Laughter is the best medicine, the old saying goes.
Dozens of kids attested to that onstage at the on Tuesday night during the culmination of the club's Comedy Camp, a free 10-week session for at-risk or underprivileged kids that brought in a who's who of Hollywood comedians to coach the students.
Comedians Paul Rodriguez and Kevin Nealon hosted Tuesday's graduation ceremony that featured 25 children performing for three minutes and receiving their first checks as official comedians.
Learning from the pros
Michelle Moran, 13, said that before the camp, she felt shy and embarrassed to go in front of her classmates.
After weeks of being tutored by some of the most famous comedians in the country, Moran says she learned to “just have fun with yourself, don’t be afraid and tell stories that make you laugh!”
Anneka Christia, 14, said that the skills learned at camp would help her even after the session ended.
“Whether you’re doing oral speaking or presentations at school, or you actually want to be a comedian, this is all very useful to you,” she said.
Fernando Aguilar, 11, and Antonio Faten, 16, added that the comedians who visited the camp inspired them to think seriously about a comedic career.
“My favorite was Bill Farmer; he does the voice of Goofy,” said Faten. “He was amazed at what I could do and gave me pointers. Now I plan to do voiceovers and cartoon character voices.”
Giving back to the community
“It’s not just about telling jokes or making them a comedian or a star,” said Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory. “It’s mostly about giving confidence for life."
Masada teams with famous comedians to teach children each summer how to get a good laugh out of their life stories.
"Comedians come here and tell the kids how good they are, inside and out," he said. "You don’t realize how wonderful it is for them to have confidence.”
Comedians Dane Cook, Arsenio Hall and Tom Dreeson, along with Kevin Nealon and Paul Rodriguez, helped give tips and tricks to the students throughout the camp.
“I’ve never seen so many young kids doing stand-up comedy before, and they are all so confident and wide-eyed and ambitious and excited about it,” Kevin Nealon said. “I was proud of them and thought they did a good job.”
Paul Rodriguez, who has been helping out with the camp since its creation, said that all of the students overcame the biggest obstacle— stage fright.
“A child will come here, will sit by themselves, and slowly but surely, they will want to be upfront, tell a joke and be the center of attention for once in their life,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and Masada have seen the camp grow since the first session. Both said the graduation ceremony and seeing the positivity and laughter flowing through the students to the audience accomplishes the camp’s overall goal.
“When they leave here, hopefully they leave a better person,” Rodriguez said.