A contemptible parasite writes...

James Cook defends his comedy course (restarting September, places still available)

Hello. I’m a contemptible parasite. I’m loathsome and I prey off the innocent delusions of the incapable.

And here’s me having literally no idea.

Thankfully shouty American Doug Stanhope (who I’ve never met and he’s certainly never heard of the likes of me), has pointed out that I am all of those things. And as he’s the shouty-American-that-we’re-all-very-impressed-by du jour, I better take it seriously.

You see, I ‘teach’ a comedy course. Yeah, me, of all people.

Those that can and all of that. Although, I don’t really teach as much as try and point the discussion in various directions.

It is a popularly held opinion on the comedy scene that comedy courses are at worst a scam, and at best misguided. Chortle reporting Stanhope’s ‘rant’ certainly doesn’t help our cause.

If I was running a scam, I’d be after more money than the hourly rate offered by the local arts centre that employs me. But to me it’s not about the money, it’s about the sitting around talking about jokes and that with interested individuals and meeting new people. Sad aren’t I? For not wanting to swim Scrooge-McDuck-like through mountains of gold coins every evening, instead preferring the company of human beings – even if they are a bit weird.

As to it being misguided, perhaps the course I’m involved with is the exception because we’ve had good feedback from everyone who finishes the course and anyway, the vast majority of participants don’t really want a career in comedy – they just want to sit around and talk about jokes and meet like-minded people and do something a bit different. Last year they did bungee jumping – this year it’s doing stand-up comedy to an audience of 85?

I’m proud that the likes of West Midlands comedy stalwarts Dan Smith, Craig Deeley, Dave Powner, Lovdev Barpaga and Ryan Gough have all been on the course – but any success they go on to have will be of their own making – not the courses and certainly not mine. All we did was give them the start.

There are probably people in Britain who shouldn’t be running courses, but nothing annoys me more than when seemingly intelligent people make sweeping generalisations, and as I’ve discovered, all generalisations are rubbish.

I don’t claim that the course will turn you into Michael McIntyre, Stewart Lee or Tim Vine. Neither do I claim that you’ll be on Live at the Apollo within 12 months. But I do claim that it’s a lot of fun – and I believe we deliver on that. If you’re in the West Midlands and you’re interested in joining in – we start again in September, check this website for details.

Unfortunately, Stanhope also says that we are ‘all 100 per cent bullshit’ – so all of the above is definitely a lie.

Published: 13 Jul 2010

Today's comedy-on demand picks

FRINGE ON FRIDAY

The virtual events that are trying to fill the Edinburgh Fringe void kick up a gear tonight with the first Fringe Friday gala gig, hosted by Suzi Ruffell, Jason Byrne doing a gig from his Irish home town, and the Free Festival co-ordinating a busy on-line line-up

Click for more suggestions
... including a new YouTube sketch series from comedy ventriloquist Paul Zerdin and Graeme Garden in conversation.

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