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Think you’re funny? This might be your chance to prove it.
Local comedian Christie Buchele is teaching a new six-week course—Standup Level 101: Intro To Standup—at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. The 31-year-old Denver native, who has been performing across the Front Range and beyond for nearly a decade, knows what it’s like to jump in the deep end, so to speak. The former teacher said she never dreamed of performing on stage, until she went to her first open mic in 2010 to watch a guy she had a crush on perform. “I thought, I think I can do better than this,” she laughs.
Nine years after her first open mic, Buchele makes people laugh at various events around town, including a weekly showcase she hosts at Black Buzzard. Buchele, using her years in standup and (finally!) her teaching degree, is ready to try her hand at helping other aspiring comics stretch their standup muscles.
Though Voodoo has been around since 2011, it was purchased by Nick Armstrong and Josh Nicols earlier this year, and the duo has prioritized shifting Voodoo’s culture. “[Nick and Josh] are excited to broaden Voodoo’s mission to include more standup—and create a system that helps build more diversity in the Denver comedy scene,” Buchele says. Though there’s no hard data on the ethnic and gender makeup of aspiring comedians around the country (there’s no Census poll for open mics just yet), anyone with a pulse on Denver’s comedy scene knows it’s heavily white and male. “That’s true for comedy all over the country, but Denver is particularly bad,” says Buchele. Long-term, Buchele hopes to host an all-woman standup course, as well. “Women like to study, and get some confidence up before performing. Men don’t have that problem,” she laughs.
Students will learn the basics of joke writing and, of course, performance, but they’ll be challenged to dig deep, too. So much of standup is storytelling—and not just in the literal sense—but figuring out your story as well, according to Buchele. “[We’re going to] explore up-top: What do you want from this? What is your personal story?” she asks. It’s a common rookie mistake to try to hide behind a caricature on stage in an effort to protect the ego, she says. “They do jokes that are not really about them. I think it slows them down majorly by not being vulnerable and authentic on stage.” So teaching sincerity, candor, and vulnerability will be a top priority in her class.
There is clearly a market for learning standup comedy in Denver, as the first Intro to Standup, which starts in May, filled up about a week after it was announced. A second class (starting in June) has already been added to meet demand, and Buchele says that both she and Voodoo’s owners are game to host more classes in the future. Though it’s designed for people who might be underrepresented at the mic, the course is open to anyone and all skill levels. You don’t even have to be interested in doing open mics after the class is over. “Humor is one the best tools for getting a promotion, becoming a leader, or being someone who stands out in a group or in a project,” says Buchele. “The confidence will carry into the rest of your life.”
Speaking of confidence, class graduation is an actual stage performance. Each student will do a five-minute set, and the show will close with a seasoned headliner. Though students will surely be nervous, Buchele urges that stage-fright is normal and not to let it be a deterrent. “We’ve all bombed. It’s the most human experience,” she says. “I’ve seen the way standup has improved my life and I think that can be true for everyone.”
If you go: The next available Standup Level 101: Intro to Standup class starts on June 9 and runs weekly—from 7 to 9 p.m.—until July 14.