NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s not often you hear the phrase “family friendly comedians.”
For kids looking for a more creative way to use their funny bone, one 13-year-old is learning how to make comedy a career. He’s the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.
Parker Slaton walks with a purpose. His goal is simply to be funny.
Slaton is only 13 years old, but he’s already found his path. It has taken him to Gotham Comedy Club. He’s learning in the same training ground as the greats, like Jerry Seinfeld, Sebastian Manascalco and others have stood on.
“It’s weird because you think about the jokes they’ve done on stage and compare it to what I’m doing now. You wonder if mine are as good, which they’re not,” Parker said. “It makes you thrive to do better. It gives you more power to know that I can do this, too. I’m doing this.”
That’s why he’s part of the Kids ‘N Comedy workshop, founded by the husband-and-wife team of Jo Ann Grossman and Stu Morden to teach the craft of stand-up.
“Most comedians we meet say ‘I wish they had this when I was growing up,'” Jo Ann said. “When they were kids they had to start someplace, but this wasn’t it.”
A Psychology Today study shows the top fear fear among Americans is public speaking. Those taking part in the Kids ‘N Comedy class have learned at a young age the mic can be your friend.
“When I first did this class, I was bad. Lets just say that. I’ve rewatched my videos. I got laughs, but I knew they gave me laughs out of pity,” Parker said. “Now that I’ve done a lot of classes and worked on a lot of my jokes, I feel like I’m actually good at it now.”
Parker is responsible for creating the material and sculpting it into a joke.
“When I first started, I would say one punchline and move on. Now I have one punchline that leads to the next joke, that leads to the next joke. So it sort of helps you sew everything together,” Parker said.
When asked how much the energy of the crowd creates a better set for him, Parker said, “All of it. Sometimes if someone yells ‘Woo!’ or has a big reaction, I’ll talk to them a little. If no one laughs, it’s like ‘OK, next joke,'” he added with a laugh.
Stand-up comedy is not an art; it’s a craft. And it’s learned through coaching and reading the crowd.
“What I’ve done is I’ve made it a challenge,” Parker said. “One time I was on stage and everyone was laughing, but I locked eyes with an old man who wasn’t laughing at all and I made it my goal to make this man laugh. It worked by my last punchline. At least one person will laugh. The hard part is getting everyone to laugh at the same time.”
Parker isn’t the class clown. In fact, he calls himself the quiet one in school. But give him a mic and the spotlight and it’s magic.
“I guess it’s like memorization. Everything you memorize just pops back in your head. Usually when I’m doing comedy I just black out until the end,” Parker said, adding when asked if it’s still him on stage, “No, it’s just my memory reciting what I’ve memorized.”
The kids are really activating their social skills and building confidence.
“A lot of our kids aren’t going to go into stand-up comedy, but they are going to do well at Harvard and Yale,” Kids ‘N Comedy co-founder Stu Morden said. “I think they walk out and they’re totally different adults than they would’ve been if they hadn’t done this, because they can get in front of an audience and a crowd and a lot of people wouldn’t be able to do that.”
So what joy does Parker take from all of this?
“I mean, hearing the laughter,” he said. “It just gives me a meaning and purpose to use my thoughts in a funny way. I’ll think of something and I can’t tell anybody, but I tell a group of strangers and it’s funny.
“I wanna do this when I’m older, when I can do this for real,” he added.
The Kids ‘N Comedy classes are for children 11-18. You can find a link to their class schedule here.