Thirty years ago, Lacey Dean was an ambitious teenager with a fake ID — not to drink, but to sneak into comedy clubs in her hometown of Boston.
Lying low in the back of bars to avoid getting caught, she chuckled at comedians such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
“Life changed at 19 when I got pregnant,” Dean said. “You can’t really bring him to the bar or on stage with you. You can’t set the booster seat right there and be like, ‘Don’t mind the child.’”
An adult stand-up comedy class at Colorado College is giving Dean, and 12 other jokesters, a chance to revive their postponed comedy dreams. This is the second year of the class, the brainchild of comedian and instructor Cesar Cervantes.
“I think the common thread is, ‘I’ve always wanted to do stand-up, but I’m pretty intimidated by the open-mic scene and other comedians.’ It’s not a very friendly and accessible place to just start doing it,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes taught the first handful of this summer’s classes before passing the torch to local comedians Dan Raney and Al Goodwin. Each week, the comedy students have assigned readings to complete and are given a different type of joke to focus on. The majority of in-class time is spent on stage. Classmates serve as a safe sounding board for all jokes — huge flops and mic-drops, alike.
The instructors provide positive and constructive critique after each performance.
“It’s really nice being around a group of really creative people again,” Dean said. “At least half of the people in this class are older. We went out and lived life. We had to go out and find a lot of funny. And now we’re ready to go back.”
Howard Price, a 70-year-old storyteller affectionately called “Gramps” by his classmates, was a television and radio personality who got his start performing at coffeehouses and open-mic nights as a teenager in the 1960s.
After stepping out of the spotlight to work in sales, Price said, the chance to be on stage again is bringing him peace.
“When I was no longer on TV and no longer on radio, I missed it. There is a little ham in everybody, and I have to be a pig,” Price said.
But Price said comedy isn’t what it used to be.
“There’s so many different types of humor, but a lot of what people are laughing at now is hate,” he said. “I’m not into hate. I’m not into tearing other people completely down so I can get a laugh.”
Price has been embracing his “old-time” style as Gramps on stage, writing jokes about his Jewish heritage and his cheeky mother, Ros.
Dean, meanwhile, still is trying to find her voice on stage. As a military reserves officer, she said, her male-dominated workplace makes her feel unheard.
“I’m one of only a handful of women in hundreds of men in a super technical field where I will talk, and they’ll just talk over me,” Dean said. “It’s like my voice doesn’t fall out of my mouth.”
But the class has given her an opportunity to turn negative experiences into comedic material.
“Instead of being upset at something that could be perceived as personal, it’s being able to go, ‘Oh, thank you, I’m making fun of you in front of other people now,’” Dean said. “Before this class, if I was joking too much in the work environment, I would quiet myself. Now I just don’t care. One day, they’ll be thankful that they got to get my laughs for free.”
Students often come away from the class with a literal sense of “comedic relief.”
The class can serve as a source of healing and creativity, Cervantes said.
“Anytime you ask people to be vulnerable and to write about something that is authentic, there’s those nuggets in there that can bring stuff up for people,” he said. “There was a comic who told me when I first started, ‘Pain plus time equals comedy,’ and I think that’s true. There’s something to that.”
Each comedian will perform a five-minute set at the students’ final performance at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. They’ll be opening for headliner Sam Adams, a comedian and former Denver Post sports reporter. Tickets to the show are $12, available at csfineartscenter.org.
Excited for the final performance, Dean said she wants her classmates to reach their goals in the class and beyond.
“I would love to see all of my classmates make it to the level they want to,” she said. “Because they’re all funny at heart.”