Learn humor in school

What do PA Méthot, Arnaud Soly, Yannick de Martino, Maude Landry, Virginie Fortin and Sugar Sammy have in common, other than being comedians with enviable successes? No one is a graduate of the National School of Humor (ENH). Ditto for Quebecers’ holy humorous darling at the last Les Olivier gala, Mariana Mazza. Long seen as an obligatory passage, what place does the ENH have today in the education of the next generation in humor?

“The way of the self-taught is no longer in the garnotte as it already was in humor,” agrees Louise Richer, director general and founder of the National School of Humor. It is of course more asphalted. But the applications for admission have not fallen. »

Next year the ENH will be 35 years old. At the beginning of this anniversary, a move and an association with a Parisian institution are in the air. Year after year, some 150 applications are submitted for his humorous creation program.

About fifteen “will make the club”. From May to August, after the difficult pandemic break, graduates can finally take advantage of the traditional tour that crowns their school careers. Presented on Wednesday evening at Zoofest, the show features the 13 comedians of the 2020-2022 cohort. An evening where figures on mental health stand side by side with those on racism or the notion of masculinity. In short, students of their time.

Reflect his time

“The ENH has made an effort in recent years to adapt, agrees My-Linh Nguyen, career manager for comedians in Hainaut. I think it’s essential to keep it relevant. It is an environment that moves very quickly, and it is essential that it reflects what is going on. »

In the 2022 comedy making program curriculum, there are courses ranging from humor and society to social media through courses in chronicle and web series production.

How do lesson plans adjust over the years to stay current? “The ultimate goal is comedic effectiveness, but that’s expanded. We wanted to feed the raw material and provide tools to better observe the surrounding world, explains Louise Richer. For example, subjects in political science or history of humor have been added. We want to cover the context of the use of humor and its parameters, but the inspiration for the evolution of our programs also comes from many of our students. »

But with the popularity of platforms like TikTok, podcasts, and the success of the bar circuit, “do it yourself” is more of a drivable—and enticing—path than ever! Sophi Carrier, boss of SPM Agency, counts among her foals as many comedians who went to school – Jean-Thomas Jobin and Kim Lévesque Lizotte – as autodidacts – Arnaud Soly and Les Appendices. “There is indeed a big fuss of those who break through and who have not passed through the School. The difference is that there used to be fewer possible paths. With the number of games multiplied, people are able to cut their teeth, learn the trade on the job, and even take some discipline from it. »

Adds Louise Richer: “I used to be told that the school had no competition because it was the only one of its kind, I replied and I still answer, that the competition is not to go to the school. . And that is fine! It’s very healthy for an environment to have people who have walked different paths.”

a toolbox

But the paths cross. “There was a time when students from the School didn’t go to the bar circuit at all,” said Marie-Eve Lapierre, manager and producer at Agence Feedback, which looks after talents like Mathieu Dufour and Josiane Aubuchon. Kind of like drama school students who don’t participate in professional productions until they graduate. “It’s over today,” the manager continues. The bar circuit is no longer on the fringe, it is very well organized and an integral part of the industry. »

Some students play in bars to test in real time the tools the ENH has given them. Others prefer to experience their training in stages.

One thing is certain, the bar circuit has become a must-see, as has the School since its inception. As proof, the managers contacted are unanimous: the ENH is still relevant. “The school gives you a toolbox,” explains Sylvie Savard, manager at KOScène. It will go faster for them, [ils développent] a way of working, a discipline. There are many steps they don’t have to do that autodidacts have to learn on the job. »

“Giving the tools is by far the best role the school plays,” emphasizes Marie-Eve Lapierre, who also taught the career management course at the ENH last year. When you come through the alley, you don’t know where to start. At the School you get benchmarks, both in terms of creation and management. It becomes an anchor when it gets too dizzy, and it allows you to reconnect with your creativity. »

“A school is not only a place of education, but also a place of research and development, and of the evolution of a profession or profession,” explains Louise Richer. It is a very structuring element of an ecosystem. This applies to all artistic disciplines. »

Of course, there is the famous markup that has often been criticized in the performances of young people who drop out of school. “But it’s like learning to dance, you learn the steps and then you add your style,” Marie-Eve Lapierre argues. And that gives an Adib Alkhalidey who manages to put on a whole show without anyone ever feeling his text, like a dancer who seems to fly above the stage. »

Not everything is perfect, and the ENH is constantly looking to evolve. In recent years, several programs have been added to the range and Louise Richer still speaks of consultation here. In addition, the addition of PhD student in humor Christelle Paré to his team is a valuable asset. She worked on equality in the cohorts, a goal that was now achieved two years ago. Diversity is now central.

“I hope that the ENH will be even more diversified in the coming years, both in its proposals and in the composition of the cohorts, hopes My-Linh Nguyen. Obviously, I’d love to see more racialized people there, especially since we see a lot of them on comedy nights. »

The National School of Humor 2022 Graduate Tour will be presented Wednesday night in Montreal at the Monument-National — Studio Hydro-Québec at 10 p.m.

To be seen in video

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