The Paramount’s Stand-Up Comedy Intensive Returns This July

Comedian Ralphie Hardesty is back this year to teach another one-week stand-up comedy intensive for kids in grades 6-12. The accomplished comic will introduce students to the process of writing and performing a stand-up comedy routine from writing jokes to working a crowd. The class runs July 25th – July 29th. Ralphie is a gifted performer and a wonderful teacher who performs regularly around town. I spoke with him about his background, influences, and what students can expect from the class.

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When did you first develop an interest in comedy? Tell me a bit about your background and early experiences in standup.

I’ve been interested in comedy my entire life! I used to watch old reruns of I Love Lucy and the Mary Tyler Moore show over and over until I memorized them, and I would recite them at the dinner table. Standup is one of my first loves, but I didn’t start doing it until I was older. I went to my first open mic when I was 28, and that was because I was unemployed and needed things to occupy my time. I didn’t know that it would end up taking SO MUCH of my time, or I might not have ever started. I’m happy I did?

If you could tell your younger self one thing you learned about standup since you started, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to start earlier than I did. I started a full 10 years later than I wish I had, since the only thing that a young comedian needs is experience, as much as they can get. That’s why I think this class is such a great idea, because it gives very young adults experience in a safe space. It’s a terrifying idea, to try to make strangers laugh, but anyone can do it.

You have made a few appearances during the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival? Do you have any favorite Moontower experiences?

Every Moontower brings at least one major gift that I was not expecting before. This year, it was unexpectedly getting handed a last-minute ticket to the David Cross show. Last year, it was opening for Maria Bamford who is the sweetest and of course funniest person on the planet. The Moontower festival has turned into Comedy Christmas for Austin comedians, so it always brings magical surprises!

What makes Austin a great city for standup comedy?

Lots of things. First and foremost, Capital City Comedy Club is one of the best clubs in the entire country, and they are very generous to local comics who are willing to work hard and hone their craft (yuck, that phrase!). One perfect example is Moontower, which has been an absolutely incredible experience every year. Besides that, there are LOTS of festivals like FFF and Out of Bounds.

You’re also a teacher. Does that world inform your comedy?

Sort of! I don’t really talk about teaching onstage too much, although I do have some material about my job (not my students). What it has helped with is performing to hostile audiences. If I have a room full of people who are listening and having a good time, but there’s just one jerk who wants to make the show about himself, I have some good crowd control techniques I learned from my 2nd graders. 🙂

Tell me a little bit about the stand-up comedy class. What can students expect?

I think the class is a fun way to generate ideas for stand up comedy performances and workshop original jokes. We’ll also be watching excellent examples of (completely clean) comedy, which is universally entertaining. So, in short, students can expect a really fun time watching and performing comedy!

You taught the class last year. What did you enjoy about it?

The students last year absolutely blew me away!! They were hungry for examples of (clean) comedy. The more they consumed, and the more they practiced writing from their own point of view, the more material they were able to write. A couple of them wrote 10 minutes of material in 2 weeks. It sometimes takes professional comedians a lot longer than that to produce the same product, so they really showed me what you can accomplish when you don’t censor yourself and you work as hard as you can. The show we had at the end of camp was side-splitting and I had a blast!

For more information about the class and to register visit www.austintheatre.org/camps.

Ralphie Hardesty is a celebrated local comedian, returning to lead the Stand Up Comedy Intensive for the second year in a row. He has appeared on the Paramount stages during Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival and has been featured at several major comedy festivals including Fun Fun Fun Fest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the Ladies are Funny Festival (though he is male, he is no less a lady) and the Stan Francisco Comedy & Burrito Festival, which was delicious. Ralphie appears at the Alamo Drafthouse with Master Pancake throughout May, mocking the 90s teen gem, She’s All That. Moms love him.

mm John Merriman

John Merriman has worked with the Moontower festival since it’s inception in 2012. He is the co-host of the festival’s long-running interview series “Inside Joke” where he has interviewed luminaries including Steven Wright, Maria Bamford and Patton Oswalt. Before Moontower, he spent five years at the Austin Film Fesival as a film programmer where he helped launch the Comedy Vanguard program and the Funniest Filmmaker in Austin series. He has called Austin his home since 1996.

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