Have you heard about the local girl who wants to be a comic?
It might sound like the set-up for a witty punch line. But to Fort Frances resident Melissa Fletcher, this is no joke.
In fact, the comedian-in-training left last month to complete her final year of the comedy writing and performing program at Humber College in Toronto.
The non-conventional course teaches the fundamentals of comedy, from the basics of joke-writing to the execution of a stand-up routine.
But Fletcher said the program’s biggest takeaway has been a newfound confidence in her ability to take a real-life experience and make it funny.
“I love going to school and everyone makes fun of me for it,” she laughed.
“But then again, people make fun of me a lot.
“You have to learn how to take a joke because if there is anyone who is going to make fun of you, it’s the kids in the comedy program,” she added.
Although enrolling in the program wasn’t always something she aspired to do, Fletcher had been drawn to a career in the performing arts for years.
“I took a year off after high school to dance because I thought I was going to be a ballerina,” she noted, explaining she had never danced before then.
“But I had to let that dream go and move on to bigger and better things,” Fletcher laughed.
“I decided I was going to take a year of general studies [at Humber] to get a feel for the city before I started applying for theatre programs.”
Having spent countless hours preparing for her theatre audition, Fletcher said it wasn’t until a friend suggested she audition for the comedy program that her plan began to waver.
“During my [comedy] audition, I had to do two minutes of stand-up and write a sketch, which I had never done before,” she noted.
“But when I came out of it, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.
“I had performed before but I was still pretty green to the writing process,” Fletcher added.
“I’ve come so far since then.”
The lively 21-year-old said her university routine boasts clowning, writing puns for coffee mugs, and notable guests like comedy legends Mike Myers and Debra DiGiovanni.
Fletcher noted a comedy student’s knowledge isn’t tested in a written exam. Rather, they are graded on their delivery of jokes to a crowd of strangers at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club every Tuesday night.
“The first time I performed was only three weeks into the program,” she recalled.
“I went with a group of my peers, but I just plugged in my headphones, reviewed my joke book, and tried not to puke,” she quipped.
“When I got on stage, I had this adrenaline shaky feeling,” she admitted. “But then people laughed at my jokes and that was the best feeling in the world.”
Fletcher said from that moment on, she was hooked to the vulnerability of standing in front of a crowd and being entirely herself.
“[My routine] is university funny,” she noted. “It’s not dirty and it’s pretty relatable to people in my age category.
“I find comedy is so much funnier when you are being realistic and staying true to yourself.”
Fletcher added her biggest challenge has been “striking a balance” between spending her days in the classroom and late nights at comedy clubs around Toronto.
“Being funny all the time is a lot of pressure,” she remarked. “When you are doing it day-in and day-out, it can get really overwhelming.
“But it’s the most fun kind of overwhelming.”
Although Fletcher admitted she is excited to see what the future holds for her after graduation next spring, she stressed she is in no rush to get there.
“I would love to do something like ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I mean, we would all push each other down stairs for that one,” she laughed.
“There are so many different branches people can take, whether it’s writing, performing, talk shows, or television,” she noted.
“There are a lot of options for funny people.
“But I think I want to be a [talent] agent and this program can set me up for that, too.
“I have classmates that I love working with, but I love watching them more,” Fletcher concluded.
“How could I not want to [represent] these people 10 years down the road?”