Comedy Academy performs to packed crowd
In these drab days of the economic crisis, it can be tough to get a date.
But the young writers at the Comedy Academy have a phrase that's guaranteed to get you dinner and drinks with the next cutie you see snipping coupons out of the newspaper: "Hey baby, I'll bail you out."
That was one of hundreds of useful tips err, laughs performed by members of the Comedy Academy, a nonprofit that sponsors comedy lessons and after-school programs for downcounty students, this past Saturday in their first performance in a theater.
Dozens of young comedians, who attend everything from sixth grade through college, performed skits many of them wrote themselves for an almost sold-out show at the Randolph Road Theatre, formerly the Round House Theatre, in Wheaton.
From how to polka with the swine flu, to a spoof on those pesky local news outlets, to an ever-popular Catholic schoolgirl dance, the 90-minute show made fun of everyone from Barbie to Tyra Banks in an effort to explore the contemporary issues relevant to the young writer's lives.
The event was a premier of sorts for the talented group of comedic writers and performers who deserve to showcase their skills in an actual theater, said Comedy Academy director Harry Bagdasian.
"It's nice not to be in a gymnasium," he said.
Proceeds from almost 200 tickets sold for Saturday's "Laughing Matters" will support the Comedy Academy's growing programs for students in the Downcounty Consortium, a group of five high schools and their feeder middle schools in eastern Montgomery County.
With shows like the one last weekend, Bagdasian is attempting to make a name for his grassroots academy while also raking in some money.
Bagdasian said Saturday's show was a success. Ticket sales earned the group almost $2,000, and the night featured mock game shows such as "Can you Whine Like a Fifth-Grader?" and Comedy Academy member Liam Brennan's "Dropping the Bomb," a wacky sketch on the reverberations of using an inappropriate four-letter word that begins with the letter "f" in school hallways.
Throughout the show, academy writers wove in a theme of anti-drug and alcohol abuse. This school year the Comedy Academy is supported by the county's Under 21 Fund, which promotes legal and safe drinking practices.
Up until last week, the academy had performed in such Wheaton schools as Northwood High or Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School, locations were the group also practices.
The academy was born out of the Comedy Club, which since 1995 has offered comedic performance techniques and sketch-writing skills after school to area middle and high school students. Last year, Bagdasian dreamed of reaching out to even more precocious comedians through an academy.
But unfortunately, his dream was timed with an unprecedented budget crunch in the county's school system. Northwood High School cut 75 percent of its funding for the Comedy Club and Comedy Academy, and Bagdasian, who is not a county school employee, accepted a 75 percent cut in his $6,000-a-year stipend.
But despite the monetary setbacks, academy students have had several major successes this year.
This summer, the academy has been invited to perform in the Capital Fringe Festival, an expo in downtown D.C. of the area's local artists and performers.
And several of the academy's sketches will be published in an anthology of comedic sketches put together by the Contemporary Drama Services, a Colorado-based company that amasses professional and amateur comedic skits.
The group will also host an April show out of Northwood High School titled "A Comedy Cabaret."
These are all baby steps to Bagdasian's larger goal, a professional studio where he can run the academy.
Until the Comedy Academy is a fixture on regional stages, he admits it's going to take a lot of hard work, some belly-busting jokes and "a lot of fundraising."
Catch the next Comedy Academy performance, "A Comedy Cabaret," 7 p.m. April 22 and 23 at Northwood High School, 919 University Blvd. West in Wheaton. For tickets, call 301-681-5212. And catch videos of some of the students' work on You Tube, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/
hbagdasian. For more information on the Comedy Academy, visit www.ourlaughingmatters.com or e-mail director Harry Bagdasian at firstname.lastname@example.org.