Cutting Up with the Middle School Comedy Club

Maryland Students Laugh and Learn; Parents Grin and Bear It

E. Brooke Lee Students

E. Brooke Lee students in a sketch about annoying cell phones. Harry Bagdasian hide caption

itoggle caption Harry Bagdasian

Most schools have clubs devoted to chess, drama and other extracurricular interests. But Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring, Md., has something extra: a student comedy club.

The program is the brainchild of Harry Bagdasian, a playwright and father who started the club 10 years ago, when his daughters attended the school. It's still flourishing, and NPR's Neda Ulaby dropped in as the club's students were preparing for their spring show.

For three weeks, the young comedians — 25 in all, ages 11 to 13 — brought in scripts and ideas and practiced their skits in rehearsals.

They were helped by Ben Fisler, a graduate student from the University of Maryland's Center for Humor Studies. Bagdasian and Fisler plan to spend the summer creating a blueprint to help other schools develop similar programs.

Bagdasian says the comedy club isn’t just about becoming a better writer or performer. It’s about growing up and keeping a sense of humor about life's challenges — including the tensions of adolescence.

"There's this wonderful locking horn thing going on," he says. "If we can look at it and laugh at it, we're all gonna survive."

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