Lessons in laughter with Kristen Becker
blog by S.J. Velasquez • January 28, 2012 @ 8:00am
Kristen Becker’s come a long way since the anxiety-induced vomiting she experienced the night before her first standup gig— she’s come so far, in fact, that she’s teaching her comedic ways to a whole new class of potential pukers.
Becker was in her mid-20s, prepping for that first-ever performance at the Funny Bone Comedy Club at the Boulevard Mall. Hands shaking and stomach in knots, Becker went on stage and confronted her biggest phobia: public speaking.
“That’s probably the biggest transformation in my life,” Becker said of her decision to face her fear. She’d listened to her cousin’s Bill Hicks standup CD repeatedly in her youth, and she yearned to give standup a try, but the fear of speaking to an audience was almost paralyzing at the time.
Today, Becker’s not so shy in public spheres—to say the very least—and she’s sharing the tricks of the standup trade with a whole batch of newbie comedians in weekly standup workshops. Among the first lessons she teaches is overcoming the fear of speaking in public. “It’s the number one fear. There’s such a vulnerability. I teach that in the class,” she said.
And it’s perfectly fine to be vulnerable on stage, Becker said. In fact, she encourages her standup students to embrace their flaws and lay ‘em out for the audience to find funny. In her classes, she aims to help students understand their own personalities and amplify them on stage.
“I spend the classes breaking down the insecurities of four to six people. It’s trust building exercise,” she said. “In the next few weeks, we can find that chemistry.”
Knowing your own voice is an imperative element to developing a standup identity, Becker said. It took her a while to find a voice of her own, but when she did, she solidified her place as the queen of Buffalo’s comedy scene—which, she notes, really just started to develop in recent years—having been been named Buffalo’s best standup comedian by Artvoice two years in a row.
While Buffalo is her home, Becker hits the road to tour nationally. Her hilarity landed her in semi-finalist standing on NBC’s hit show “Last Comic Standing,” she launched the widely embraced sketch comedy touring group “Dykes of Hazard,” and she runs the city-centric “Doin’ Time” weekly standup series. That’s just a sampling of the Becker’s projects—and she teaches weekly standup classes.
Even though Becker’s days of pre-show barf sessions are behind her, she believes there’s work to be done to improve her craft and to bring attention to Buffalo’s budding comedy scene. Part of that is introducing people to comedy and encouraging funny locals to test out the standup waters. Becker even introduced a new standup night on Mondays at Canvas@1206, 1206 Hertel Ave., as a sort of primer before comics hit the “Doin’ Time” stage at Nietzsche’s, which has hosted both local and national acts.
Interested in standup classes? Sessions run for five weeks, and each class is two hours. Sessions culminate with a student showcase on the Nietzsche’s stage. Becker’s current class will perform Feb. 14, which also happens to be the release date of Becker’s standup album “How Could She?”
For additional info on Becker’s classes and any of her current projects—and there are many!—check out KristenBecker.com. I’ll be sitting in one of Becker’s classes this weekend, and will upload a video ASAP. Stay tuned.