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Published on January 23rd, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Here's your sign

Sometimes, you just know something is destined to suck.

The best thing I read all week was this post from Pat Cashin on his blog, www.clownalley.net (careful, you’ll want to scroll past that photo quickly). Pat runs down 20+ signs that a clown may possibly be terrible, including references to some hackey-even-by-birthday-clown-standards gags and costuming choices.

Tonight, I came across a website for a new comedy school which similarly does nothing to instill confidence in its greatness. To keep this a “blind item”, I’ll just say that it’s located in a major city, which I’m pretty familiar with, and which already has a vibrant/tight-knit improv/sketch community.

Here are 5 signs that you won’t need to maintain a wait list for your new improv school:

1) Your web designer uses MS Paint. Dithering and pixelation and gifs, oh my! I haven’t seen so many primary colours since…. well, since that photo on Pat’s blog. I particularly love the stock photo of the fresh-faced young woman, and thanks to your mad Paint skillz, I can barely tell you stole it from another website and tried to erase the bright red background.

2) Mystery teachers. Normally, a school that doesn’t list its teachers or provide a list of their qualifications might be a little suspect. But when you scroll down and see “Teachers Wanted!”, hopes for a fulfilling classroom experience get dashed. I also suspect you’re the same school that posted an ad to Craigslist just 10 days ago, looking for someone “to create program for improv studio”. Since classes start in 2 weeks, I guess you’ll just have to improvise your curriculum.

3) Stealing. Your weekly show has a very clever title. Which also happens to be the slogan of one of the top comedy schools in North America. Kind of a catch-22 there… if you stole it outright, that’s inexcusable. If it’s a case of parallel thinking and you know absolutely nothing about top comedy schools, that’s equally inexcusable.

4) Bad speeling skils. How can you run classes when you can’t run spellcheck? “Reults” and “immediatley” are not words. “Sand up” and “Imrpov” are not genres.

5) You will not be undersold!* (*subject to creative math). “Most affordable comedy workshop training” in the city, says the website. You’re certainly cheap, until you take into consideration that each level of classes is only 10 hours (one assumes that during the 11th hour, students begin to suspect they don’t actually have a teacher – see #2 – and all this time have been playing Clap Focus with one of those mechanical monkeys with the cymbals). That’s a per-hour rate of $10, and the main competition (financially) is $6.50/hour.

I seriously have no idea who, specifically, is behind this. A friend might send me an angry email 5 minutes from now saying “so-and-so is one of the teachers, dummy! it’s going to be awesome!”. But the above doesn’t exactly inspire you to hand over your AmEx card, does it?


Open during renovations: I’m toying with my blog design over the next few days, so apologies in advance if I inadvertently burn anyone’s retinas.


About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

4 Responses to Here's your sign

  1. David Kendall says:

    Well, at least we know that you’re loking at sites to see what to *avoid* …

    You did a good job “protecting the guilty”, but it’s no match for my Google-fu skilzorz! And … I wish I wasn’t so curuious. Hey guys, 1997 called, they want their web design style back! I mean, animated .gifs? Really? (Hey, David, 1997 called and it wants its joke back too.)

    And the fact that it has nothing but big pictures on most of the page! “Big windows!” – like this is a selling point? “Our green screen!” I’m sure it’s drastically different from everyone else’s (which I don’t even know is a necessity, I’ve never had a comedy or improv workshop with either)

    This is one of the main reasons why I got into web design in the first place – a well-made web design, free of the errors you mentioned, is very very important! Would you do business with someone whose business card was written on a cocktail napkin? No! (Sadly, many don’t care how bloeful a web page is, they’ll still patronize the place even after seeing the website, maybe because they’re so prevalent nowadays). Of course, my challenge was trying to convince potential clients of that, and, as always, “the suits” (ie the decision makers) don’t realize it at all …

  2. @ David – yeah, it’s bad, but I’ve seen a lot of bad designs for small theatres and rehearsal facilities. It may be a budget issue, I don’t know, but there are a lot of them out there.

    Thankfully there are a lot that do it right. The best I’ve ever seen is http://www.impatient.ca – the artistic director has a background in design, and it shows. Site’s awesome.

  3. KPR says:

    Aww shucks!

    But… who’s the pot calling the kettle black on MS Paint?

  4. @KPR – Well hello there!

    MS Paint =/= Paint Shop Pro! Edumacate yerself! ;)

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