Pocono Record Writer
So you think you're funny? Can you think with wit and humor
at the drop of a hat?
Well if you think you can, or would like to learn, actor
Chris Barnes wants to help with his new improv comedy school in Stroudsburg.
"Improv is all about listening, which has become a lost
art," Barnes said. "The concept of improv is to lead into the direction of the
scene. We have to create events, and reincorporate information that is laid out.
It isn't about just saying whatever you are thinking."
Barnes, well known for roles on television shows such as
"Life with Bonnie," "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," has brought his
acting knowledge and experience back to his home state to help future actors get
the skills needed to audition and land roles.
Barnes opened his school, Comedy Dojo, in California in
1994. There have been many well known actors that have traveled through the
Comedy Dojo on their way to stardom.
"I've taught Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon and a lot of other
well-known actors," Barnes said. "Their agents send them to me to prepare them
for the life of an actor."
Barnes is now bringing that same training to the Poconos.
He said that there are a lot of talented kids in the area that could possibly
have a future career in the industry, and he wants to help.
"Pike and Monroe counties are the two largest growing
counties in the state. I went and saw all the high school plays in the area — 11
different schools. There are about 40 kids in each play, and they are all
talented," he said. "Stroudsburg High School's show was phenomenal. It was
unbelievable. The talent pool up here is so vast, and now these kids can get the
same class that is taught in Los Angeles."
Barnes is originally from the Scranton area, and feels a
connection to the talent here. This is one reason why he opened his improv
school in the space at Sundari Yoga & Wellness on Ann Street, Stroudsburg.
He also likes the aura of a yoga studio.
"My school in L.A. is yoga, comedy and karate. It's a very
zen atmosphere," Barnes said. "We treat improv as spiritual."
Improv acting isn't your typical acting. It takes skill and
lots of practice. Barnes makes sure that his students get the practice necessary
"You have to learn listening in ironic mode; expressed
words are not what the meaning intended," Barnes said. "The laws of improv force
you to listen, because you don't know where the scene is going next."
During the school's four-week sessions, students use
primary improv games to learn the fine art of improv acting. Barnes teaches what
he calls the standard "bible of improv" used at Second City in Chicago, a
well-known acting school.
"I also teach what I learned as an experienced actor in
L.A. Good comedic acting techniques that you don't find at improv schools, but
the necessary training to move onto films and television," Barnes said. "That's
what I found myself while auditioning for 'Seinfeld,' 'Friends' and 'Grey's
Before Barnes began teaching at his new school, he created
something for area teens to get their feet wet. Comedy High taught local teens
the art of improv while filming a reality show.
"The goal of this project was to show students, family and
the community the necessary skills one needs to develop to overcome the
adversities life hands you through the principles of intensive comedy training,"
said Barnes. "The students from Comedy High will be performing at the school to
show off what they learned."
And these classes aren't only for the serious drama
student, or just for teens.
"This is for the person who knows they have something to
say, but finds themselves with no one listening. I have had seasoned actors in
my classes, as well as lawyers, bus drivers, business owners and people who do
public speaking," Barnes said. "This is for the person that just wants to do
something one night a week out of their comfort level. This could even help a
shy child break out of his shell."
Barnes said that the over-40 crowd is powerful.
"The 18- to 30-year-old range is editing everything in
their minds. They are trying to say the right thing," he said. "The instrument
at this level is the body and mind. It's artistic game-playing on a higher
level. This is the pilates of the mind."
For information on the class, see www.comedydojo.com.