Instructor: DF Sweedler
From a Student's Point of View
Comedy Class published articles
“I would highly recommend to anyone who’s ever thought about doing standup to check out D.F.’s class. He’ll help turn anyone’s confused musings into well-constructed jokes. The classes are set up like workshops, where each joke is practiced and honed until it’s ready for the stage. I’ve already taken the class 4 times! D.F. creates an incredibly supportive, unintimidating environment where students are encouraged to help each other. I probably wouldn’t have made it passed my first performance without taking the class. I’m now convinced that anyone can learn to be a standup comedian. “
“D.F. Sweedler has a quick comedic brain and is an excellent editor, which is half the battle. Most comics use too many words. After taking his course, I got a manager quickly and became a working stand-up comic. If you have the ability, D.F. is the teacher to get you there. The Comic Strip is a club known for developing new talent and discovering hot comics. It is not just about commercialism. D.F. Sweedler believes in teaching intelligent comedy. It is much harder to write a smart joke than a dirty joke. He guides you to develop an act that you won’t have to rewrite if you book Leno or Letterman.”
"We all know there are a lot of comedy classes and teachers in the city. The advantage of studying with D.F. Sweedler is that you get someone who really takes the comedians best interest at heart. He’s honest with feedback and doesn’t let you as a performer or writer take easy way out. If a joke works he tells you. If it doesn’t he won’t let you slide. Most importantly, you keep your own voice and learn how to build on your own unique perspective. Some of the strongest talents I’ve seen have gone through his class. “
“My name is Michael and I just made my 90th appearance at the Comic Strip. I took the course 21 months ago. If you are serious about comedy, specifically stand-up, you have only one place to go and one person to see; the Comic Strip and the personage of one D.F. Sweedler. This is an 8-week course where you will write, rewrite and craft a stand-up act. At the end, you will be on stage in one of the most famous comedy clubs in the world, performing your stuff. Forget what your friends say, unless they are Ray Romano, Larry David, or Jerry. Spend 8 weeks with D.F. Sweedler, and whether you want it for a career, self-confidence or the challenge, you will have a great new skill. Listen to me, do what I say. Spend 8 weeks with D.F. The club will give you my number so you can call and thank me.”
As a psychologist I realize the value of laughter, especially when dealing with depression. I’ve recently had a client attend your class and thought you’d like to know about the positive impact your class has had on her personal evolution. I suspect that anyone dealing with the stress and anxiety of our hectic, often chaotic world would find your class an oasis from the grind of day-to-day plodding. Keep up your great and valuable work—laughter is a great tonic.
-Dr. Joe Luciani
Couldn't be happier I took D.F.'s class. His succinct, to the point instruction quickly taught a newbie like me the ABC's of stand up comedy writing. There's an old maxim - "you have to know the rules before you can break them". This class is all about learning the rules. D.F. won't let me work lazy. He insists I develop crisp, clear and clean material. It's all accomplished in a fun environment filled with like minded people. The class was so helpful that when I wanted to develop new material I signed up to take it over again.
As Written for Swing Magazine
As funny as I Wanna Be?
By Tara McCarthy
And I kind of do. But I kind of don’t. And therein lies the challenge …
Once there are about 15 people assembled in the Comic Strip, our teacher introduces himself as D.F. Sweedler. So already I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. The guy’s got initials for a first name, and he won’t say what they stand for. Is this man with the slick hair really going to make me funnier?
D.F. lays out the basics of stand-up form and gives us some general advice -- “Don’t listen to anything your friends have to say. They have no idea how to do this.” -- then we all get up on stage to introduce ourselves. I mention the experimental nature of this article as my excuse to suck, which I’m now confident I will. My complete lack of stage presence is going to be a problem. The other four women are actresses.
Homework: two minutes of material – written down, not memorized, because D.F. says it’s all going to change anyway. What confidence in his pupils!
Two days later I’ve settled on a topic: confusing signs on public restrooms. I go to bed with stand-up on the brain and turn the light on several times to jot down ideas. In the morning the only thing that’s legible and meaningful is “John Gray’s Papaya.” Last night the idea of a hot dog joint with pictures of Mars and Venus differentiating the bathrooms was funny. This morning it’s not. Do they even have Gray’s Papaya outside of New York? D.F. warned against geography-specific jokes.
Felt confident on the way to class. I’ve got a bunch restroom-related jokes and I think they’re an okay start.
It took me a while to get used to these unisex bathrooms they have more and more of these days. One time I came across one, there was this door with hologram sticker on it and when you looked at it, it changed from a man into a woman. So this was in a club in New York, so I’m standing there thinking, “Wow, transsexuals have really come a long way, but where am I supposed to go?”
I go third-to-last and by then I’m not feeling so sure of myself. Rodney has already proven he’s going to be the star pupil. Great material, great delivery, I hate him. And Dylan’s got a really nice, warped, drug-addicted pedophiliac shtick going. I’ve no shtick to speak of.
D.F. annoys me when he points out all these picky things in my material that don’t make sense. He said last week that he was a tough teacher but come on! Does this guy think anything’s funny?
I’ve stopped watching “Make Me Laugh” on Comedy Central because it’s suddenly profoundly depressing. The comics almost never get the contestant to crack up. I feel their pain.
After much revision, my bathroom material’s tighter.
If I owned a bar, I wouldn’t even have signs on the bathrooms, I’d cut right to the chase. There’d be a long line of pissed-off looking women mannequins outside the women’s room so we’d all know where to go, and you guys wouldn’t even get a room, just a fire hydrant in the back corner.
On the downside, I’m getting sick of it. I ask D.F. whether it’s a function of the process that your jokes seem less funny each week.
Some of my classmates seem to getting frustrated, too. D.F.’s crystal clear ban on jokes relating to masturbation and the like suddenly makes sense. People are resorting to the lowest common denominator to get laughs.
During class, I deliver two minutes of new material, e.g.
The weather really is just getting stranger and stranger. Like Texas this summer, where it was like 120 degrees for like 60 days. That kind of weather doesn’t anybody any good, unless of course you’re in the slow-roasted chicken business.
The room is a vast laugh vacuum – bomb-a-rooney – D.F. says, “Well, that sure was a lot of stuff about the weather.” He picks apart the jokes (in as much as there were any) and offers advice but I’m discouraged. Turns out I don’t like things that don’t come easily to me. I come from an Irish-American family that prides itself on wit and whatnot. Stand-up was supposed to be a snap, like it seems to be for Rodney. He’s just too damn funny.
Rodney must die. No, wait. Scratch that. A line I suggested has made it into his bit about a multi-cultural pre-school. I beam with pride.
My brother keeps asking me if I’m going to “kill.” I am. I’m going to kill the next person who asks me to do some of my “bit” for them. I run through my whole five-minute set in class and it’s D.F.-approved for the next week’s performance. There are a few jokes new to this week that I like.
I’ve been single for so long I decided I needed a new marketing strategy, something to drum up business for my love life. So I just had a t-shirt printed up that says “I SELL BEANIE BABIES.”
But I’m not sure I’m crazy about the rest of it. It’s like I’ve created this character call Dry Girl and I’m not sure I like her. Will an audience?
An hour and a half before the show, I can no longer function normally, so I head toward the Comic Strip and find a bar. I know it’s ridiculous to be so nervous. So what if I make a fool of myself in front of a bunch of strangers and the handful of close friends and family I dared to invite … I do that at my local bar practically every Friday night anyway.
As the club fills up (145 people!) and as my classmates start to perform and be far funnier than they’ve ever been in class, my nerves only get worse. I confess my anxieties D.F. backstage minutes before I go on and he reassures me he wouldn’t let me – or anyone – go up if he didn’t think they’d be okay up there. Suddenly D.F. seems like the warmest, most trustworthy man in the world, and I realize that my material wouldn’t be anywhere close to presentable without all of his damn picking, which I now see was actually remarkably good teaching. But there’s got to be something wrong with him. Because why on earth would anyone do this for a living?
Well, because when you’re up there, it’s completely amazing – albeit completely weird. You’re acting as if you can actually see people when in truth the audience is little more than shadows beyond the faces right up front. Once you get your first laugh, you relax a little, then a little more with the next, but you’re preoccupied the whole time with remembering what comes next. Five minutes feels, at once, like a blip and a lifetime.
But my God, it’s fun. Because, to paraphrase Sally Fields, “They liked me!” I’m sure this was one of the most generous stand-up audiences ever – all family and friends of the comics – but they laughed when they were supposed to laugh and even laughed at things I wasn’t expecting them to laugh at. I think I even pulled off some semblance of stage presence. Sweet relief!
So I’m going to do it again. And then maybe again. Because maybe it’s the fact that it’s completely horrifying that makes it so invigorating. As much as I hate to use the analogy, it really is like a rollercoaster ride – only in this case it’s like you built the coaster yourself. Mine’s admitted pretty rickety – more like Coney Island’s Cyclone than some Six Flags creation – but maybe that’ll improve with time. You really do never know until you try.