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Oren Mendez Headshot

Scenes From a Comedy Class

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"YOU could be funny"! screamed the bright yellow pamphlet taped to the hood of my car, advertising a two-week comedy seminar. Throwing promises that everyone can be the next Jerry Seinfeld, or more currently, a Louis C.K. (A suggestion taken a bit too literal, I understand, after seeing the many chubby, balding participants of the class).

Considering myself a comedy writer, I decided it couldn't hurt to at least see how this magical class could tap into anyone's inner comedian, and turn him into a pro. Worst case scenario i'd get a few laughs out of it. Big mistake. Nothing was ever as further away from comedy as this comedy seminar was. I should have known this would be the case just by reading that well-placed pamphlet. Nay, just by looking at it, written in the allegedly amusing Comic-Sans font -- a sure way to make you laugh, right? Clearly, these people won't know funny if it hit them in the face.

As the class assembled, it became clear that everyone here got the same pamphlet on their car, and none of them were really trying to pursue comedy as a living. The main goal for most of them was to learn how to write a funny blog, or submit a story to someone who already has a funny blog, to spare themselves the effort of opening one themselves. As we all sat, the "professor" showed up. And yes, he indeed referred to himself as a "professor of comedy." His highly expensive suit hinted that this man does not joke about comedy. This is his life, profession, and passion. And he takes it very, very seriously.

By this point I knew no one was going to even smile in this classroom. No, we were here to study the anatomy of a joke. Set up, punch line. He repeated this a dozen times. Someone in the back took notes. I envisioned him going home, trying to write a joke, and going over to his notebook to see whether the punchline goes first or last.

After everyone learned what a joke was, it was time to have a comic relief. Because the brain must have a break after receiving so much new information. This turned out worst than the theoretical materiel. Professor Ha Ha tried to get us to laugh using the oldest trick in the feel-goodery text book -- simply make yourself laugh. Everyone had to start forcing a smile, than a chuckle, until the room was filled with the loudest, fakest laugh you've ever heard. Pair that up with the sour cream and onion Pringles served at break time, and you got the worst room you ever paid to be in.

The session ended with the teacher asking every member to share story or an experience,
but tell it in a comedic fashion. This was probably the one justified lesson taught, but it was completely misunderstood by all. They shared stories such as a funny misunderstanding at work, or a mishap at a bar. The point of tapping into the absurd in a daily situation was lost, and replaced by simple stories of already comedically themed situations. On my turn, I was tempted to tell the story of the hilariously unaware comedy class I took. But I decided not to. The humor would be lost on these people anyway.

I can't completely rip apart the existence of a class presuming to teach comedy. After all, apart from me, everyone in the class got what they sought out to get --aAn intellectual look into comedy, a fun afternoon forcing them to have a laugh after a hard day's work, and some free snacks. I guess, after all, the joke was on me for being tempted by a random bright yellow, comic sans pamphlet.