It warms my heart to know the GOLD Comedy course, How to Do Comedy: A Workshop for Girls and “Others”, is now available online for $20. It was made for teenage girls, and while anyone could take this course and find it valuable, it makes me so happy to know it was specifically, lovingly made for teenage girls.
I didn’t start performing comedy until my late 20s, when I coyly took a stand-up class clutching my security blanket of ironic detachment. It was taught by a man whose claim to fame was managing Carrot Top at the height of his career. Depending on the price, instructor, and countless variables, a stand-up class could do more harm than good. For many, the price keeps them out of the question entirely. But I would not be a comic if someone didn’t teach me the basics and force me onto a stage.
GOLD Comedy’s online course would have worked for me at 26 and saved my mom about $200 (it was a Christmas present, okay?) This class would work for anyone who wants to try stand-up comedy, even if they feel completely clueless. But it was made for teenage girls, who get so little, who never seem to know how bright and funny they are, and that’s why GOLD Comedy is special.
The course is empowering and progressive without being corny or preachy. In the introductory video, GOLD Comedy founder Lynn Harris says, “What makes you different makes you funny, and what makes you funny makes you strong,” a theme that runs throughout the course.
The course is broken into five modules, each with an instructional video, a reading assignment from the GOLD Comedy website like How to Survive Your First Open Mic, and some truly helpful writing prompts and assignments. The instructor, stand-up comedian and activist Elsa Waithe, is upbeat, likable, and encouraging. (Full disclosure: Elsa is a friend and we’re from the same hometown. I didn’t know she was the course instructor when I signed up and I honestly think she did great! Hi Elsa!) I tried imagining watching these videos as my snottiest teenage self, and I still think I would have found her charming and genuine, or at least not too annoying.
Throughout the course, lessons include joke examples that are mostly from female comedians. Jokes by past GOLD Comedy students, real teenage girls with diverse perspectives and comedy styles, are presented alongside examples from Joan Rivers and Lauren Lapkus.
The course touched on two important points I think many how-to books or classes miss: why telling a funny true story doesn’t work as stand-up, and why “punching down” (making fun of easy targets, especially marginalized people) isn’t just mean, it’s not good comedy. “Pick on someone your own size,” Elsa says, “or, better yet, pick on someone bigger.”
I wish the video quality was better, especially the echo-y sound, but I think a generation that grew up on YouTube tutorials would be fine with it. It stopped bothering me halfway into the second module. The course is designed to be done at your own pace. As a teenager, I would have finished it in a few days. Anyone who completes the course and makes an honest effort on the writing assignments would be better prepared for an open mic than the average open micer.
I don’t know how much $20 is to a teenage girl these days or if a girl would take the initiative to buy this for herself. So if you know a teenage girl, buy this for her. She deserves it.