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On the Town: Classes teach that comedy can be serious business

On the Town: Classes teach that comedy can be serious business
Students surround the microphone. Cory Ringdahl is in the back row; second row students are, from left, Jared Wynn, Yuying Mesaros, instructor, comic Richy Leis, Pamela Good Ropfogel, Shannon Boggs, and David Israelian. Left to right in front are Kayleigh Smith and Susan Jekarl. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

Comedian/emcee and Glendale resident Richy Leis thinks comedy can cure through “the unifying power of laughter.”

So much so that he founded Comic Cure, a company that allows him to work closely with local, nonprofit organizations.

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He specializes in private parties and fundraisers such as the Glendale Soroptimists’ “Bras for a Cause.”

As master of ceremonies, Leis lends a light touch to serious subjects such as breast cancer awareness.

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On Jan. 13, Leis began a five-session, stand-up comedy class in Glendale for would-be comics as well as those on the way up.

The class is designed to be a crash course in stand-up that explores its many styles. Leis teaches quick thinking, stage presence and how to write jokes with a punchline for every sentence.

A portion of the money from the $200 per-person class fee goes to Glendale Arts, which manages the Alex Theatre and works in partnership sponsoring the class.

Glendale Arts offers its community room on California Avenue as a classroom for the program. Staff members help out by taking photos of class participants.

Ten students were quick to sign up for the first, free class. There, they learned from Leis that writing jokes is serious business. Students had brought in their first attempts at humor based on “Who are you? Where are you from? What is your family dynamic? What is your job?”

Each student answered the questions in front of class members and Leis. They were also given about one minute of mike time.

Homework was more joke writing to be critiqued by Leis before the next class. More mike time was promised.

The budding comics are slated to perform their stand-up comedy routines at the Ice House in Pasadena on Feb. 10.

“If you buy three things, just to get the fourth one free, three of those things are going to rot,” so said Laura Duncan, the new executive director of Ascencia, the Glendale-based organization that provides services to the homeless. She was referring to information from the organization’s financial literacy class for its homeless residents.

A welcome reception for Duncan was held last Thursday in the auditorium at the Holy Family Grade School in Glendale. Its auditorium was filled to capacity with at least 200 supporters who sipped and supped on beverages, hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

Surrounding new Ascencia Executive Director Dr. Laura Duncan are proud sister Marilyn Gianetti and brother Kyle G. Duncan.
Surrounding new Ascencia Executive Director Dr. Laura Duncan are proud sister Marilyn Gianetti and brother Kyle G. Duncan. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

According to Duncan, there are 150 million homeless people worldwide. Bringing the statistics closer to home, there are 286 homeless in Glendale. That’s a 55% increase over last year attributed in part to the shrunken availability of affordable housing.

Duncan plans to “nurture, protect and grow” Ascencia. Thirty-three staff members help 1,200 homeless people annually. Beds have increased from 40 to 45, with more in the works.

Ascencia’s services have extended into West Hollywood and Burbank. The agency’s goal is permanent housing for its homeless residents.

“In their new neighborhoods, we connect them to resources for low-income people, such as primary medical care,” Duncan said. “We make sure they pay their bills on time.”

Attending the reception were Duncan’s sister and brother, Marilyn Gianetti from Fullerton and Kyle G. Duncan, who lives in San Marino.

VIPs in attendance included deacon Ron Baker, Ascencia’s board president; Debbie Hinckley, immediate past president with her husband, Bruce, by her side, and Natalie Profant Komura, former Ascencia executive director, having been with Ascencia for 11 years.

As guests were leaving the auditorium, they had the opportunity to fill plastic bags with hygiene essentials to pass out to homeless people. A card with Ascencia’s information was tucked inside.

Ruth Sowby Rands may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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