mainstages Comedy LIVE!

posted on Sep 08 2020

by Eva Casey, Marketing & Engagement Strategist

When we were brainstorming ideas for virtual programs to offer this summer, we knew we wanted to offer something that would be a fun escape for kids but also give them an outlet to express themselves creatively. I had always wanted to teach kids about sketch comedy, and it seemed that now was my opportunity! I threw out the idea of something like SNL, but for kids, and mainstages Comedy LIVE! came into being.

Why Comedy?

When I took a formal sketch comedy class, as an adult, it struck me that I was essentially learning what I did so naturally when I was younger. I spent so many summer afternoons making silly videos with my friends, but when I tried to access my childhood brain as an adult it was much harder. Kids are naturals at coming up with wild and wacky ideas, and many have a natural desire to create something with other kids. Collaborating in groups is something that is a bit harder in the current remote learning landscape, so I wanted to show them that it was still possible!

How mainstages Comedy LIVE! Works

Once the idea was firmly established, I had to come up with a structure for the week. I knew the goal would be to have a watch party for a virtual sketch comedy show entirely created by the participants by Friday afternoon. Given that we had four 1.5 hour sessions to make that happen, we had our work cut out for us. I considered the parts necessary for the process of creating a sketch and came up with a theme for each of the 5 sessions.

kids sketch comedy virtual

Session 1: What is Comedy?

We played introductory games for everyone to get to know each other in a relaxed, fun way. I also wanted to give them a baseline of knowledge of comedy so they could figure out what kinds of things they wanted to do for their own sketch show. I put together a list of well-known comedic tropes with examples for us to watch together. After each clip, I asked them what they found funny. Sometimes the answer was ‘nothing’ and we had the opportunity to talk about how what one person finds funny another might not.

Session 2: Writing Day

On day two we started coming up with the sketches themselves. My goal was to make this day as fun as possible so that they wouldn’t even realize they were writing a comedy sketch. We accomplished this by using improv games to brainstorm ideas.

With the remaining time, we started coming up with ideas for fake commercials to include in our sketch show. We played the game ‘whaddayagot,’ where you ask each camper to grab different items from their homes. For example, one camper showed us a sock and then put it on their head and said it could be hair. This became the premise for our commercial ‘Sock-hair for You!’

Session 3: Filming Day

On day three, we recorded the sketches that we wrote the day before. I already had some experience with recording via Zoom as I was one of the directors who produced our virtual production of Aladdin in the spring. The campers got to use props from their homes, and some even used costumes and their younger siblings to create an “immersive” comedy experience.

Session 4: Filming Day, Part Two

Originally supposed to be a day to talk about editing, we had run out of time the previous day and had to do some more filming instead. This turned out to be one of the most fun days of the whole week, as the campers had become more comfortable with each other and took turns shouting out ideas and fun things to try.

Session 5: Watch Party!

The last session was a celebration, with the campers playing some of their favorite games from the week. Then, in the last half hour, we invited the parents and families of the campers to join us as we premiered their sketch comedy show. It was wonderful to see everyone’s faces light up as they each got their chance to shine on screen.

After the showing, we got to debrief about the process, and many of them were curious about how I edited the video together. I was able to show them some of the “behind the scenes” and answer the questions they had. I emphasized that using iMovie or a similar platform, they could easily create their own movies just like the one we had made together during the week.

The End Result

The finished sketch comedy show is a testament to how hard the campers worked throughout the week, and how willing they were to be silly and try new things. I hope that the experience will lead them to continue pursuing their creativity, despite the new barriers posed by the pandemic. If anything, premiering mainstages Comedy LIVE! as part of our summer series, drove home the idea that now, more than ever, is the time to engage kids in new ways online. When kids come together to create something of their own, the pride they feel will only lead to increased self-confidence and a desire to keep trying new things.

Want to bring mainstages Comedy LIVE! to your school or organization?

Read about our Fall 2020 Afterschool Options!

Eva Casey

posted on Sep 08 2020

by Eva Casey

At mainstages, Eva focuses on social media, digital content creation, and brand management. As a teaching artist, she specializes in devised work, improv, and musical theatre. Eva currently also teaches as a private voice and piano instructor.