Sandi Shore’s Comedy Workshop
Is Just What the Doctor Ordered
By Robert Ross
There seems to be little to laugh about these days. The world is wrought with problems with no end in sight, and yet at this time, it is laughter that we need the most.
If there is such a thing as a laugh doctor — it just might be Sandi C. Shore. She comes from a long line of comedians. She’s the daughter of night club entertainer Sammy Shore (founder/owner of The Comedy Store) and sister to Pauly Shore, who is a professional stand-up comedian and actor. When asked about her comedy background, Shore’s favorite response is “it’s genetic.” It just might be.
After giving stand-up comedy a try herself, Shore realized that her strength lie in a different venue. By luck, by chance or by destiny she started conducting comedy workshops in 1991. According to Shore, “When I began teaching stand-up, I had no idea how rewarding it would be, both for myself and the student. The inner transformation that happens for those who apply the tools is what keeps me teaching.”
Over the years she has developed her unique teaching style by observing, coaching and working with comedians such as Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, David Letterman, Arsenio Hall, Louie An-derson, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Roseanne Barr, Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay, and Richard Pryor.
Shore has two workshop formats. There’s the “big one,” the one that gets you on the stage in front of a live audience in a night club (The Comedy Store). It’s an eight-week workshop, two to three hours each meeting. She also has a four-week workshop that can be used as a “prep” for the eight-week workshop or it can be used as an opportunity to see if you want to give comedy a go. In either case, both workshops are “hands-on” experiences held in a night club setting — darkened room — microphone — stage — the whole nine yards.
Why do people take these workshops? There are more than a few answers, Shore responds. “Often, friends tell them they’re funny. And I tell them this: it takes a long time to learn how to be yourself in front of strangers.” Shore continues, “There are other reasons, some want a career in stand-up. Others want a forum for creative _expression or want to improve their public speaking skills. And, it’s cheaper than therapy!”
I attended both the four-week and the eight-week workshops for a brief look-see. What was most impressive was seeing the difference between those just entering the four-week workshop and those graduating from the eight-week workshop. The transformation, as Shore calls it, was dramatic.
The students who entered the four-week workshop were beginners with barely an idea of how comedy works, and more specifically how they were going to develop their own comedy style. Upon “graduation” from the eight-week workshop, some of the students were very close to being ready for the real thing. Whatever Shore does during those workshops, it works.
Comedy As a
Laughter has healing powers not yet documented by the scientific community. And yet anecdotal stories abound of the therapeutic effects of the simple act of laughing.
Dr. Norman Cousins was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which meant that his spine was disintegrating. He tried conventional medicine where he was told that his chances for recovery were almost nonexistent. Eventually he opted for an alternative. His alternative involved locking himself in a hotel room and watching comedies for three days, and, as the story goes, through laughter and humor he was eventually able to mobilize his body’s own natural healing resources. He spent the next twenty years of his life writing and talking about alternatives.
A testimonial by a San Diego nurse illustrates the healing power of laughter and Shore’s workshops: “Your stand-up comedy workshop changed my life. When I began the workshop I was on five different medications, overweight and my life was falling apart. Since working with you, I have lost 30 pounds, my asthma is gone and I’m only taking one medication now! Laughter is the best medicine.”
Laughter may not cure all, but it can go along way to help us through those difficult times.
Shore has twenty secrets for putting together a winning comedy routine (tak-en from her book “Secrets to Standup Success”).
Among those secrets: Comedy is based on truth. Find your own truths. For example, are you a sarcastic — depressed — underdog/poor me syndrome personality type? Whatever your truth is, work it into your act. A well-known actor attended one of Shore’s classes. He delivered a very polished set about his wife and kids that was pretty good, but something was missing. Shore didn’t buy a word of his set. The whole routine felt empty. Shore began to suspect that he was acting. When he was done, Shore asked him, “Are you married?” He replied, “No.” Then she asked him, “Do you have kids?” Again, he answered, “No.” Mystery solved. The audience didn’t buy it because it wasn’t real.
Use words that create a picture. One of Shore’s students complained that her car was really messy because she carried everything in her car and could never find anything. Later she edited all of her rambling into an excellent one-line visual: “My car is a giant purse.” The audience loved it because, in one sentence, they could picture the shoes, snacks, papers, and trash.
Capture your audience in the first ten seconds. Referring to Shore’s book: “Use
anything to introduce yourself with authority and establish that you are the
entertainer, this is going to be fun and you are in control of the room.” From
her book, Shore recalls receiving a call from a former student who is now a
paid performer. She had a Saturday night gig. She said she couldn’t believe how
she had blown it by starting right into her set without bonding with the
audience first. Even after a hundred performances she had forgotten the golden
Your long-term goal is to make your set into one long story. Two of Shore’s favorite storytellers are Louie Anderson and Bill Cosby. They can perform for an entire hour, touching on several subjects while making it sound like one continuous story. They are able to create the illusion of one continuous story because each segue takes them smoothly from one topic to the next. With these seasoned performers it sounds like the last thought of one topic naturally triggered the first sentence of the next.
A trademark makes a comedian memorable — and commercially appealing. Sam Kinison had his hat — Margaret Cho has her black leather outfit, Steve Martin has his statement “I’m a wild and crazy guy.” And, Bob Denver always wore a red shirt and a white hat when in character as Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island. Each has a trademark which makes him/her more marketable.
Bombing is a positive experience. Bombing a positive experience? According to
Shore, “You should view yourself as a living piece of art — constantly reshaping
and reinventing yourself until you’re satisfied with the sculpture. After a
lifetime of watching comics, I’ve learned that bombing is a part of the growth
process. There’s no such thing as a failure. I like to find the positive in
every situation, even if others perceive it as negative.”
For Future Comedians
Interested in knowing more about stand-up comedy? Shore has a new book out titled: “Sandi C. Shore’s Secrets to Standup Success, a Complete Step-By-Step Workbook.” The book can be purchased at www.amazon.com or at www.Walmart.com Shore also has a home-study course known as “The Sandbox.”
For more information on “The Sandbox” and Shore’s workshop schedule, please visit www.sandishore.com
When I was leaving one of Shore’s workshops, she asked me, “Well, what do you think?” My response was something to the effect that, “For anyone interested in comedy, your workshop should be mandatory.” The price is reasonable, the setting is perfect, the instructor knows her stuff, there are comedy buddies for support, a workbook and a process that will get you on stage in front of a live audience. Mandatory!
Robert Ross can be reached at:
Copyright 2004 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved
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