After a few months of classes at IPC, it was time for students to take a little break from the routine and either have some creative intensive classes or trips. This was what we called “Alternative Weeks”, which lasted for two weeks from October 21st to November 4th. There were choices for what each student could do in these two weeks; take a European or Nordic study trip, or alternatively one of three intensive courses on Danish Language, Arts and Culture, and The Power of Stand-up Comedy.
About thirty students were in the Europe Trip and twenty students in the Nordic Trip, the rest decided to stay at school and picked one of the three intensive courses. Students who chose the Europe Trip began their study expedition on October 21, while Students in the Nordic trip were busy in the first alternative week preparing for the trip.
I decided to opt for the Stand-up Comedy despite having no clue what it was about. I was the only Asian student out of the fourteen students in this class. The intensive classes started at 8:30 in the morning and ran til 12:00 in the afternoon. The first class challenged me with two questions: 1) What do I find funny about myself? 2) What do my friends make fun of me?
To answer the first question, I don’t find myself funny. Besides, I never heard my friends saying that I am funny. I don’t even identify myself as a funny person. But, I was in the Stand-up Comedy class, which I found in its self peculiar. Howbeit, I made an endeavor to evoke the past that could have something funny about me. Luckily, I remembered some stories from my childhood that are funny to me and some of my Myanmar friends. Fortunately, I got the chance to test whether or not my stories are funny because Jo and Solvei were, at that time, in a program which is called “Making someone laugh”. They asked me to tell jokes and make them laugh. So, I told them my first story. Actually, they both were laughing while I told the story. But, at the end, they both said,
“This is not funny. It’s embarrassing.”
I said, “What? Alright, I have another story”.
They let me tell my second story. But, they responded the same way, “This is not funny.” I didn’t want to give up although I was already stressed out. So, I said “I have another story. When I was….”. They rapidly replied me “No…stop stop.” This time they didn’t let me make them laugh with my funny stories. No problem! I have got another chance to test my stories with Marie and Gorka (former students) as they were having Alumni Board Meeting at IPC. Marie said “This is not funny”. Gorka said “I don’t understand”. Now then, it was time for me to realize that I should seek something else instead.
Basically, we watched some comedians’ shows and analyzed them in the first half of alternative weeks. As I remember, we focused on Ismo Leikolo, Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean), Flight of the Conchords, Chris Rock, Iliza, Bo Burnham and many others. To be frank, I didn’t find most of them funny. It’s not because they are not funny, just because humors are very much based on the social context, country, cultural backgrounds etc. Of course, it is based on my English level as well. But, Flight of the Conchords and Bo Burnham were out of them my favorites because their genres are, quite similar to one another, musical comedy.
There were other kind of humors that we learned in the class such as Self-deprecating humors, Dark humors, Insult/bullying humors, observational humors, Slapstick/physical humors, Anecdotal humors and so on. In the second week of the class, we learned about writing bits and wrote our own bits for the stand-up comedy show which would take place at the end of the alternative weeks. I remembered another two stories from my village and write a comedy sketch which sounded funny to me. Fortunately, it worked well, we practiced in the class and gave feedback to each other.
Meanwhile, students in the Arts and Culture class and Danish Language Class were also enjoying with their own projects. There were also other activities running in the afternoon, such as fixing the library, yoga, a sauna trip, a climate change stimulation, a trip to Louisiana, an excursion to Arken Museum and to Copenhagen, music appreciation, stitch and b*tch, conversation cafe and many other activities. Twenty students started their Nordic trip on October 28. So, around fifty students were away from school for the alternative weeks. The dining hall looked almost empty which reminded me of the summer course. Silence covered the common room after 9 pm.
Speaking of the additional activities in the alternative weeks, the sauna was my favourite. This was my first experience of this in life; being naked in front of people, jumped into probably the -1 degree Celsius cold sea and back into the 80 degrees hot Sauna. It was amazingly enjoyable. Students traveling around Europe were back to school on October 31, around 9:30 pm, which made the school more animated, we welcomed them with a bunch of cuddles as if they were long lost family members.
It was coming to the end of the alternative weeks, and I was struggling with my preparation for the comedy show. The show happened on the 2nd November, the end of the alternative weeks. We prepared seats in the Lecture Hall for about fifty people and set some spot lights to make the show thrilling. All the comedians rehearsed once before the performance. Frankly, I wasn’t up for the show even though I did the rehearsal.
The room was full of my fellow students, to cheer us on. There were 10 comedians ahead of me having being applauded. One beautiful thing that happened on this night was that comedians themselves cheered to one another so they wouldn’t be frightened. I prepared two stories from my village, which were about the people who saw the helicopter for the first time in their life in 2008, and a women who had never experienced talking on the phone picking up it upside down. More than two bits were, of course, included in the stories. I picked up a paragraph of Martin Luther King’s popular speech called “I Have a Dream” to open my show and sang the first verse of Abba’s “I have a dream”.
The thing was that I didn’t memorize the last sentence of the paragraph I picked from Martin Luther King’s speech, while I was opening my show. So, I looked at my notes and finished it. Thank God! People also laughed with that part, even though it was a mistake! I couldn’t see the audience from the stage as I was looking into the lights, making me less stressed out. However, my lack of knowledge of English vocabulary caused making my punchlines more difficult. I actually cannot recall which parts people laughed with me or at me because I was always concentrating on what to say next. At last, I overcame this 10-minute stand-up comedy challenge, and my two weeks of preparation had paid off!
Making people happy always returns its happiness to me. Besides, I realized that challenges I face are not so challenging to me when I face them head on!