Doug Stanhope blasts Kyle Cease and many other comedy teachers; is he right?

By | July 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm | 21 comments | News, Opinion | Tags: , ,

Doug StanhopeWhen road warrior comedian Doug Stanhope speaks, there’s never any question about what he really means. Case in point, a new blog post on Stanhope’s website outlining his thoughts on stand-up comedy classes, and the people who run them. He has articulate, unkind words for comedian Kyle Cease, instructional writer Judy Carter, industry insider Jeff Singer, and several others.

Here’s a taste of what you’re in for:

Say what you will about any Carlos Mencia, Dane Cook or Jeff Dunham but I would lay Rubenesque on my side, chin cupped in my limp hand blowing the lot of them before I would say one positive thing about anyone who steals money by teaching a comedy class.

Any fan of Stanhope knows that even when you don’t agree 100 percent with what he’s saying, he makes great points. A lot of time you end up agreeing with what he has to say more than you thought you would, and that’s part of what makes him one of the most intriguing comics working today. He even offers his own tongue-in-cheek comedy class alternative, Doug Stanhope’s Comedy Death Camp.

The post is smart and laugh-out-loud funny, but some might say it’s a little over the top. I’m sure a lot of comedy classes are complete rip-offs – and the particular one that draws most of Stanhope’s criticism definitely sounds like one – but are they all? Don’t some stand-up classes just function as a place for people with no experience in comedy to try out material in front of a supportive crowd i.e. classmates?

Let us know what you think below, and definitely visit to experience the tirade in all of its glory.

About the Author

Brendan McLaughlin

Brendan is a comedian and writer based in Brooklyn, NY.

  • Truth

    It’s very transparent to see the fake posts on here that are written by Kyle himself. He has no originality and literally is a self absorved megalomaniac, almost clinical. Kyle makes a living my tooting his own horn, convincing people he is good when in fact he is not and living in a “pretend fantasy land”. His life leasons have no real life application for those that want to achieve anything in life. In his personal life, he is conceited, rude, indifferent to others, selfish beyond words and quite disconnected with reality.

  • Marcie

    I have to say I thought that Comedy Bootcamp was going to be a complete scam, but I didn’t want to be the one to crush my husband’s dream and he really thought it would be helpful so I agreed to fork out the money for it. So he went to one in Minneapolis, MN hosted by Kyle Cease and Louie Anderson. He actually got a ton of useful information from it, and started getting paying jobs after it. He has since opened for Kyle twice when Kyle has been in the area. Kyle is a really nice guy and actually invited him to another bootcamp in Chicago which he went to and had a blast and learned even more. My husband actually picked Kyle up at the airport here today and is doing comedy with him tonight. I have to say that as a skeptic I believe I was wrong about the Comedy Bootcamp. My husband was already doing stand-up before he went to the bootcamp, but he has really refined his writing and become a better writer since bootcamp. I actually think it is a good investment if you just need a little help refining your skills, condensing material and having a better stage presence.

  • Ryan

    I kind of have to defend Judy Carter as well. I didn’t do a workshop, but I did have The Comedy Bible recommended to me before I did my first open mic as a way to prepare and get up the nerve for that first time, and I think it’s good for that. I certainly felt like I avoided some of the mistakes I’ve seen other first-timers make, and the fact I didn’t totally bomb my first time made it easier to do the next one. There are lots of useful tidbits in there like “carry a notebook at all times”, “talk it out and cut as much of the stuff that isn’t funny as you can”, and some stuff about how open mics generally work. I could probably summarize the valuable info in about 5 pages, but other people may benefit more from the daily assignment format.

    Stanhope is right that there is nothing in the book you couldn’t learn for free by talking to people, but at the time I literally had no idea where to look for that information. Zero. Now that I’m part of the local scene, people talk to me, but when I was first thinking about getting up on stage I was just some guy in the audience who didn’t even know what questions to ask.

    It also costs $15 instead of $3000, so there’s that. I understand that Judy Carter also does workshops, and they may be more of a rip-off. But at least she’s not enough of a shyster that she’s unwilling to tell you her Secrets of Success™ for less than $3000. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth with the book.

  • david

    I must come to Judy Carter’s defense a bit — I took the class, twice actually, and got a lot out of it, most importantly a bunch of friends who remain my friends to this day, almost 9 years later. One of my best friends I met while taking her Palm Springs weekend workshop…and I had fun. It got me out of my house (I work from home) and it was fun to work on jokes and collaborate with classmates (many of whom became those close friends)…and it was a great (and safe) place to try jokes and fail and find your voice, esp. if open mikes are too scary a leap. Now professionally, I did acquire a (well known) manager within 2.5 years of taking my first class (and later some TV and festival credits) and I must credit the classes and her instructor for providing that first step…but even if professionally, nothing happened with me, I still had fun, made some friends, had a lot of laughs, learned to speak to/handle crowds/public speaking, blah blah blah.

    Alf was/is right — comedy isn’t some forbidden “black art” THAT CAN NEVER BE FORMALLY TAUGHT, you know?

  • Jsummersx

    Larry Long he wouldn’t give a fuck if you did steal them that’s what makes him great. But you are a piece of shit thief don’t forget that.

  • Larry Long

    I no longer feel bad for pirating Stanhope’s CD’s.

  • Jen Seaman

    Personally I think Kyle took the high road by not lashing back at Stanhope. I respect both comics. We all have opinions and that’s great, but I took the class and my comedy has improved through just having additional motivation. I don’t see the harm in that? Especially if that’s what I choose to do. Personally I do connect with headliners on a regular basis, have writing groups and I go up every night. I use all these avenues to move ahead, network and learn. I think which ever honest means you can utilize to excel in comedy go for it! The more we can learn from each other the better we can come as an artform. =)

  • Slow Clapper

    Comedy Boot Camp is an embarrassment to stand up. Any club that allows the trainings/sessions/cult/thieves into their club is making a huge mistake. Not only to their reputation but to the comics who come in and have money stolen by Kyle.

    Look at it this way: Stand up wasn’t working well for Kyle. Movies never worked out. TV is a long shot. Comedy Central stopped airing his hour special almost right away. KYLE CEASE IS A BUSINESSMAN. (notice i didn’t say SMART business man) Nothing else worked so this is the next way for him to make a living. He was down and out… went to a Tony Robbins seminar… stole the basic ideas… tried to add jokes… realized he couldn’t write an actual joke…

  • Josh

    You kind of didn’t really respond to Doug’s blog. I mean you hinted that Doug is “negative” and will “stall” (but that really isn’t a good argument since he is a successful comic and IMO an amazing thinker in general) and that you ‘live in a the positive’, but you never address any of the points Doug made.

    Also in the notes you kept hinting that the “$3,000″ would change later that day, yet here we are 3 days since you posted that and it’s still $3,000, which a is huge amount for a 5 day class, check your local community college 13 week courses’ prices for comparison.

  • Kyle Cease
  • Steve Long

    @ Mike Sanders No! Sometimes I use,,,hey wait a minute! No actually this is Steve Long I am a comic in Schaumburg, IL (Chicago).

  • FAQ

    To Ian Jasper…you realize the subtle oxymoron inherent in saying someone helped you develop a “unique persona” right?

    As for the rest of it goes…I am a new(ish) comic and I avoid these things like the plague. I would rather just get on stage as often as possible and talk to as many comics as I can for free. I think I already understand one of the most important things a new comic should know. There are NO SHORTCUTS. There is only stage time. Not patting myself on the back, just trying to impress upon people who would take these classes that no matter what, you will have to get up on stage literally every possible chance you have FOR YEARS. Bootcamp will not make that any less true. Sure, you will meet other like-minded (and un-like minded) comics in your area (that have $500 or a $1000 dollars that is), but you can do that at any open mic, though some of those comics might be poor…

    All of this reminds me of the Donald Kaufman character from Adaptation.

  • Alf LaMont

    Doug makes some valid arguments, but the academic approach is sometimes the only one that people are willing to venture into because of the chaotic nature of the arts. If we vilify stand up comedy classes, then we should vilify all performing arts majors at universities for doing virtually the same thing with Acting, Dance, Musical Theater, etc. Doug fails to put stand up as an art into a comparative perspective. I see stand-up classes as a validation of an art form, and i dare say that the cyclical “classes to show to classes” formula of certain Improv and Sketch venues is far more troubling and predatory. At the end of the day, what we have is the maturing of Stand Up as an individual art form and Doug may be shocked to see these classes being offered at a University near some near Autumn.

  • Dan Licoppe

    Stanhope and other comics who criticize classes always make the same distorted assumptions:

    1. That those teaching classes claim that taking a stand up comedy class will turn you into a pro stand up comic. I’ve never seen a comedy class positioned that way. It would be ridiculous for a class to make these claims. Typically they make claims like providing an introduction to stand up comedy and a way to improve your performing and writing skills in a supportive environment, which is deliverable.

    2. They presume that anyone taking a stand up class actually believes that by the end of the class they will be an actual pro stand up comic. This is ludicrous and vastly underestimates people’s intelligence and motivations for learning. I’ve taken acting classes, guitar lessons and boxing classes. Never once did I think that upon completion of these I would a) be cast as a lead in a Hollywood movie b) replace Eddie in Van Halen or c) be able to knock out Sugar Ray Leonard. My expectation was to get feedback and training to improve my skills. Yet, we’re to believe that people taking stand up classes are helpless rubes with a pocket full of cash being preyed upon. Bullshit.

    3. All people teaching comedy classes are unqualified shysters. I can’t speak for all comedy class teachers, but, here are the criteria I recommend when considering a stand up comedy teacher.

    • They actually get paid to perform stand up comedy at legitimate venues like comedy clubs, corporate shows or festivals.
    • They have some kind of TV or radio credits.
    • They are sober whilst teaching you.
    • And the biggest one – they actually have some demonstrated skills or experience in the areas of teaching, coaching or training. There is a difference in the value of information you get from an actual teacher/coach who also fits the other criteria, and a headliner at a road gig who tells you to change a couple of your bits for five minutes after a show while he is smoking a joint in the parking lot.

    Bottom line, if you’re newer to stand up, and would like an introduction to stand up, and a supportive environment to improve your writing and performing skills, a class taught by a qualified teacher can help. It won’t magically turn you into a headliner, or replace actually getting up on stage hundreds of times – it help you only. If you honestly believe that taking a stand up comedy class will turn you into a headliner or get you immediately on Letterman, save your money, because you are a moron. It if you believe that all stand up comedy classes are purporting to do this, you’re wrong.

  • Mike Sanders

    so do you normally write as Steve Long, Kyle?

  • Travesty

    I agree with Stanhope, in that comedy isn’t really something that can be taught, but more of something that has to be learned on your own. Everybody has their own style and rhythm, and the only way to find that out, is to test it out. Now, I will say, I have taken a comedy class before, but it was the business side of comedy, what to expect, how to manage your money, how to deal/interact with club owners promoters, etc etc. And it was only $50 for a 3 hour class, which actually taught me a lot, and showed me what to expect if I do truley think about doing stand-up full time, and how to survive financially from it. But teaching someone how to write a joke, or “what is funny”, doesn’t really work. You can really only show outlines of how to write, but the rest is up to the individuals creativity, and that’s not something you can just teach.

  • Steve Long

    Funny Funny, Funny -Wow, thats the way to have an opinion and write about It. Very well written and hilarious. However, I think it is very unfair. I believe you are allowed to have an opinion on something, as harsh as it may be, but just make sure you are basing it on facts. Obviously you are not a fan of Kyle Cease’ Stand Up and that is fine, everyone has their own views on what’s funny, and I don’t even care if you just ripped him for that. (I personally think he is hilarious, but that is not the point). But your comments on the Comedy Bootcamp are simply based on untrue assumptions about the class. I just got done with the 2 day class here in Chicago this last weekend.

    It is not a class on writing jokes, nor was it ever pitched to me as a class on writing jokes. Nor was it a class that teaches shortcuts to comedy success. It was a class taught by a comedy Legend Louie Anderson and a man who is extremely in tune with how to use his mind to motivate him to work harder and put in the work to have success in comedy, Kyle Cease. I have been to a handful of training seminars comedy and non-comedy related where the speaker will be great, but will play a video or something at the end of each session so they can high-tail it out of there and not connect with anyone. Kyle Cease is the exact opposite of that. He talked to everyone that came up to him before, between and after sessions as well as met with students through and into the night well after class was over. With Kyle, you get a genuine man. trying to get you to get off your butt and do the work. There is no scam here. Can you find all of the information taught in the class somewhere else? absolutely. Can you find it all crammed into two days, taught by a comedy legend, and by someone who cared about your success as much as these guys? I doubt it.

    As for the Mastery program, I have not been to the Program, so I cannot speak for what actually happens. But I can tell you that the class as described to us by Kyle and Louie was in no way encouraging us new comics to come to this class and be ready for primetime in 5 days. That is why they have an attendance price (you go and learn from all the speakers and make contact with some of those people) and a performance price (where you are showing your act to these people, and getting critiqued) This last one is the one that you get your tape produced and sent to everyone. We were actually encouraged not to do this last one until we had significant and headlining material.

    So doug, I respect you as a comic and as someone who speaks their mind without restraint, but I do think you received some mis-information on this one. And Everyone out there I would recommend you look at where you are in your career, and if you feel you need a boost in the right direction, take one of these classes.

  • Ian Jasper

    Stanhope may be right about some teachers, but there are definitely some good ones out there like Joe Falzarano. He’s a former booker for Caroline’s and an excellent teacher. He helped me develop a tight set and unique persona in six weeks. It would’ve taken me two years of trial and error without his guidance.

  • Mark Gonzales

    5 yrs ago I bought Judy Carter’s book “The Comedy Bible”. I felt cheated because it explained “how comedy works” very vaguely with little to almost no detail. Only book I will ever suggest is Greg Dean’s. Its to the point, actually explains (scientifically) how a joke works, no filler and the different structures with lots of detail!

    Stanhope nails it on the head though. ANYBODY who starts a comedy class is cashing on clueless people who dont know any better. Nothing wrong with teaching but I have a huge problem when “comedy teachers” charging $150-$900 for information you can easily obtain from other comics. Its morally wrong and equivalent to stealing money from old people over the phone.

    PS- In Comedy, there is no such thing as “over the top.” Its comedy.

  • Chase

    Kyle is a really good guy who I know is running his bootcomp with the best and honest intentions. I understand the points that Doug is making but I know that Kyle isn’t trying to scam anyone. Maybe bootcamp needs to be explained or advertised differently, I’m not sure. But I can tell you as far as “teaching comedy” it isn’t doing that. I don’t like the notion of teaching someone how to write a joke or have someone help me write them.

  • Bob Farrell

    I have Judy Cater’s book ” The Comedy Bible” and I have asked some stand up comics that I chat with what their feedback is on it. Most of the advise Judy Cater gives in her book makes sense at least from the stand point of joke structure.
    In any entertainment industry there are genuine people, rip off artists, or people in that art form that have little talent so it is a quick way to supplement one’s income.

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