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Lucky kids graduate from comedy camp

September 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Instead of pomp and circumstance Tuesday night, it was pomp and punch lines at The Laugh Factory. Dozens of students, many who need a break in life, got one by taking part in this year's 10-week comedy camp. Tuesday night was the big graduation celebration.This marks the 24th year The Laugh Factory has held its annual comedy camp for underprivileged kids. And it's the 10th year comedian Dane Cook has been a part of it, teaching them and watching them blossom.

"I'm more nervous now," said Cook. "I've been doing stand-up for 18 years -- I'm more nervous tonight for my kids than I ever have been for myself on stage."

The Laugh Factory's Jamie Masada knows what his comedy camp can accomplish.

"Give them confidence in life," said Masada. "That's the most important thing in life you can do. It's the easier thing to do: Help some kids. They're the future of this country. They're the future of this world. We have to help them."

They are. And it's working.

"It taught me how to get a speaking voice, you know, for myself and learn how to speak up and speak out to other people," said Comedy Camp graduate Christopher Fisher.

"I've learned, like, not to be shy and you can do anything you like as long as you put your mind to it," said Comedy Camp graduate Jordan Goward.

"Bravery, courage, not going to the bathroom on stage. You know, just being a better person," said graduate Jason Nova.

Linda Ochoa is now a more outgoing person. She has Asperger's Syndrome, which is in the autism spectrum, and she spent the first few weeks hiding under a table in class.

"Just going up there and knowing that there's people to support you is really good," said graduate Linda Ochoa.

"I definitely will be doing some stand-up, yeah, and acting maybe later on in my life, but stand-up for now," said graduate Ashley Kennon.

"With these kids, it's really about earning trust and letting them be whatever they want to be on stage," said Dane Cook. "Not all of them want to be comedians but they all want to feel confident and they all found that in one way or another this summer."

Dane's mom used to tell him "embrace that which defines you." And he's passed that message on to his students.

 

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