Feature Story: ELC Comedy Club

An excit­ing approach to education

We were for­tu­nate enough to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with Judy Hick­ey from East­side Luther­an Col­lege, about their com­e­dy class from last year.
ELC Comedy Club 2
ELC Comedy Club 3
ELC Comedy Club 5
ELC Comedy Club 4

Hel­lo Judy,

To begin could you tell us a lit­tle about what you have been doing?

It’s an absolute plea­sure to have the chance to share this project. Last Semes­ter we focused on Com­e­dy.

We chose com­e­dy as our focus and con­nect­ing theme for the semes­ter as a con­trast to our first semes­ter dri­ving ques­tion of How do make our voic­es heard?” which tack­led issues such as protest move­ments, per­sua­sion, debat­ing and so on. For Semes­ter 2 in 2021, we focused on how com­e­dy, humour and what we find fun­ny can change over time, cul­ture, and con­text. We looked at a whole range of com­e­dy types and gen­res, from Come­dia dell’arte through to slap­stick, satire, sit-coms and par­o­dy. We had a series of dri­ving questions:

  1. How does humour and what we find fun­ny change over time? We con­sid­ered extracts of Shakespeare’s come­dies — in par­tic­u­lar the now con­tro­ver­sial The Tam­ing of the Shrew, which could be seen as misog­y­nis­tic gaslight­ing but was in Shakespeare’s time seen as slap­stick fun. We looked at how and why social val­ues change and then instruct our humour too. We com­pared Tam­ing with the Heath Ledger film 10 Things I Hate About You, con­sid­er­ing how the sto­ry of Kat, Bian­ca and Petru­chio had been updat­ed and changed – and then con­sid­ered what stayed the same. We also con­sid­ered how that film was now per­haps a bit dat­ed too and how it would need to be adapt­ed for a 21st cen­tu­ry audience.
  2. Our sec­ond ques­tion was How does cul­ture influ­ence humour? In that we stud­ied the psy­chol­o­gy of humour and then looked at cul­tur­al fac­tors that influ­ence what is seen to be fun­ny. We focused on Aus­tralian humour and con­sid­ered what was unique to Aussie humour through a range of sources. Our focus was The Cas­tle.
  3. Our most excit­ing study was the third one: How can I use com­e­dy to raise aware­ness of an issue I’m pas­sion­ate about? This began when I attend­ed a PBL (Project Based Learn­ing) work­shop in the July hol­i­days – the work­shop helped me plan out a series of mile­stones’ lead­ing up to the actu­al Com­e­dy Club pre­sen­ta­tion by the stu­dents in the school Hall. The mile­stones were:
    1. The Launch: We intro­duced the con­cept of par­o­dy and Kelsey and I dressed up as Kath & Kim to mod­el what we were talk­ing about (stu­dent response: dif­fer­ent, unusu­al, noice). Stu­dents did a Gallery Walk through a range of COVID-19 par­o­dies and decid­ed which one was their favourite and why. They then reflect­ed on what made that par­o­dy suc­cess­ful and what they learned about using humour to tack­le seri­ous issues.
    2. The Close Study: We then close­ly stud­ied par­o­dy as a genre – with a range of activ­i­ties from explic­it teach­ing, research, exam­ples, dis­cus­sions, inter­views, and so on. We looked at a great arti­cle called When the line is crossed – this sparked a lot of dis­cus­sion and think­ing. When does com­e­dy cross the line and become offen­sive? What is the pur­pose of com­e­dy – is it to be safe or to shock? Stu­dents loved the con­cept of punch­ing up and punch­ing down’ that was dis­cussed in the arti­cle – its okay to punch up and mock politi­cians, celebri­ties, teach­ers, etc. but it is not okay to punch down and mock the weak or mar­gin­alised. Stu­dents were very much tak­en with the idea that punch­ing down would be dif­fer­ent in a vari­ety of contexts. 
    3. The Experts: Stu­dents then got to inter­act with experts. We were for­tu­nate to have Ben Richard­son – an Aus­lan inter­preter and come­di­an – come to the school and spent an hour talk­ing about some of the issues we’d come across and ques­tions that had arisen. He per­formed a rou­tine for the stu­dents and was won­der­ful in answer­ing their questions.
  4. Through a fam­i­ly con­nec­tion with one of our stu­dents, we were also lucky to have Luke McGre­gor zoom in to answer more ques­tions. He was fun­ny and gra­cious and had lots of wis­dom and advice to pass on to the stu­dents – I will include stu­dent reflec­tions below.
    1. The Project: in between the close study and the experts, stu­dents work­ing in teams to cre­ate their com­e­dy piece. They were giv­en the option to pre-record it or present live. There was a shed­load of learn­ing that hap­pened there – from how to tack­le dif­fer­ences of opin­ions on top­ics, what makes some­thing fun­ny, how to use green­screen tech­nol­o­gy, how to use your voice, and so on. In this, teach­ers became advi­sors rather than experts and allowed stu­dents voice and choice in their projects. In fact – I learnt a lot from the stu­dents and am con­stant­ly impressed with their sense of social jus­tice and their pas­sion to make this world a bet­ter place.
    2. The Pre­sen­ta­tions: we set the school Hall up as a com­e­dy club venue and had a mix of pre-record­ed rou­tines and live acts. This was the cul­mi­na­tion of the project and after­wards stu­dents reflect­ed on the process of cre­at­ing the rou­tine, what it was like pre­sent­ing or film­ing it, what the audience’s reac­tion was and what they would do dif­fer­ent­ly next time.

We heard that your class­room had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk with the accom­plished Aus­tralian come­di­an, Luke McGre­gor. What was this expe­ri­ence like for you and the students?

Obvi­ous­ly, Luke’s zoom call was an absolute high­light for us all. When I first men­tioned it to the class­es they were typ­i­cal teenagers: who’s he? But we showed a range of clips – from com­e­dy clubs to Rose­haven – and this raised an inter­est­ing ques­tion that the stu­dents were keen to ask – what’s the dif­fer­ence for a come­di­an between live per­for­mances and pre-record­ed ones for tele­vi­sion? They loved his down to earth humour and the fact that he was real­ly inter­est­ed in what they had to say and what they were learn­ing from their project. After the call fin­ished, they were excit­ed to think that they were doing some­thing that could lead to big­ger things, and that they are doing some­thing that is authen­tic and real life. Many found that they loved the fact that there are so many peo­ple inter­est­ed in what they are doing and hap­py to give them time. The biggest thing was how Luke and Ben Richard­son took time out of their busy sched­ules to lis­ten to some school kids from the east­ern shore of Hobart. We got a few stu­dents who are keen to take part in the Mel­bourne Inter­na­tion­al Com­e­dy Festival’s Class Clowns pro­gram – so that is amazing. 

Here are some of the things stu­dents said: 

WOOOW, that was awe­some. He seems like a good bloke, I liked how hon­est he was. I took away many pieces of advice.”

Luke said to use life expe­ri­ences as the source of your com­e­dy. That’s helped me heaps.”

I liked that Luke said com­e­dy isn’t just about mak­ing peo­ple laugh but con­nect­ing to the audi­ence in as many ways as pos­si­ble. He was extreme­ly hum­ble – he didn’t brag about his suc­cess­es, he just want­ed to help us makes ours successful.”

What has been the response from the stu­dents in your class?

The stu­dents are lov­ing the real-world con­nec­tions and the fact that they have voice and choice in their project. They choose their groups, they choose their top­ics, they chose the orig­i­nal source of par­o­dy, they choose how to present. And that com­e­dy is the focus. Some were com­plete­ly ner­vous about the Com­e­dy Club – where’s the analy­sis Mrs Hick­ey?” But the reflec­tions and jour­nal­ing are there the whole way through – reflect, refine, improve. 

What made you decide to focus on com­e­dy with your students?

The last two years have been hard for stu­dents – rais­ing seri­ous issues for them on per­son­al, local, and glob­al scales. Teenagers are deep-thinkers and are very pas­sion­ate about what is impor­tant to them, so we want­ed a range of ways to show them that they can (and most def­i­nite­ly should) be heard. So, they’ve had a chance to tack­le seri­ous issues through cre­at­ing their own poet­ry, speech­es, debat­ing, sto­ry­telling, and now com­e­dy rou­tines. And as a way of round­ing off the year, we felt that tack­ling some­thing of impor­tance to them through humour was a good ground­ing in the val­ues that we hold impor­tant – empa­thy, humour, and balance. 

What has been the biggest sur­prise from this class?

Hon­est­ly? Their sense of fun, will­ing­ness to take risks, and total engage­ment with the project. And at the same time – that doesn’t sur­prise me. Like I’ve said before, teenagers are amaz­ing peo­ple to work with, they are learn­ing about what’s impor­tant to them all the time and find­ing new ways to express them­selves. With the Com­e­dy Club, once they under­stood that they had a lot of free­dom to choose what and how they want­ed to say, they have been amaz­ing. I actu­al­ly thought there would be a large num­ber who wouldn’t want to present their com­e­dy pub­licly, and per­haps the biggest sur­prise is how many are thrilled to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty. And the num­ber who want to per­form to a live audi­ence. That’s risk-tak­ing and courage in the one package.

What moti­vates you as an educator?

That’s a good ques­tion – but I think I’ve made it into my 32nd year of teach­ing because I gen­uine­ly love see­ing young peo­ple find their pas­sions and grow to know who they are and where they want to go in life. Being able to pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to shine and be cre­ative, self-reflec­tive mem­bers of a com­mu­ni­ty is won­der­ful and is what keeps me going. And the stu­dents con­stant­ly rise to new chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties. The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of teenagers have had so much to deal with (in par­tic­u­lar, the rapid esca­la­tion of tech­nol­o­gy use, but also pan­demics, glob­al cli­mate issues and so on) – and these are the kids that make me want to keep teach­ing. If I can help them devel­op the skills they need to be well-round­ed, resilient, cre­ative thinkers, then I’m doing my job well. 

Thanks so much, 

Judy Hick­ey

Any advice for Eng­lish teach­ers that are start­ing off in their careers?

1. Know your stu­dents, find their pas­sions, help them shine.

2. Be pas­sion­ate about what you do – if you don’t love it, your stu­dents won’t either.

3. Have fun – learn­ing is far more effec­tive if you are all enjoy­ing the process.

4. Allow for a range of learn­ing activ­i­ties and strate­gies – there is a time for explic­it teach­ing and also a time to step back and see where it goes.

5. Be flex­i­ble and don’t be hard on your­self if some­thing doesn’t work – self-reflec­tion is one of the biggest skills we teach our stu­dents, mod­el that for your­self too.

6. Keep learn­ing – we are life-long learn­ers and there’s always some­thing you can learn from others.

7. If you can, team teach. It has been amaz­ing to team teach with Kelsey – we each bring dif­fer­ent strengths into the room and it’s amaz­ing what I’m learn­ing from her. She and I are at oppo­site ends of our careers – I’ve been teach­ing for 32 years and she’s in her first few years start­ing out. And that is a great com­bi­na­tion – she teach­es me loads, and hope­ful­ly I’m help­ing her too.

Back To News

Can’t find what you're looking for?

General Enquiry

For all general enquiries please contact our admin team directly

Contact Us

Something More Specific

For more specific queries please contact one of our team members

Our Team

© Independent Schools Tasmania 2024.

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Website by S. Group