Monday, June 16, 2008

Great American Comedy Festival - Youth Camp - Day 1

Today was officially the first day of the Great American Comedy Festival's youth comedy camp. I'm the director, and let me tell you, I'm ready for sleep!

Students checked in last night, and we did all the usual camp stuff: rules, regulations, goals. And then, the full-fledged pig out with build-your-own-sundaes, M&M cookies, and five varieties of potato chips. That was simply the appetizer. Then we completed the mixer with a meat lover's delight pizza.

I've realized that we really try to make things easy for kids. The catering company delivers breakfast to the dorm. All they need to do is walk downstairs, select from the luscious layout, return to their room, and then eat.

The first class featured stand up comedy. Today, I discovered a few things about writing jokes. Jokes consist of three elements: a set up, a connector, and the punchline. Always consider the degrees of difference in something - how something is bad and then each step away from that should be something worse.

Need an example? Ok, how about I say that I just love those silent conversations you have with others in an elevator. First, there's the bulleted eye contact that darts toward then and then quickly averts when you sneak a glimpse at the person. There's the moment when you both reach to push the floor button. And then there's the moment when the monotonous tones of elevator music rush through your brain....and you both realize the toe-tapping, head-bobbing music has turned both of you into those crazy brothers from Night at the Roxbury.

And then - a break for lunch. Keep 'em feed and busy and they'll eventually tire out. A wise woman told me that once.

The afternoon was spent with instructors from Brave New Workshop. I have one word for this fantastic group of performers: awesome, awesome, awesome! (Technically, it is one word. I just used it three times for effect.)

The improv workshop began with several games so the kids could build trust. This workshop time seemed like it flew past us! I was so engrossed watching the kids and was hit with the energy burst they were generating.

After a break, and some goldfish crackers, the kids began learning about the art of sketch comedy writing. Using the local newspaper and personal lists of joys and angers, the whiteboard became the fodder for a brainstorming session. So many interesting and unique ideas! Then, I was called away on camp business, so I missed the basic outline of the sketch (darn it), but I do believe that the basics include a theme, character(s), and place, as well as two other elements that I will discover tomorrow.

Dinner at Valentino's (a Nebraska tradition) and a trip to the Elkhorn Valley Museum for the Johnny Carson exhibit completed day one. Free time and some homework assignments kept students at the keyboard or at the ping pong table in the game room until lights out.

And yes, it's time for some peace and quiet and much deserved rest before tomorrow's outing.

What a fantastic opportunity and such a talented group of young people from across the U.S.! I'm glad I am able to be a part of it.

Reporting live (and close to sleep) from Norfolk, Nebraska..... until tomorrow. Same comedic tim(ing), Same comedic channel.

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