Chelsea The children were nervous, fidgeting with their hands and sliding their feet. This was the first time performing in front of a crowd for many them. In this red-walled, dimly lit room, the stage was bright. With lights and smiles from students, the MC took the stage and introduced the show featuring the young comics of the hour.
The tables were all angled toward the stage, with a camera in the back capturing it all. The room was warm, filled with tension from the families waiting to see their children in full comedic swing.
Kids ‘N Comedy, a comedy summer camp in the city, is one of the only places that teaches younger children to write and perform stand-up comedy. KnC, founded in 1996 by Jo Ann Grossman, allows class clowns and others who like to make people laugh a space to learn and grow. The camp gives students the opportunity to create and perform stand-up, from the ground up. There final performances are held throughout the year at the Gotham Comedy Club on 23rd St., a few doors down from the Chelsea Hotel.
During this year’s final performances, a young man shuddered, as if shaking off any worries, and began to speak. This was the story of the day as student after student came to the stage to perform. As they shook off their nerves and climbed out of their shells, they stood on the stage with a stance of confidence. The young man who started nervously, slowed down, and then began his set.
“New York has a lot of characters. You see a lot of people on the train, like that one guy who is wrapped around the pole,” he said. “It’s like he doesn’t get enough love at home and is looking for love from poles on the train!”
Another young comic, a girl with blonde hair, made jokes about her parents divorce. “You know it’s strange,” she said. “That when I was a baby, my parents learned to walk out before I learned how to walk! Who do you think is being childish?”
Line after line, the crowd burst into laughter. You could see the joy of the young comics, the fear, and also the validation. The performers, between giggles and whispers, spun out jokes about the city, family life, and being young. There was a lot of material about the students’ families. References were made to traffic jams, ball games, and comparing food quality to subway car cleanliness. The students’ eyes were wide as their surveyed the room, looking for laughs and parents in the crowd. Some of the performers were so young they struggled to reach up for the microphone.
One parent, Rebecca Watson, has been sending her son to Kids ‘N Comedy for 3 years. “It is a beautiful, creative outlet, which makes him push himself,” Watson said. “To be comfortable in front of strangers and to be able to speak is a skill he will have for life.”
Many parents present clearly felt the same.