AKRON, Ohio – The pandemic didn’t stop the laughs.
And the lessons for life.
Northeast Ohio-based group Stand Up for Downs has turned to the internet, and Zoom in particular, to continue their comedy work to build trust and life skills for the Down syndrome community.
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The group founded by Rob Snow from Canton has existed for a few years and was founded after his own son Henry was born with Down’s syndrome.
It all started with a very personal conversation with groups and conventions, drawing on his family’s experiences, mixed with some humor that came from staying with Chicago’s famous Second City improvisation group.
These speaking appearances grew into a series of comedy shows designed to raise awareness and resources for the Down syndrome community in the Akron area.
Snow, who lives in Medina, offers improvisation courses on site for people with Down syndrome.
This continued to grow and classes sprang up across the country.
When the pandemic broke out, Snow said he wasn’t entirely sure how they would go on from there.
But the organization found an even larger audience at Zoom.
Now there are dozens of classes with students from all 50 states and Canada. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.standupfordowns.org/the-improvaneer-method.
“It’s growing like crazy,” said Snow. “This is something that has really flourished.”
It has grown to around 40 online classes per week with around 500 students.
And he explains that this is more than just learning how to tell “knock-knock jokes”.
By using humor and especially improvisational exercises, Snow says, participants can just be themselves and learn some life skills in the process.
Participants learn to be more comfortable around others and to be willing to make eye contact and hopefully find a well-paying job.
You also learn to laugh and make others laugh.
As part of this online expansion, the group is turning to YouTube to promote the brand with a new show, Yes and a Guest, which will feature Snow alongside Kent State graduate instructor Jenna Swan and senior trainer Maggie Bisesi , shown lives in Lakewood and has program alumni Audrey Costilow from Amherst and Nick Doyle from Canton.
The second episode was recently released and features comedian Colin Mochrie from Whose Line is it Anyway.
The five-minute show includes a few interview questions with the comedian and a series of improvisational exercises in which they try to empower one another with humorous results.
Snow said it was a real treat that students like Audrey and Nick could perform alongside a seasoned professional like Mochrie.
“You’ve certainly held your own,” he said. “You were super excited.”
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