A Peek at the Canvas: March
by Frank Caracciolo
The most recent episode of The Blank Canvas with Frank Caracciolo is out now. Released on March 29th, the episode features a conversation with comedian Jeff Schouella about the impact of comedy as an educational tool.
Frank Caracciolo: Of course, it’s the standing up in front, that’s one of those things in schools that that most students are terrified of. That’s something that you have to learn. Then you get up and but then there are some people that naturally have this ability too, they’re not nervous and they get up and they do it. But for you, do you see this as part of a theater arts group or an English class? Or like, what would you say, like a teacher would say, hey, let’s get Comedy for Kids to come into our classroom?
Jeff Schouela: Well, I would say it’s what I do and my program is is twofold.
First of all, in terms of public speaking, no one wants to get up, no one wants to get up, I ask kids every week how many kids find this anxious, and everyone finds it anxious. But I tell them that when I was their age, I did not want to speak, but after being in comedy for almost 2 decades, I’ve built a lot of character and I’ve had so much public speaking practice that now I’m very comfortable, so I always try and use the platform of stad-up as the excuse to get up on stage, quote unquote in front of their class peers and share something about themselves.
But what I like to do is kind of twofold my program… which I opened in 2018, I can’t believe it’s already been five years, but what I do is that, first of all, I use comedy as a resource and a learning tool for teachers to use it as a resource. Now the reason I use it as a resource is because everyone likes to laugh, first of all, using stand up comedy to watch to watch a clip in one of the classrooms, first of all, it’s entertaining for the audience. Second of all, I think people are attracted to stand-up comics no matter what age you are, even if you’re in high school or elementary. Is that stand-up is truthful and it gives you the viewer a look into — a little peek into an adult life, which is kind of curious for younger students and people in high school and it’s just a way to show that people… it’s important for people to be self-expressive as well. So it’s always very entertaining, it’s truthful, and it’s real. So I think people are drawn into comedy and more specifically stand-up comedy, so I like to use it as a resource.
Now, I play comedy no matter what the class is so I’ve been working in ELA a lot of English classes, primary and secondary level, social studies or ethics, and drama classes and I use this resource to really set the tone for the class. So however people are feeling when they come into the room, we’re going to watch 5 minutes of comedy so it could be apropos for what we’re trying to learn and social studies if we’re learning, if I do a workshop on gender equality, I’ll show them comedians discussing gender roles and norms and gender equality and going through humor to open up the dialogue for maybe something that may be touchy to discuss or media and misconceptions how media plays a role on race.
So I have comedians discussing that and it’s just a great avenue to start a class, introduce a subject, and people, students and teachers alike are watching how we can enter a conversation and comedy is just a great way. Humor is a great way to open doors.