The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Lynne Parker Headshot

Can You Teach Funny?

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

I believe that most of us have the ability to be funny. By funny I mean the ability to make other people laugh, smile or react with amusement. We are all born with it - that little bit of crazy which we have as kids but slowly leaves us as we learn the rules of life.

Some of us ignore these restrictions and exercise our right to be the 'funny one' in school, often interpreted as the 'naughty one' or the 'show off'. It's a shame that some cultures and beliefs restrict us - rendering us inhibited and embarrassed, at worst cutting off our natural abilities and instincts to openly use humour. But laughter is a staple of life and fortunately it is embraced by many cultures to communicate and bond.

It's not so much about teaching people to be funny as releasing their innate abilities, giving them permission to use humour. You can choose to 'own' this skill and learn how to deal with people's reactions to it, or continue in not-so-blissful-and-maybe-a-bit-miserable ignorance.

For some there may be a condition such as Asperger syndrome or autism that cuts off the emotion to react to this ability - indeed some people with these conditions are extremely funny because they don't get embarrassed or worry about the appropriateness of their behaviour. With or without life's natural inhibitions, there's nothing quite like the feeling of being able to make people laugh - with the considered or spontaneous thought that you are brave enough to say out loud.

I started running the Stand Up to Stand Out workshops for Funny Women about three years ago when the 'needs must' factor kicked in. It turns out that I'm quite good at this and our monthly Saturday morning workshops at the Leicester Square Theatre in central London are regularly sold out. Although I've trained as a stand up with the splendid Logan Murray, my favourite comedy guru, I'm not good enough to be a regular performer and I'm at my most comfortable in my role as producer, director, facilitator or coach.

I currently run two types of workshops. The introductory workshop which, as this suggests, introduces women to the idea that they can be funny and brave enough to use their humour for performance or even in their everyday lives; and the advanced workshop, a follow on to develope what they started and build their material into a stand-up act, an idea for a sitcom, sketches or a way of approaching a tricky presentation at work.

Debbie Baisden, who runs a pub in real life, has attended workshops in Leicester and London. "I think I am going to get addicted to your workshops," she says. "I found Saturday not only very enjoyable but a valuable opportunity to share with others the importance of comedy."

Debbie went on to create a comic character and entered this year's Funny Women Awards. This is what she said after her heat: "Thank you so much for making it possible for people like me to experience stand up. For me it was an amazing and thrilling achievement, and I am sure it will be a story I am going dine out on for years. I am still waiting to come down."

This sort of feedback does really support my view that there are hundreds of women out there who possess the ability and talent to perform or write comedy. This is also proven by the fact that during 10 years of running Funny Women I've personally seen around 2,000 new female comedy acts! It's our job at Funny Women to give them the confidence to go the extra mile.

Dawn Coxwell also has the performance gene which she went on to unleash during a workshop. "I was amazed at how much we managed to do in two hours - but would happily have stayed all day, it was so much fun. I came away feeling very inspired," says Dawn.

Comedy for her is a rite of passage and she has since gone on to take part in the Awards as her alter ego 'Ivy Manilow', her inspired Twitter creation which has a massive 15,500 plus followers!

Speaking about her experience of the competition and bringing Ivy to life, Dawn says, "Please believe me when I tell you, that the fabulous Funny Women team will look after you, you will be fantastic on stage and the audience will be with you every step of the way. It was one of the best days of my life - and it will be for you too."

I can't say better than that! Job done.

See all information about Funny Women's Stand Up to Stand Out workshops HERE

Registration for the Funny Women Comedy Writing Award sponsored by the Comedy Unit remains open until 31st August 2012. Register HERE

Entry is now closed for the live performance categories of the Funny Women Awards and the semi-finalists will be announced by Friday 15th June. All details of the semi final shows are HERE