My path into stand-up comedy began by being a fan.
So many comedians had delighted me, given my young brain new angles on how to observe the world… until finally I began co-running an open mic.
From there, a brief sojourn into performing, and soon I found my footing as a booker, promoter and MC. Then my comedy journey really took off. I went solo. Doubled my venues. Tripled the number of weekly shows.
Two issues revealed themselves. First, I was running myself into the ground managing and MCing so many shows. Even with the limited amount of support I had.
Second, I noticed how acts were regularly asking the same range of questions, making similar requests. I needed help to run the shows.
Comedians needed help getting answers to key questions.
The solution was to create classes for comedians.
Their specific questions would be answered. Plus, they would receive additional information. Get practical advice that many new performers probably did not even know to ask about.
This served everyone. It would help acts to step up. It allowed me to book newly improved acts.
Hell, maybe I could even inspire some budding MCs to share the workload. Or launch their own nights and increase the amount of all-important stage time.
I was still years away from teaching some of these workshops myself. However, I was able to gain huge benefits from attending and listening. Even if it was in the role of event producer.
I had the luxury to experiment with workshop delivered ideas and lessons in my own shows.
Further, I continued to observe patterns in the concerns and questions of the student masses.
For example, even the Clowning workshop, taught by the actual Teletubbie, Tinkie Winkie himself, Dave Thompson, usually had the fear of Hecklers brought up more than once. What kind of monster would heckle a clown? (That’s kinda rhetorical. Kinda.)
I began to offer 1-to-1 coaching. Which was hotly received by comedians I knew personally from my London circuit. Once again, certain concerns and questions seemed to be universal.
The We Are Funny Project was proudly delivering masses of stage time, a delicious range of in-person comedy workshops and the option for some personalised 1-to-1.
Then the pandemic hit. Everything came to a halt (as though you did not know that already).
The world went into lockdown and people approached this extraordinary fallow period in different fashions. Some watched Netflix for weeks on end. And added 20 pounds in weight. A lot of sourdough bread was baked. Many began writing “their novel”.
I chose to plan for the return of live comedy, and in a way, write “my book”. Except it was not a book, but a recorded online video course for new(er) comedians.
I planned to help acts from across the planet, not just in London, make leaps forward with their comedy. Through providing the most practical and sought-after information on booking spots, writing and performing stand-up comedy.Stepping into Stand-Up Comedy was born, especially designed for acts with fewer than 100 gigs.
Then another lockdown came. Another online course was written, filmed and edited. I trust that the title speaks for itself, How to be a Brilliant Stand-Up Comedy MC.
I honestly did not know if people would buy an online course. Indeed, I purchased a couple myself, for research. I found them lacking. I was amazed to find one of the bestselling courses still using Bill Cosby as a reference point.
I had sounded out some acts and it was a mixed response.
While Stepping Into Stand-Up Comedy was especially designed for brand new acts, or comedians with fewer than 100 gigs experience, the comedy ego raised its’ head. It became clear that acts with just 30 or 40 gigs often presumed themselves to be too developed for such a course. I guess, sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Some performers were enthused. Others were definitive that they would not buy into such a format. The naysayers were clear that they valued personalised feedback, preferred a more social/human experience.
Clearly, I could not offer tutor feedback in an online course.
All the same, I wanted to distill my deep comedy knowledge and be ready to support comedians when live performances could return.
I went ahead and released the courses.
It was touch and go for live comedy for a while because of restrictions on gathering. It was touch and go for We Are Funny Project because we couldn't run shows and live workshops.
But comedy returned. And the online courses started selling. And they keep selling, even though the lockdowns are over. Why?
Turns out that worldwide availability plus lifetime access makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.
Through the online courses, we have welcomed people from all over the world into the We Are Funny Project community.
“…technical tips in the course on how to approach the gig, everything from how to hold the mic, use the stage, not over run and simply enjoy yourself were very motivational and helpful”
“Alfie is one of the best English stand-up comedy coaches... brilliant, great fun and he really knows stand-up”
"It's the most thoroughly thought out course I've seen so far, and I've done a few of them. On and offline".
“I wish I took the course “Stepping into Stand-Up Comedy” earlier. I could have avoided many painful mistakes”
Helen, from Russia
So how could I extend that tutor feedback to our online courses? The answer, of course, was under my nose the whole time. Even before the pandemic struck, I had been regularly providing 1-to-1 coaching in-person and through video link. And comedians loved my coaching.
“Alfie Noakes has done more for comedy than microphones… do give Alfie a shot, regardless of your experience level”
“I felt I had reached a plateau with regard to my comedy development. I was stuck. To help me gain a new perspective I called on Alfie. I found these sessions to be very illuminating… helped me renew the pursuit of my comedy goals with renewed vigour”
“…the skills he (Alfie) has given me, I have been using week after week. In terms of quick wins and also how to improve my overall performance and joke-writing… highly recommended”.
“Alfie’s lessons have helped me improve my stand-up comedy in numerous ways”
The question finally struck me. Why don't I smoosh online courses together with Zoom coaching? So that's what I have done.
Developing comedians can still buy course-only. Or can attend a live workshop if able to get to London. However, I strongly recommend checking out course and coaching for any of the pre-recorded options.
You get all the benefits of online. Study anywhere, at your own pace, and revisit the material any time you want. PLUS you get entirely personalised tutor connection and feedback via video link.
The newest production, an “advanced” level online course dropped in October, Stepping Forward in Stand-Up Comedy.
Stepping Forward In Stand-up Comedy is something like 10 years in the making (reading, contemplating). It is specifically written and produced for more seasoned open mic comedians, with at least 100 gigs experience.
This course is designed to move you forward, from wherever you may be in your comedy career. From 5s to 10s, 10s to 20s, open mic to pro rooms, to longer form sets, opening your own path to TV and festival opportunities and beyond…
The format, the angle, of Stepping Forward In Stand-Up Comedy is unique. I draw upon the immense overlap between cinema and stand-up.
I use more than a decade of experience as a movie journalist to lead stand-ups to consider tried-and-tested filmmaking roles. Learn strategies to develop your stand-up career from, well, wherever you are currently at.
By parsing the roles of key filmmaking crew, or even entire studio departments, developing comedians will be able to apply robust strategies to advance their material, performance and career opportunities.
Think like a movie producer and see the big picture. Better manage your objectives and logistics.
Work like a film director and get a clear grip on your vision. Master the arc of your material and sustain laser focus on what images, emotions and surprises you wish to deliver upon your audiences.
Learn the differences between “Story by…” and “Screenplay by…”. Find an ocean of superior premises and effective techniques to morph them into solid, funny material.
Think like a lead actor. You are, after all, the star of your own show. Adopt powerful practical methods to improve your preparation, performance and delivery.
The lessons go on… with insights from the Prop department, Hair & Wardrobe, Marketing & Publicity and beyond.
If you are talented and ambitious enough to ultimately enter a world featuring agents and critics, then it really is ideal to be prepared.
Now, for the first time, I can launch an information-packed course and attach the potent booster, 1-to-1 coaching, to ensure the greatest effectiveness.
Moreso, on top of MCing again, now I can get back to doing what I most love—working with upcoming comedians face to face—from anywhere in the world.
Live shows, in-person workshops, a range of online courses. It's starting to feel that We Are Funny Project is back to delivering the goods for comedians. Happy days are here again!