Comedy Class at Carroll: What's So Funny?

  • The Arts
Adam Brooks, Performing Arts Teacher

Carroll Middle School’s Performing Arts program develops students' skills, knowledge, and confidence to share their unique thoughts and ideas with their community and the world. Through a variety of creative mediums (drama, music, improv, etc.), students explore and experiment with concepts that support self-expression and ensemble building. Learn more about our Middle School curriculum.

Didja hear the one about the middle school that teaches comedy? Everyone's the class clown. 

What's the number one fear among people? Things like snakes and death are often suggested, but it is widely touted that fear of public speaking is always at or near the top. The idea of standing in front of a crowd can be terrifying, and yet, we ask our students to face this fear countless times over the course of any given school year: projects and presentations, student council and school plays, music performances and assemblies. The skills required in these moments are rarely taught in school (if ever), and when they are, they are often presented as passing, ancillary coaching within the context of a bigger project: "Be louder! Stop shuffling your feet! I can't understand you! etc."

At Carroll, the Performing Arts department (run by Adam Brooks and Shea Schatell) takes a different approach: stand-up comedy. 

This fall, eleven 8th graders spent a month exploring the world of comedy: not only what makes things funny, but how to bring the funny themselves. Half the term (2 weeks) is devoted to sketch comedy, and the other half is devoted to stand-up. While both halves are immense amount of fun, the real magic happens during the stand-up. 

Students are asked to tell stories, comment and critique on the absurdity of life, be expressive and even goofy with their bodies and voices, all in front of an audience of their classmates. The results can be wonderful.

In order to create an environment where kids feel safe to present, we talked about being "comfortably uncomfortable" and having, as one student put it, "a healthy dose of fear" when presenting. The result was a class that, at times, asked the students to be vulnerable (no small feat for a teenager), empathize deeply with each other, and work together to create a safe, supportive class where everyone could comfortably get up to the microphone and share their thoughts without fear of judgment or critique.

At the end of the semester, we asked students to reflect on the class so we could get their thoughts on the experience.

We asked them to sum up their experience in a couple words. Here's a handful of their responses:  fun, creative, crazy, real, anxiety, outside-my-comfort-zone.

We also asked what they felt was the most challenging thing about the class: 

"Standing up and speaking in front of the microphone."
"Trying to say something to make people laugh, and they don't laugh."
"Making fun of someone without it being offensive or insulting."
"Having to do something other than what you planned."

One student commented: "[The class is] actually more fun than it seems coming in. I thought we just gonna be telling each other jokes and stuff, but we ended up actually learning how to do comedy."

At Carroll, we believe that every student deserves the chance to speak their truth about themselves, and about the world. Comedy Workshop affords them the opportunity to practice exactly that: finding their voice in a safe, supportive space, all while making ridiculous jokes and being goofy.

And that's no joke. 

  • Performing Arts

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