Build your comedic chops
The Gotham Comedy Club is one of New York’s hottest comedy spots with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Trevor Noah and Jim Gaffigan appearing regularly. Now, Bermudian comedians might also have a chance to take the stage there.
Club affiliate, the Manhattan Comedy School, is now offering online comedy classes to people in Bermuda, culminating with a performance at Gotham.
The opportunity comes thanks to Chloe Lusher, a Bermudian living in the Big Apple, who works as assistant director and producer at Gotham and the school.
“I am really excited about this,” said the 25 year old. “Even people who have done comedy for five to ten years don’t get offered a spot.
“This is a huge experience. A lot of people take the course just to get the stage time. I have spoken to some seasoned Bermudian comics, and they said ‘oh my god, a spot at Gotham! That is incredible’.”
Ms Lusher herself has taken classes at the Manhattan Comedy School.
She said the teaching was top rate.
Some people take the courses because they want to become a comedian, while others want to improve their public-speaking skills.
“We consistently have people who come in from Connecticut or Pennsylvania or the neighbouring states,” she said. “We have never had the opportunity to expand to other countries.”
Covid-19 has pushed them to branch out.
“When my boss, Andy Engel, said we are going to be offering online classes I said, oh my gosh, this is such an amazing opportunity for Bermudians,” she said. “It is something they would not normally be able to do.”
Stand-up comedy, story telling and comedic writing classes will be offered over Zoom, an online conference app.
Ms Lusher hopes it will open doors for Bermudian comics.
A love of comedy is something she can identify with.
“From an early age, I knew I wanted entertainment to be a major force in my life, yet when it came to deciding on a specific career direction, I wasn’t entirely sure as to the route I should take,” she said.
“As I strove to find an outlet for my creativity, I tried different areas of the creative arts, beginning with dance, though, I knew in my heart, I was destined to find another outlet for my talents.”
She tried music like her brother Ben, but didn’t have the calling for it.
“Music was his thing, not mine,” she said. “Acting always seemed to be a potentially viable route, but although I enjoyed performing, I realised I didn’t want to forge a career out of playing roles of other people — it was my own personality I wanted to showcase.”
After some soul searching, she realised she had a knack for making people laugh.
“Making jokes out of things seemed to make it easier for people to relate,” she said. “Self-deprecating humour is like therapy for myself and for those with whom I share it.
“The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ may be a bit overused but, nonetheless, is so very true.”
Her first jobs were in event planning for restaurants and bars, but she didn’t find those arenas very fulfilling.
“During one of my online searches for an event planning job, I spotted an advertisement for an internship at the Manhattan Comedy School,” she said. “The position involved helping to plan events at the Gotham Comedy Club, which instantly intrigued me, because I knew that the Gotham was one of the best known comedy clubs in the world.
“Immediately, I looked up the name and number of the school’s owner, and called him. We hit it off right away, and talked about my work experience and passion for comedy. By the end of the call, I was hired.”
After just a week on the job, she knew she’d made the right decision.
“For a year and a half, I worked my butt off, working side jobs such as nannying and bartending, so that I could go to the club in the evening and help out with shows,” she said. “My boss had hired several interns aside from me, and told us that eventually this could turn into a full-time paid position as the assistant director.
“I had my mind set on the idea of getting that position, and wanted to do everything in my power to prove to him that I was worthy of the role.
“Having a career where I could help direct and produce shows, book comedians and spend my time watching stand-up would be a dream come true, and was definitely the most fulfilling career path I could imagine.”
During the internship, she helped to market events at the club. “I got the hang of it really quickly,” she said. “Andy started giving me more and more responsibility. Eventually, he promoted me which was really exciting.”
She thinks her greatest success so far is helping Gotham to plan a series of talent showcases.
“Three times a month we scout new upcoming talent in New York or around the country,” she said. “We book them for shows at Gotham with the opportunity to perform alongside really big name comedians. A couple of weeks ago, before the Covid-19 crisis started, the new talent performed with Jerry Seinfeld.”
She loves helping out other people who share her passion for comedy.
“This is their big break,” she said. “That is really rewarding for me. That has been the most exciting and biggest project I have worked on, for sure.”
She has tried stand-up herself and has found that her strengths lie in other directions.
“I might branch more into stand-up as time goes on, but right now, my life is really about comedic writing,” she said. “I like writing my own comedy skits and that sort of thing, or writing for others and bringing ideas to my boss.
“In the future, that will adapt more into my own stand-up and getting back on stage.”
She was in the process of planning her own comedy show in Bermuda when the pandemic broke.
“The next time I get on stage it will probably be in Bermuda,” she said. “We were planning for the summer, but now that has been put on hold. I am trying, at the moment, to get all my ducks in a row for everything I need to set up.”
She is in talks with local comedians such as Nadanja Bailey, King Somner, Bootsie, Eddie G, Gina Love, and Jonathan Young.
“We are just waiting for all of this to be over, so we can finalise the line-up,” she said.
The six-week course at the Manhattan Comedy School is being offered to Bermudians at a discounted rate of $350.
“That is a pretty good deal, especially for the quality of learning,” Ms Lusher said.
• Class will be held one to two days a week, in the afternoons or evenings, for three hours at a time. Storytelling level one, with instructor DC Benny, begins on April 23 and comedy writing boot camp with Ross Bennett, starts on May 5. The class cycle repeats every six months. For more information see manhattancomedyschool.com/classes or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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