The Comedy School is the only arts organisation of its kind in the UK which works with comedy in many different settings.
Founded in 1998 by Keith Palmer MBE, Director, The Comedy School aims to raise the profile of the many uses of comedy, from stimulating personal creativity to encouraging social skills and improving literacy. We achieve this through our innovative workshop, performance and arts projects. These are varied and inclusive, catering for those who wish to be comedians, to work in the arts and the entertainment industries, or to improve their communication skills and confidence.
The Comedy School is committed to enhancing the lives of local communities and developing responsive projects, using the arts as media for making learning interactive and fun.
Our unique way of working has enabled the company to take arts practitioners to many varied environments, including schools, prisons, traveller sites and excluded communities across the UK.
1. To provide a resource for performers, including young people, for net-working, information and skills development through training and courses, and through practical experience in creating and performing comedy based material.
2. To develop the potential of drama and comedy as an educational and rehabilitative tool in settings such as prisons, young offenders' institutions, probation units, police initiatives, drama schools, youth centres, schools, day centres, arts venues.
3. To develop cognitive, communication and performance skills through theatre and comedy and provide a supportive and stimulating environment in which participants can learn different creative techniques.
4. To use comedy, drama and the arts as a forum for analysing issues around peer pressure, cultural contexts, social behavior and personal experiences, which people may find difficult to discuss in more formal situations.
5. To introduce young people and those previously excluded from the arts to positive role models and their own creativity.
The Comedy School is committed to the promotion of equal opportunities in its working practices and aims to make work that is accessible across class, age and culture. It has a multiracial outlook and is open to all. Within the broad context of its work, The Comedy School strives to challenge preconceived ideas surrounding cultural identity and aims to promote diversity and widen access to the arts through its educational and residency work which places no barriers on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, colour, religious belief or physical ability.
The Comedy School is incorporated and limited by guarantee. The Director is responsible to the Board of Directors. These are Prof. David Clutterbuck, Roma Hooper, Olivia Landsberg, Judith Jacob and Venice Johnson. Keith Palmer is the Company Secretary. Skills on the Board include knowledge of law, education practice and arts management. Experience amongst board members includes the management of budgets over £1m in a professional capacity.
"I first got to hear about the Comedy School through my mate, the late great Felix Dexter. He had worked closely with the Comedy School and specifically with Keith Palmer. Tragically Felix is no longer with us but I got to know more about the work of the organisation while liaising with Keith about Felix's legacy. I can't think of a more valuable cause than trying to raise awareness of knife crime among the young who are most vulnerable in this area. I've seen first-hand the work they do in schools and how well a young audience responds to the way in which a serious message is delivered with humour and conviction. Please take some time to view the "Its No Joke" clip of the Comedy school in action with those at risk from knife crime. Ultimately of course it will benefit us all if we can eradicate knife crime and the attitudes and conditions that lead to it in the first place."
"I am a very keen supporter of the Comedy School for two reasons... Firstly, I've seen the benefits of their work in person - helping ex-offenders express themselves in a simple but satisfying way, which they were unable to do before. Over a number of days, people with fascinating and sometimes disturbing stories to tell are able to develop the confidence, skills and patience needed in order to convey to others what is going on in their lives – something I take for granted but is unknowingly denied to many people. Secondly, as a deeply cynical man who believes comedy has no purpose other than to raise a chuckle and pay my bills, it’s good to be proved wrong."
"The Comedy School has this unwavering commitment to education and their unique use of comedy has made them hugely effective in delivering all kinds of programs, like stand-up courses; giving attendees confidence, skills, tricks of the trade and an understanding of what it takes to make it in the industry. Alongside this, they provide many social programmes, making a real difference, which I’m glad to have contributed to. And it's all funded by your contributions so please continue to support this unique organisation so they can continue this great work!"
Director Keith Palmer founded the Comedy School in 1998 providing workshops for aspiring comedians, learning and development for commercial and public sector organisations, running projects with and for young people. He is an experienced producer, facilitator, and consultant on the comedy circuit, in television and arts education projects.
His work has spanned over a 25 year period and includes developing and providing bespoke training and personal development programmes for organisations including The Princes Trust, British American Drama Academy, The ICA, Arts Education, The National Youth Theatre, Equity, St Marys University, 20th Century Fox, NHS, London Zoo, Angst Production and Premiere League football coaches. Keith also produced the entertainment for Nelson Mandela's visit to Brixton in 1996.
Keith has a wide network of contacts in comedy and the arts, and has also successfully run a number of comedy festivals with high profile professional comedians, such as Lenny Henry, Andi Osho, Omid Djalili, Sean Lock, Jo Brand, Hugh Dennis, Paul Whitehouse, Harry Enfield, Felix Dexter, Arthur Smith, Neil Mullarkey, Darah O’Brian, Phill Jupitus, Josh Widecombe to name a few.
David Clutterbuck is a leading authority on learning conversations. Visiting Professor in the coaching and mentoring faculties of three Universities, he is an alumnus of several Comedy School programmes, which he says have helped cement his reputation as one of the most humorous and challenging speakers on the international HR circuit.
Author of nearly 70 books, including two books of humorous children's stories, he chairs the School’s research committee.
Roma is the founder of the Prison Radio Association and is also their chair. She is a criminal justice advisor and was the founder of the Make Justice Work campaign. She has worked extensively in the criminal justice sector for over 25 years in a wide variety of different roles. She is currently chair of Spark Inside as well as on the board of the Comedy School. Roma was an awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to prisons.
Judith Jacob, the daughter of proud Grenadians, Mary Anastasia Antoine and Henry Augustus Ross (Not sure where the Jacob comes from).
Judith has been a professional actress for over 30 years. First job was at the age of 13 a BBC play for today, 'Jumping bean bag'. Since then she has been consistently seen on television, nurse Beverley Slater in Angels BBC, Sensimilla in No Problem Channel 4, Eastenders BBC, The Real McCoy BBC and many other television programmes.
Theatre work includes; Waiting for Hannibal, An Evening with Gary Lineker, Twelth Night. Films, The only boy for me, Provoked and Captain Phillips. Judith was one of the co-founders of The Bibi Crew’, a group of seven female actresses, of Caribbean descent, who wrote, produced and marketed their productions.
She has also created a live chat show called Judith Jacob Yabba Yabba’s with friends, where she interviews her showbiz friends.
Currently a Presenter on Concious Radio 102fm 1-3pm Thursdays.
Olivia Landsberg is a coach and creative facilitator. Over the last 15 years, she has worked with thousands of individuals and groups - from leadership teams at FTSE 100 companies to individuals from the media, the arts, finance and the mental health profession. She's a former mentor for The Prince's Trust and passionate supporter of The Comedy School since completing her first course there in 2002.
Prior to coaching, she was a producer, then Head of Programme Development at an independent radio production company where she won several awards for BBC programmes. She continues to do occasional freelance projects. Both activities have at their heart the desire to help people see things in new and different ways. She joined the Board of Directors of The Comedy School in April 2014.
Venice is a qualified teacher with over 25 years experience, including leadership roles. Specialist areas: ESOL/EAL; also Literacy support. Enjoys working with different age groups from primary to adults. In addition has supported young people, unemployed, factory workers and community initiatives. Interests include Special Education Needs and Modern Foreign Languages. Good communication, interpersonal skills; exponent of life-long learning and power of education to effect change.
Mary McKaskill is an Analyst committed to using high quality evidence to understand the impact of charitable programmes and to inform their design and delivery. She is currently a Senior Analyst at Project Oracle, the Children and Youth Evidence Hub.
Mary holds an MA in Applied Anthropology and Community Development from Goldsmiths, University of London and a BA Double Major in Anthropology and Folklore with a Certificate in Latin American & Caribbean Studies and a Minor in Spanish from Indiana University (USA). S he has 5 years of experience working in the charity sector in London, in both delivery and evaluation. Before moving to London to pursue an MA in 2013, she taught English in Indonesia and worked with vulnerable groups in the United States. Her anthropological field experience includes working on archaeological sites and conducting ethnographic research in The United States, The Dominican Republic and Peru.
Mary came into contact with The Comedy School when she did a Stand Up course in 2016 and has been involved ever since. She joined the board in February 2018. Apart from her work and comedy, Mary enjoys running, exploring the canals on her narrow boat and travel.
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