Merlin Works Teacher Spotlight: Courtney Hopkin

Our newest interview is with our newest teacher, Courtney Hopkin, who will be teaching the new Sketch Comedy 101 class at Merlin Works starting Saturday July 23rd. I got to know Courtney years ago when she was a student in my class, looking to study improv to boost her sketch comedy career. But then she got sucked into the improv vortex (mwahaha!) and I’ve gotten to play with her in Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica and now in Totally Improvised, 90210.  Throughout the years I’ve enjoyed Courtney’s scripted performances too, first in The Ratgirls, later in Your Terrific Neighbors and right now onstage in 69 Love Scenes. I’ve also benefitted from many of Courtney’s behind the scenes talents: set painting, graphic design, choreography, video work and costume design. So I was really excited when Courtney approached me with the idea of teaching a sketch comedy class at Merlin Works, one that would help men and women find their comedy voice. I mean, what can’t this woman do?! Read this interview to learn more about Courtney and her sketch comedy background. And register now for Sketch Comedy 101


When and how did you get in to sketch comedy?

When given the option for a project in class in high school, I always picked the video project because I could make little sketches. I’d edit the pieces together using two VCRs since editing software or equipment wasn’t really a feasible thing for a normal person to own at that point. I did this throughout all my school years and then gradually grew into making sketches on my own for no reason at all.


When did you know you were bitten by the bug? 

I spent a weekend at a journalism workshop at Southwest Texas (now Texas State) while I was in high school. We stayed in the dorms which meant we stayed up all night. We all sat in the lobby together and watched a “The State” marathon. I’d always loved sketch but watching hours and hours of sketch comedy all night made me fall completely in love.

What do you love about sketch comedy?

The efficiency of storytelling and the challenges. How can I tell this story in the best and fastest way possible so it will deliver the most punch?  How can I get through exposition in a funny and fast way? How can I quickly get to the game of this scene? Solving all these problems is the fun of writing.

What are some highlights of your performance experience?

Joining Your Terrific Neighbors has been a dream come true. I already admired Joel and Curtis but I never could have dreamed up a better situation. They always have my back. I always have theirs. I’m never onstage worried about what’s going to happen if something goes wrong. We have a relationship of complete trust.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I want to stress that every idea is a good idea. I like to start a class with a round of spontaneous ideas from everyone and after each idea everyone in the class yells “YES!” It sets a tone of acceptance for the duration of the class.


What advice would you give a new comedian?

Don’t worry about being funny. Just get stuff done. Write as much as you can get used to writing, learn what you like to write and then you can start worrying about what’s funny and what’s not.

What’s something you are passionate about that has nothing to do with improv?

I’m recycling/reusing/reducing freak. I recycle absolutely everything possible, I compost, I take preventative measures to reduce waste. I have a son and I want to try to make sure he has a place to live when he grows up and everything’s not just covered by trash.

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About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
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