What I learned from an all-women comedy class
As I exit the comedy club, Atlanta’s well-known Punchline, I breathe in the fresh air. I feel brave, I feel empowered - two things I have not felt in a long time. Tonight, hundreds of people came to laugh at my jokes, my closest friends and loved ones were there to bask in it with me, and I had faced one of my greatest fears and aspirations: I had performed stand-up comedy, and I had crushed my set. I was living my dream.
I first caught wind of the all-women’s comedy class on a serendipitous drive home from work, the radio tuned to NPR. A bubbly, confident voice spilled out over the radio waves, telling a joke about her unique name. She talked about how hard it is for women to enter the comedy scene, and how fortunate she had been, and how she wanted to share that with more women. I had been mentioning to my friends that I wanted to do stand-up, but I was petrified and had no idea where to start. It was wishful thinking, a pipe dream. But this, I thought, could be perfect for me. So I bought myself a Christmas gift – a golden ticket to Lace Larabee’s Laugh Lab Level One; the alliteration just made me love her more.
There is something about being in a room full of powerful, hilarious, and inspiring women; it feels magical and supportive. For six weeks, I spent three hours every Tuesday night with what Lace would call “Atlanta’s workingest bitches.” There were tech company CEO’s, CDC employees, doctors, ex military women, hairdressers, stay at home mothers, and so much more. We bounced ideas and jokes off of each other, sharing and giving tag lines or call-back jokes, until each of us had what the business calls “a tight five”, as in, a solid five minutes of material.
The second week, I arrived and got settled in my seat near the stage. My new friends sat around me, and I admitted that I had never been the least funny person in a room, and that this entire experience was humbling for me. Every girl at the table exclaimed that they felt the same way. As class began, Lace took the stage and sat on a barstool, which wobbled under her. “Oops! Too many male comics have humped this stool!” We all giggled, knowing jokes are based in truth. She continued “I overheard some of you talking about feeling inadequate here, and I don’t want to hear that. Each and every one of you is hilarious, intelligent, and deserving. One of our rules is going to be: if someone gives you a compliment, you take it.” Lace not only taught us business terms, comedy do’s and don’ts, but dealt a much-needed lesson in confidence.
One of my favorite elements of the class was that the women were such open books. One girl joked about her crippling anxiety, one joked about her post-traumatic stress disorder, one joked about her “daddy issues.” Another of our women even had an NPR segment done on her for mental health awareness, and they came to class to record some of her set. These women were REAL, they were sharing their life experiences, their coping mechanisms, and their failings. It was truly awe-inspiring.
The course included six three-hour classes, a graduation show in which we all performed five minutes at a sold out show, a video and professional photos of our graduation performances, insider tips and tricks, access to a professional photographer for headshots, one-on-one meetings to fine tune our sets, a calendar of local open-mics, and advice from several other successful comics.
We gained five minutes of immaculate material (which is enough to start out at open-mics and small bookings) but I also gained confidence, the empowerment to embrace and tackle my fears, and fifteen new amazing friends. I suppose I never realized how much a difference being a group of women would make. Being surrounded by like-minded beings, who had similar experiences, was truly empowering. You could feel that they wanted each other succeed, whether it was evident by how they shared jokes, made Galentine's for the whole class, or just cheered each other on. It was simultaneously the most humbling and the most empowering experience. It was worth every penny, and if you live in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend taking Lace’s class.