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SEVEN DAYS | april 09-16, 2008 | feature 31A

What’s having What’s having

funny isn’t you a great day. funny is you a bad day. JOSIE LEAVITT

think like a comic.’ And that’s true,â€? she says. “When you’re a comic, your worldview changes, and it’s really neat to see, because you can see them thinking how every situation has the potential for a joke.â€? Stevens originally used the class as a means of testing her mettle. “It was really just about getting up the nerve to stand up there and try your stuff,â€? she says. Like Tormey, Stevens returned to the class several times to hone her act. “The second and third time it was more about the discipline to keep writing,â€? she says. “Plus, it was just a really great place to be on Monday nights.â€? Tormey and Stevens have taken comedy further than most of Leavitt’s students — though a considerable number continue performing, post-graduation. But students who signed up for the class not looking for a second career in comedy cite similar reasons to theirs — enhancing verbal adroitness, overcoming fears. “Some people take this class because they challenge themselves to do one really terrifying thing per year, and this is it,â€? summarizes Leavitt. “Some people come because they’ve always been told they’re funny. Some people come because they’ve always wanted to do standup. Other people come because they’re hoping it’s going to make them better at business, in terms of presentation and ease of public speaking. It definitely has a bleed-over effect; if you can do standup, you can give a presentation.â€? In its first semesters, the program was limited to women, who still make up the majority of most co-ed classes. The current crop includes nine women, mostly middleaged, and only four men — though a class last year flipped that ratio with 10 men, all under the age of 35, and three women. Nationally, the standup comedy scene has been male-dominated, so Leavitt’s class could be seen as an anomaly. “We do tend to have more women, because the first two classes I taught were women only,â€? she says. “I think, for middle-aged women — they’re the ones who are trying to do things outside of their comfort zone. They might have a little more time on their hands; their kids are a little bit older. And they want to do something that’s just for them. And you can’t get more ‘just for you’ than doing standup.â€? Regardless of demographics, the appeal of the class probably has a lot to do with Leavitt’s faith in her students, and her interest in their progress. “If someone has a lot of potential, I’ll put them in a ‘Standup, Sit Down and Laugh’ show,â€? she says, referring to a bimonthly showcase featuring more experienced local comics that she coordinates at the FlynnSpace. “You can tell who’s really into it by who wants to do it again, because the second time is usually the hardest. The first time invariably goes phenomenally well. But the second time you do standup, you realize how hard it is and how very many things can go wrong. If you can rise above that and still feel pumped when you’re done, then I know you’ve got a performer in you.â€? ďż˝

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