Stand-up offers classes in funny
The key to comedy, says Susanna Spies, is to be yourself.
“I feel like there are more rights than wrongs in stand-up,” says the founder of Comedy Playground in Los Angeles, who recently moved to Cold Spring. “If you’re telling the truth and being authentic you’re doing everything right, and you just need to become more comfortable in that world. The more authentic you are, the more you’re doing it right.”
This month, Spies (pronounced speez) is bringing her comedy classes, for children and adults, to Move Cold Spring. (The Playground continues in L.A.)
Spies began her onstage life pursuing acting. After growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, she earned a degree in English at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she also studied acting. She wound up in Los Angeles and found she enjoyed doing stand-up in support of her “main thoroughfare,” acting. She developed a one-woman show with 30 characters, The Dryer, and did stand-up at dozens of comedy clubs in L.A. and New York City.
“When everything you do receives laughter when you want it to, that’s pretty great,” she says.
Spies, who remembers being a shy teen, was always interested in teaching. “I started teaching drama to eighth graders with the rudimentary, ‘How do I engage others who might be timid to express themselves?’” She thought the curriculum could be useful not just for the naturally extroverted but for those learning English or navigating a corporate setting or even athletes and seniors.
No matter the setting, Spies says she hears frequently from students: “I want to do this, but I’m not funny.” Spies says she responds: “I can’t teach you how to be funny, but I can show you a platform to be funny in.”
“The ‘funny’ is the result, but it’s about developing your point of view,” she explains. “The rest is how comedy is structured. So you learn to write a five-minute stand-up sketch. You don’t have to be ‘on’ or funny, you have to be who you are.
“Comedy is always driven by something underneath,” Spies says. “I hear a lot of ‘I’m shy.’ This curriculum is non-invasive. It’s engaging. It’s about finding that muscle and ways to develop their point of view. It goes beyond the mic. It gives you the confidence to get in front of the room.”
There is zero humor behind Spies’ move to Cold Spring. She lost the use of her right arm in a car crash and, with that, her ability to drive.
“I knew I wanted to move to a smaller community with access to New York City,” she says. “I was also seeking nature. A friend lives here, and I visited last fall and found a slice of heaven. I needed to have catharsis, and everyone’s so kind.
“In L.A., people promise they’ll come and see you, but it’s so spread out, and they don’t, but here people show up and they follow up, too.”
Move Cold Spring is located at 37 Chestnut St. Eight-session weekly classes begin Sept. 9 for children in grades 3 to 5, Sept. 10 for grades 6 to 8 and Sept. 11 for adults. The cost is $220 for children and $280 for adults. Register at movecoldspring.com.