NORFOLK--Joe Flanagan joined a group of women taking a course in stand-up comedy from Ken Phillips in Norfolk. The final exam was doing stand-up at a local club.

Joe, along with Amy Mahon, Karen Causey, Kara Latorella and Alicia Camden attended a workshop with Phillips at the Muse Writers Center in the Ghent.

Phillips has a lifetime of comedy experience, from running clubs and managing talent to performing.

He conducts an eight-week course that takes trainees from impromptu stream-of-consciousness to writing original material.

'So, that's what this course does. If someone wants to do better in sales and marketing I recommend the class. If they want to be a stand-up comedian, if they want to get over the fear of speaking in front of people, it's a great class for that too,' said Philips.

Karen Causey learned how to write but says it was the performance part that was hard.

'Definitely terrified in the beginning. But I've gotten more comfortable over the weeks and I am excited and I am still scared because it's not something that I do normally,' said Causey.

Alicia Camden already has a job working for PETA, but Joe says she's funny!

'It's the Missy department. And I really can't bring myself to shop there cause that's the most offensive thing you can call a grown woman,' quipped Alicia, practicing her stand-up.

Joe says he heard crickets when he practiced his routine.

'Feature act, it takes about four to six years to be a really good feature act. High energy, clean. And about six years, sometimes as many as 10 years, to be a top headliner,' Phillips said.

Kara Latorella isn't a headliner. She's a research engineer at NASA Langley.

'I love donuts. That's not surprising because food is like a religion to me. You'd think I wouldn't eat too much. I am half Italian and half Irish. One hand's drinking and the other hand is talking all the time,' said Latorella as she ran through her monologue during practice.

The new comedy students gathered at the Seaboard Sports Grill in Virginia Beach to take their final.

Philips taught Joe to write about life experiences, so he talked about the time he christened his new boat and was nearly run over in the channel by a giant coal collier.

'And this big thing is rolling past us and friends are like, 'I can see the captain. Look Joe!' I had to call the Coast Guard and get towed in. Miserable first christening with the boat,' Joe joked.

More laughter than crickets this time.

Everyone was appreciated by the audience. Everyone learned that it is best to write and tell stories about their own lives.

'Definitely, because when you are writing about yourself, and you are writing about things you are used to, you feel a little bit more confident about it. You kind of laugh about it, which is the whole point of stand-up anyway,' Amy Mahon said.

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