Stories of Change

Funny Girl: How Jane Stone Started Stand-Up in her 70s

Senior Planet @Avenidas member, Jane Stone, is a natural performer. While she spends her days teaching piano to adults, after work she takes center stage herself. From the time she was a kid entertaining her family around the dinner table, to later performing in theatre productions in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jane has always loved making people laugh.  So it’s only fitting that while the world is on lockdown and some of the usual outlets for creativity are closed, Jane found a new passion: stand-up comedy

 What’s it been like living life over the internet over the past few months?

Since I have been “home alone,” video-conferencing technology is a lifeline! Before the lockdown, I had never heard of Zoom. But now, if it weren’t for Zoom, I would have footprints on my walls from climbing them!

I’m using technology to continue to teach piano, stay connected, socialize, attend classes and keep learning. I think it’s great that geographical distance doesn’t matter in the “virtual” world! I’ve renewed friendships across thousands of miles and made new acquaintances. I’m thankful that Senior Planet offers so many classes and groups virtually. I especially enjoy the ongoing “Short Story Podcast Discussion” group and “Creative Creations.” I’m glad that many of my other groups and activities also meet virtually.

You also tried something very new over Zoom: stand-up! What made you interested in trying stand-up comedy?

Comedy is like a language that some people use to communicate, and I’ve realized that I’m one of those people who has always loved to use that language. From the time I was a little kid, I’ve enjoyed making my family and friends laugh.

As a teen, I was very active in my school’s excellent theatre department in Mamaroneck, NY. I also performed in plays while in college at Mount Holyoke. I’ve always loved comedic “character” roles. After college, I moved from New York to California to study Art education at Stanford University.  Later, the demands of being a single working mother required a hiatus from theatre. But when my son became a teen, I made what I call my “comeback.” I continued to study acting, improv and voice, and began performing again. I also studied film and TV production, a field in which I later worked.

I’ve been writing poetry and humor prose for a long time, and in recent years aspired to do stand-up. I “got my toes wet” at a couple of local “open mics,” then the lockdown happened.

In July, I reconnected by phone with my childhood friend, Stephen Rosenfield, the Founder-Director of American Comedy Institute in Manhattan. He invited me to participate in ACI’s stand-up comedy workshops. Since I live California, attending classes in New York would normally not have been feasible. However, since all classes now are virtual, I was able to attend online! Steve is a wonderful teacher and coach, and I am so grateful to him for his excellent mentoring!

In August, I performed my debut stand-up set at American Comedy Institute’s student showcase, live-streamed on their YouTube channel. (Normally, the showcase would be live at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City.) I’ve already participated in another ACI workshop and showcase. 

I’m so excited about this new direction in my performing career!  Stand-up gives the opportunity to share my writing, my humor, and the joy of laughter. 

What do you like to talk about in your stand-up?

In humor writing, the goal is to give people a smile; but the goal of stand-up is to get people to laugh. That’s a much higher bar! Stand-up gives me the opportunity to express my take on everything that’s going on now. My humor is mostly observational. I talk about my experiences and what it’s like to be me, a single, older woman trying to navigate through these times.

How do you think your life experience helps you as a writer and performer?

The longer you live, the more material you have! You’ve known more people and lived through more circumstances and situations that can be looked at through the lens of humor. I think that having a background in acting helps in the delivery of the material. And being musical helps, also. Having a good sense of rhythm is important in writing as well as in performing comedy.

Rhythm is important. You need to sound like everything is completely off-the-cuff while everything is actually fully planned.

Yes! I really pay a lot of attention to every word and as you said, the goal is to sound like it’s all extemporaneous, but I really do tons and tons of drafts.

I’m devoting my writing now to stand-up material. I do still participate in a poetry group every month, but right now my main focus is stand-up. There are some online open mics I’d like to find more online venues for my comedy. 

Final question: what does aging with attitude mean to you?

Everyone is aging — even children! I like to believe that at any age, we can work at making our world a better, kinder place by living with agency and confidence, continuing to grow and be active in positive life-affirming ways.  

 

Want to watch Jane’s debut stand-up set? Click here to take a look!

 

Are you a fan of stand-up? Senior Planet is hosting a member-only night of stand-up with professional comedians from around the country October 15th (watch for details).  To join us for this one of a kind evening of laughter, become a member today! Click here to join!