and you still have to get laughs.

"It's only for masochists, I think."

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