Homegrown Business: Comedy Coop is an online comedy school for women

Comedy Coop is an online comedy school for women based in Toronto. We recently spoke with co-founders Christel Bartelse, Anne Fenn and Melody Jhonson to find out more about them.

Comedy Coop

What is your business called and what does it do?

Comedy Coop – Home for Hilarious Chix!

Comedy Coop is an online comedy school for women. We offer classes for all levels of experience – from comedy-curious beginners who’ve never been in a comedy class, to more experienced students eager to enhance their skills. We also host Special Guest events, like Q&A sessions with high-profile comedy professionals from Canada and beyond.

What made you want to do this work?

The three of us are comedy industry professionals who’ve been working in the business for most of our adult lives. We met over ten years ago in the Humber Comedy Writing & Performance program, where we’re all faculty members. With over 45 years’ combined teaching experience, we observed that some of the students who identify as women feel more comfortable in an all-women environment. Comedy involves a fair amount of risk-taking and “putting yourself out there” – it can be intimidating, especially in the initial creation/hatching phase.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

We wanted to find a way to make women/women-identifying students feel more comfortable in a comedy class. Also, we know there are lots of people who want to try comedy classes but don’t have easy access to them. All our classes are online, which allows us to reach people from all over the country and the world for that matter (if you have WiFi!). We all had to adapt our courses to online last year, so we have a good grasp as to what works online.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

Our clientele are women (including women-identifying/non-binary) from ages 16 and up. We offer classes for all levels of experience – from comedy-curious beginners who’ve never been in a comedy class, to more experienced students eager to enhance their skills.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

Right now we are very focused on helping women find a space to come and take risks, try out new stuff and hone their skills. The money part is pretty straightforward – we charge money for our classes/workshops and send a Zoom link once you’ve registered and paid. We opted for a slow launch this fall, including a series of one-off, three-hour comedy classes on Saturday afternoons. Now we’re starting to offer an ever-evolving variety of courses with some seriously amazing teachers. Our prices are comparable or lower than our competitors (not that there’s another online female comedy school out there!).

Because we’re teachers ourselves, we deeply value our instructors and featured guests as much as our students. We pay them not just fairly, but well. We like to joke that the “lioness share” of your money goes straight to the pockets of the women who teach you.

Where in the city can we find your profession?

Online at www.comedycoop.ca. The three of us are based in Toronto, but our business is available to anyone in the world since it’s virtual. You can be a comedian anywhere.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Q: Why should I take a Comedy Coop online class when I can go to one of your competitors, where I can be in person?

A: Many reasons: We don’t know of other “women-only” comedy classes in Toronto, or anywhere. Because we’ve been in the business so long, we have access to some outstandingly accomplished and talented instructors/guests. Our prices are very reasonable. Since all our classes are online, you save considerable time and money on your commute/travel. Doing comedy classes online is actually preferable to in-person classes for many people. Also, Comedy Coop is owned and operated by experienced, knowledgeable educators working together – not a faceless corporate entity. Also, we’re truly committed to diversity with our instructors, featured guests and students.

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

The best part about what we do is the “henergy” – that feeling you get when you’re hanging out with a group of women, having a great time. We love getting to meet wonderful, creative humans who not only make us laugh but inspire us.

The worst part about our job is the administrative stuff. We love making people laugh and teaching, but learning how to do spreadsheets is not our favourite thing.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

That women can’t be funny.

Where can we follow you?

Comedy Coop website

Christel Bartelse on Instagram or Twitter

Anne Fenn’s website.

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