In these challenging times, we could all use some more laughter. That’s why I was looking forward to JCI Sheffield’s Improv Comedy Workshop on Thursday 11 February…and thrilled when it beat my expectations.
Led by Gareth Carson (JCI Sheffield President 2016 & 2018), we learnt the key rules of comedy and how to think on our feet. Gareth’s many accolades include JCI UK National Extempore Champion and judge at JCI Europe’s first ‘off the cuff’ public speaking competition.
As the name promised, the event was filled with practical advice and loads of laughter. Here are my 4 top takeaways form the workshop – I’ll definitely be putting them into practice for future presentations.
1) Laughter is a great ice breaker
To kick-off the workshop, Gareth asked us to tell our favourite joke (or any joke we could remember off the top of our heads). Ranging from cheesy to risqué, the gags really helped everyone feel more relaxed. Plus, we got to see former JCI UK National President Mark Smith’s impression of ants at a picnic, which was more than worth the ticket price!
2) Work with your partner
For one of the exercises, we were put into pairs. One person acted as an alien from a remote planet (think the outer rings of Saturn) and the other as their interpreter. Both roles were challenging for different reasons. The alien needed to create a bizarre language and use gestures so the skit didn’t fall flat. Meanwhile, the interpreter had to relay humorous translations.
Luckily, Gareth gave us useful advice. For example: describe the opposite of the alien’s reaction, or translate a lengthy ‘speech’ as a succinct answer. This was a great teambuilding exercise as you had to focus on your partner’s actions and provide them with plenty of fun material to work with.
3) Build upon your story
If you’re writing a speech – whether it’s for stand-up comedy or a presentation at work – focus on the ending first. Once you’ve decided the punchline, work backwards. Keep the audience engaged by adding layers to your story and building up to the grand finale. That way, the closing will have an even bigger impact.
Looking for inspiration? Gareth named Sarah Millican’s stand-up routines as masterclasses in long-form humour.
4) Be inspired by current events
One group delivered a brilliant sketch of a catastrophic online interview. Featuring unintentional filters and frozen screens, the skit was heavily inspired by the infamous Handforth Parish Council meeting and the ‘cat lawyer’ hearing. However, they also interwove their own experiences – such as being overheard chatting to your partner on a Zoom call, or interviewing for the wrong job. By mixing current events with personal experiences, the skit was hilarious and (unfortunately for many!) relatable.
Overall, the workshop was perfect for a grey Thursday evening. Everyone laughed throughout and learnt new and interesting ways of framing a story. I can’t wait for the next events in JCI Sheffield’s ‘Fun & Frolics’ programme – especially the St Patrick’s Day social (on 17th March 2021) and Taskmaster at Home (on 14th April 2021).
If you are interested in becoming a JCI Sheffield member, get in touch for a chat with Mark – email [email protected]
This post was written by sheffield