For most adults, the idea of telling a joke in a darkened room full of strangers would be daunting, but it comes naturally for Andrew Vatier, a 13-year-old Douglaston resident who hones his stand-up comedy chops twice a month in workshops and performances for Kids 'n Comedy.
"He's become quite the good little comedian," said Jo Ann Grossman, co-founder of Kids 'n Comedy, a Manhattan-based comedy group for children. "It's just been amazing."
Andrew, an eighth-grader at St. Anastasia's in Douglaston, started in comedy when he was 9 and watching a Kids 'n Comedy performance with his family at the Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan.
It was just amazing "that kids pretty much my age could make a whole audience laugh," he said.
At the close of the show, one member of the audience was invited to take the stage and tell a joke. Andrew jumped at the chance. He told a simple but clever joke his father taught him and he was hooked.
"I couldn't get over how awesome it [felt]," he said.
Soon after Andrew's mother, Toni Vatier, contacted the club and Andrew began to attend classes and summer camps through the program. Things were a little slow at first, but then all of a sudden Andrew became a natural comic, Grossman said.
And today, he performs with the club regularly. Earlier this month, Andrew and the rest of the Kids 'n Comedy group performed in Port Jefferson, L.I., to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. On April 27, Andrew and the group will hit the stage again at the Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan.
With the frequent shows and the press attention that Andrew and Kids 'n Comedy attracts, he has become somewhat of a mini-celebrity at his school, as his peers find out for the first time that he is a comedian.
"They think it's cool," he said. "You don't really hear about a child stand-up comic too much."
To his chagrin, his classmates will sometimes ask Andrew to say something funny or make a joke about one thing or another. But as any professional comic knows, comedy is not something that can be produced on demand.
And when an adult asks him to tell a joke, he blushes and maybe runs a hand through his sandy blonde hair.
But Andrew maintains he is a very witty and out-going kid. Even when he is not on stage, he is cracking jokes at school and with friends.
"I can goof on anything," he said.
Inspiration for his comedy comes from the news, politics and everyday life. He would like to joke about the current presidential race, but says he cannot because "things change too fast."
His favorite topic to "goof on," however, is his mom, who said she does not mind when her son makes jokes at her expense.
Like most children his age, Andrew is often busy with a number of after-school activities. He plays shortstop on two local baseball teams and is an avid Mets fan. He also likes playing outdoors with friends. But he remains committed to comedy and knows it takes a lot of practice to be good.
And since he took up comedy, Toni Vatier said she has noticed her son become more confident and skilled at public speaking.
"These kids feel the power of getting up there and making people laugh," Grossman said, adding that the comedy helps the children's writing skills as well.
Andrew thinks more children his age would jump at the chance to do comedy it is just that they do not know about it.
"I know a lot of kids that are just hilarious," he said. "If they knew about Kids 'n Comedy... it'd be perfect for them."
©2008 Community News Group
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