“Why did mom put the Band-Aids in the fridge? She wanted cold cuts!”
Yup, kids love to joke around—and that’s a good thing. Comedy can be a fantastic way for children to express themselves and their opinions in a positive environment. “Being able to make people laugh is a great confidence builder—especially for kids who may be going through a tricky time like their parents’ divorce or a new school,” says Sunda Croonquist, director of the Los Angeles School of Comedy.
Even class clowns can benefit from comedy classes, which give these kids an appropriate way to channel the need to get a reaction from their peers; the more time they spend performing, the less time they will hopefully spend in the principal’s office.
So if your child wants to try her hand at comedy, these tips will help her get plenty of laughs along the way:
- Start the lessons at home.
Formal comedy lessons for children younger than eight are rare, as kids this age usually can’t write their own scenes and are still mastering the art of the punch line. But you can be your child’s first comedy teacher, even if you don’t have a funny bone in your body. Nurture your kid’s budding interest by exposing him to comedy whenever possible. Check out joke books from the library, buy tickets to a local (age-appropriate) show, or switch on a classic funny film or TV show, such as I Love Lucy.
- Give her a stage.
A comedian doesn’t have much if she doesn’t have an audience, so be sure to offer loads of attention and applause. Give your child the spotlight at the dinner table and allow her to let the jokes roll, or help her put on a mini-performance at your next family reunion. Once she feels ready to perform in front of a larger audience, encourage her to sign up for a school or community talent show. Remember that getting in front of a microphone takes a lot of courage, so don’t push her if she’s hesitant to take the stage.
But what if she doesn’t bring down the house? Clap and whoop as if she just gave a SNL-worthy performance. “You never want to discourage a child from doing comedy, but if she’s truly not funny, you may want to suggest that she tries Improv instead of standup, where the focus is on coming up with imaginative, silly scenes instead of the pressure of the set up and punch line,” says Croonquist. And remind her that, like any art, practice is essential to perfect her talent.
- Sign up for classes.
When your child’s ready to take his one-liners and slapsticks a step further, consider signing him up for a class where teachers will help him polish his joke delivery and performance skills as well as teach him how to write his own sketches. If your area doesn’t have kids’ classes available, ask an adult comedy class if they would consider adding a course for youngsters. No luck? Another option is to have your child audition for a comedic role in a local play or musical instead, where she’ll have the same sort of supportive environment in which to work on her wit.
If your teen has a real knack for the funny, a career in comedy could be in her future.If your teen has a real knack for the funny, a career in comedy could be in her future. But know that because most opportunities are in New York City or Los Angeles, a move to one of the coasts may be necessary if she’s truly serious. If she wants to get noticed, Karen Bergreen, a teacher at Manhattan Comedy School, advises that she performs, performs, and performs some more. Comedy schools will often put on shows and gigs at coffee shops, and open-mics are often relatively easy to get. They may offer the chance that someone in the industry catches her performance.
And if your kid doesn’t show an interest in performing until later on in the game, you can ease any worries that she may be behind her peers. “Comedy isn’t like ballet or playing a musical instrument, where the earlier you start the better. Older kids have the advantage that go in with more life experience to base their acts off of,” says Bergreen.
Whether your child decides to make a living out of comedy or only pursues it for a few months, one of the most important things you can do is to support him along the way, says Croonquist. “We often forget to teach our kids to laugh, but laughter is so healthy, so anything you can do to encourage child’s love of comedy is going to be beneficial.”