These days, as the economy slump has put a damper on most of our spirits, we could all use a laugh. That in mind, Creative Loafing spoke with Funny Bone Improv class instructor, Paul Marks, about both classes, and the free upcoming show at Hampton Inn (9615 Independence Pointe Pkwy., Matthews), from 8 p.m. - 9:15 p.m., on Sat., Jan. 23.
Creative Loafing: Tell me about Funny Bone Improv. When did classes for Funny Bone Improv start? What are they like?
Paul Marks: Funny Bone Improv (F.B.I.) started in July of 2009 as a course for people to help them in real life situations. We wanted our form of improv to have value outside of the theater. We wanted people to be able to think quicker on their feet, gain more confidence in themselves, and have fun every week in the class. To us, the fake board game of improv has real social benefits.
Classes are seven weeks long and they are designed for the average person. In other words, you don't have to be an aspiring comedian or a person who loves the arts to enjoy the classes. I wanted to have an alternative so housewives, business leaders, and accountants could learn together without worrying about aspiring for Saturday Night Live. Most people are extremely scared the first day of class (one guy almost threw-up) and yet, after 20 minutes it feels like a family and the laughter is amazing. Classes are only $95. They include seven sessions (one make-up class), a graduation show, and DVD’s of the show.
Have the classes grown since its start in July of 2009?
My first class, last year, only had two people in it, my second class was almost full and, now every class has a waiting list until May. In fact, people who aren't even enrolled in the class come to watch the two-hour sessions. The laughter and fun for the two hours is something you have to see to truly believe. I wanted my classroom setting to teach, and yet be more fun than any class they had ever attended.
When and how did you become interested in comedy?
Personally, I have loved comedy all my life. My wife and I used to perform on amateur nights at The Comedy Zone in the mid 90's. But I didn't love learning lines and didn't like pretending that I just thought of a joke when it had actually been written down. I felt like I was cheating the audience. But, then I found out about improv four years ago and took some courses in Charlotte and Chapel Hill. I fell in love with the spontaneity and the teamwork, but I wanted to teach the craft and I wanted to do it differently and for a wider audience. By the way, my wife does improv with me too.
How many people will be performing in the group at Hampton Inn? Also, what can folks expect at the show?
First, I have three levels of students. The graduation show for level one students is only for family and friends, so the group isn't too nervous. However, the show at the Hampton Inn on Sat., January 23 is for the graduates of level two. This show is for the general public. They are so excited to perform for possibly 50 to 100 people. We will have nine improvisers at the show. Also, people can bring kids ages 10 and up. We wanted all our shows to be family friendly. I love the fact that I can invite my mother to the show, and aspiring comics, and they both will have a blast. I try very hard to teach improv without getting raunchy, because that is an easy way out if you can't think of a joke. I want my team to think deeper and use their minds to think outside the box. The show is complete improvisation. It’s going to be a fun night.