When they opened their doors for business this past June 1, Katherine (Katie) Kraus wondered if they would be inundated with wanna-be child stars with pushy stage mothers who are seeking to promote their child as the next big sensation in Hollywood.
"I've love Studio City because it seems like such a normal, cool little community," said Kraus who has lived in an apartment in the area and loves walking her dogs in the parks. "But Los Angeles can be a weird place, and we are so close to all the major studios so I wondered who would come in—at first."
As it turned out, the youth—and their parents—who have started off with Studio LOL in their first few set of classes are as normal and as average as can be. They just want to laugh and have a good time. Most of them are quite funny.
Improvisation instructor Ryan Chase said, "Studio City has a very normal side to it, that some people never see. There are tons of families and great neighborhoods throughout the community. Yes, some of the parents take their children to auditions a lot in the community, or they live over-the-hill to come here to be part of our school, but they all mix well here."
The style of Studio LOL is to work on games, scenes, characters and jokes in a playful surrounding. Students are taught to discover what makes things so darn funny.
Rather than get established stars (but they have a few of those already), the team at Studio LOL attracts a variety of students from different ages and ethnic and racial backgrounds who want to enhance their public speaking techniques or just love to laugh.
"We believe that every child can learn and grow through the study of comedy," Kraus said. "We welcome every student, whether shy, outgoing, scared or an old pro."
Chase added, "It's a safe place for young people to be challenged and encouraged."
Most of the students have never tried comedy before. Even though the walls are filled with photographs of actors such as Robin Williams, Laurel & Hardy and Bill Cosby, the ones they recognize the most right now are George Lopez and local resident Steve Carell.
Kraus has taught comedy to kids since 2003 and has worked from New York to Los Angeles in comedy troupes. She has a background in child development and teaching. She's worked with The Groundlings, The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Peoples' Improv Theatre, Chicago City Limits, the World Famous Hollywood Improv and trained at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. She worked in film, TV and theater, including the TV pilot You're so Dead!
Chase has worked as an improv comic for more than 10 years. He has worked extensively in television commercials for Ford, American Airlines, Honda, Time Warner, White Castle and more. He also has worked in film and television production, the music industry and screenwriting.
Musical director Patti Peltz has a national teaching credential and has taught music and drama for more than three decades.
Another improv coach working with Studio LOL is Alison Rood, who also is a voiceover artist. Her film credits include Without A Trace, The Glory of Living and Ten Cent Night. She also produces and stars in an online sketch comedy program called Two Birds, One Stone and has guest starred in the online sketch comedy show Don't Make Me Sick.
Children as young as 4 can learn the basics of comedy, and learn how to be creative in how to tell a story, Kraus said. "This is great for children who are pre-Kindergarten and may not have the social skills yet to be in a big group of children. This could help them with their academic curriculum."
Many of the classes are restricted to groups of five, but the teen-aged classes could have as many as 16 students in their storefront window space along Ventura Boulevard.
And, on Saturday nights there are special classes that include comedy training, pizza and a movie. Sometimes, there's an improv show for the parents.
"Some kids do something like go to ballet classes or karate school, but this is something that is very different," Chase said.
Here's a Studio LOL Challenge:
You the readers can provide a PROFESSION, a SITUATION and an ANIMAL in the comment area below, and the students at Studio LOL will act out an improv especially for Studio City Patch.
So, send in your ideas below, and watch a video of the school in the video section above.