8 Critical Facts You Must Know Before Taking Any Stand-Up Comedy Class
A stand-up comedy class is a fun way to improve your confidence, public speaking and presentation skills while using your humor and laughing. But before you sign up for anyone’s class, there are eight critical facts to consider before deciding which specific class to take.
1. How many weeks is the class? How often does it meet? How many hours is each session?
Most stand-up comedy classes meet once a week for between 4 and 6 weeks, with each session running for between 2 and 3 hours. For example, “Tuesdays from 7pm to 9:30pm.”
The other (less common) class format is a one-off workshop, where you meet one or two days in a row, for four to six hours at a time. For example, “Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm.”
Either way, most comedy classes offer a total of ten to fifteen class hours. If you’ve never tried stand-up before, we highly recommend avoiding any offering that is fewer than ten total hours. You need at least that much time to develop your joke ideas.
While you should choose a class that fits your schedule, it is best to take a class over the course of multiple weeks (rather than back-to-back days), as this allows more time for you to make additional rounds of edits, and lets your subconscious start observing the world in a comedic manner.
2. Who is the instructor? Are they an actual comedian? Do you find them funny?
Stand-up comedy is not an academic subject. The audience is either laughing or they aren’t. Make sure to learn from someone who actually does it themselves.
Never take a class from a place that doesn’t explicitly tell you who is teaching the class! You want to know who your instructor is.
If you’ve honed in on a class, look up that instructor’s bio and check their social media. While their latest random video might not be the best indicator of their humor, usually you can find some long-form comedy special and/or TV appearance they’ve had on Youtube. This is a better demonstration of their actual humor and skills than whatever they might be throwing at the wall that day on TikTok.
This part is harder, but see if you can figure out if the instructor is a good writer who can write quickly and improvise on the fly. Talk show and podcast appearances are good a proxy for this. Most professional comedians can give you a joke or two if they sit with it for hours, but when each student only has 10 to 20 minutes per class, you want a teacher who can machine-gun funny ideas.
3. Where are the classes held?
Stand-up comedy classes are either held in a comedy club or in a rehearsal studio. Pass on a class if it’s being held in some dude’s basement 😛
The advantage of a comedy club is you get comfortable on the same stage where you’ll have your class show. The disadvantage of the comedy club is there are more likely to be interruptions and distractions during the class sessions (alcohol deliveries, the phone ringing for customer questions, etc.).
The advantage of a rehearsal studio is everyone is focused and there are no interruptions. The disadvantage is you’re not on the actual stage where your class show will be. However, this will teach you to get comfortable in multiple spaces, because if you continue doing comedy, you will be performing in all sorts of spaces.
Also, be sure to look at how nice or grimy the class venue is. Nobody wants to spend fifteen hours in filth inhaling asbestos!
Lastly, is the class location convenient for you to get to? Don’t choose a place that’s so far out of the way that you stop going to class because getting there is too annoying!
4. Is there a class show? Where is it held?
Almost every stand-up comedy class has a “graduation show” where all the students perform in front of their friends and family.
Avoid any class that does not have a graduation show!
Without the incentive slash fear of getting up in front of a real audience, you will not be as motivated to work hard, and therefore end up doing yourself a disservice. Plus as the saying goes, “Everyone has a plan til they get punched in the face.” If you want to see if you’re funny and can learn to make strangers laugh, a class show is the test!
5. What is the maximum class size?
One of the biggest factors to your success at the class show is how much “stage time” you get. Meaning: how much time you spend talking into the microphone with your joke ideas and receiving individual feedback from the instructor?
If you divide the total amount of class hours by the maximum number of students in the class, you’ll get a decent estimate. The higher this number, the better for you!
For example: 15 total class hours divided by 12 students maximum = 75 minutes per student, would be much better than: 12 total class hours divided by 15 students maximum = 48 minutes per student. That first class is 60% more individual attention!
Most comedy classes limit the class size to between ten and fifteen students. If the website doesn’t specify the student limit, ask!
Avoid any class that is more than fifteen students. You’ll spend too much time sitting and listening to others, and not enough time trying out your own jokes.
6. Do you go up in front of the class during each session?
Make sure you get to go up at every class session. There are some acting classes where you observe two or three classes for every one time you get to perform. This is not a good way to improve!
You want to perform in front of the class every time it meets, so your body and brain can practice talking comfortably into a microphone while people stare at you.
7. What does the stand-up comedy class cost?
Most comedy classes run between $300 and $500. If you want to compare different comedy schools’ tuition, divide the class cost by the total number of class hours.
A $405 class that meets for 15 hours is $27 per hour.
A $300 class that meets for 10 hours, while seemingly cheaper, is actually $30 per hour.
And more class hours will make your first performance better!
You can also divide this hourly by the maximum number of students in the class. The higher this number, the better.
Using the same example as above.
A $405 class divided by 15 hours divided by 12 students max = 2.25
A $300 class divided by 10 hours divided by 18 students max = 1.67
The more expensive class is actually a much better value!
8. How is the class structured?
Most stand-up comedy classes are run in the format of “student performs, instructor gives feedback, student makes adjustments and performs again the following week.” However within this framework, there are many variations.
You want a class that gives you a brief lecture on comedy basics and tools, so that you know how to generate material and understand basic comedy jargon like rule of three, heightening and punching down.
Also look for a class that has structured writing prompts every week. This will make it easier for you to “come up with” jokes.
Does the instructor leave time for general comedy-related questions? How is the first class different than the last class? If you’re unsure, ask before signing up!