Comedy Classes

2014 Zanies Official Comedy Classes are forming NOW - featuring “The Maxwell Method” of Standup Comedy! (REGISTER BELOW)

Zanies is proud in 2014 to continue to offer what has grown to become THE most recognized and well respected standard bearer of complete hands on standup comedy instructional training not only in Chicago but the entire Midwest!

Do NOT be fooled by less experienced imitators - this is the ORIGINAL and still going strong since 1995 class that has helped more than 2000 satisfied students from all walks of life realize their dream of not only experiencing the fun and thrill of live standup comedy performance, but experience it in the correct way. There’s a HUGE difference, and you will quickly see why.

What are people saying who have experienced the difference?

“My first time on a comedy stage I opened for Dobie at a bowling alley in Waukesha, WI. We stayed in contact. His generous guidance and insights were invaluable and really helped lay a rock solid foundation for my career.”
Frank Caliendo – Headliner and Television Personality, Los Angeles, CA

“Dobie gave me the confidence I needed to start my stand up career and was even there years after to offer advice.  Thanks Dobie!”
Tom Clark - Headliner, Los Angeles, CA

 "Dobie helped me punch up my act for my DVD taping and helped it become a success!! Dobie is hilarious and a amazing person to boot. He's the real deal."
Grace Fraga – Headliner and Television Personality, Los Angeles, CA

“I took a one day comedy writing seminar taught by Dobie.  The writing exercises I learned there have been invaluable.  Dobie has a ton of standup comedy experience and is a consummate professional.”
Pat McGann – Headliner, television host and frequent Zanies House Emcee, Chicago, IL

I've always appreciated any word of wisdom Dobie has to offer.  I've never met anyone so kind and open to helping other comics get better and further their careers.”
Michael Palascak – Headliner, Los Angeles, CA

What is “The Maxwell Method” and why are Zanies classes the very best in the Midwest?

Dobie Maxwell began teaching comedy classes in 1993 after surviving a near fatal car wreck in his hometown of Milwaukee. He had a lengthy down time recovering from his many injuries and received a call from a local college asking him to teach a class for aspiring standup comedians.

“I told them I didn’t think it was possible to teach funny,” Maxwell says. “I thought at the time a person either had it or they didn’t, and that was it. Then they offered to pay me for my time and I knew I was going to have to put something together. I had no other way to earn a living then.”

Since that first session of classes, Maxwell has continuously reshaped and improved the course by trial and error and continues to do so to this day. “I’m very pleased with how the structure of the course has evolved” he says. “I’ve poured years of sweat and my own experience into it and I continue to grow both as a comedian and a teacher all the time. Students will NOT get cheated!”

“I am a nationally touring WORKING standup comedy headliner, and I’ve been able to make a living at comedy all of my adult life.” Maxwell says. “That’s one of the most difficult things any entertainer can achieve, and I’ve more than paid my dues along the way. My mistakes are many, but they also make me qualified to teach those coming up the ladder what the real world is like.”

Dobie became the first and only teacher of Zanies Comedy Classes in 1995, and has been very selective of others he allows to teach. “I want Zanies classes to be the best there are anywhere. If they have my name on them, I take it very personally. I want all the students to get far more than they pay for each and every session of each and every level. All may not agree with me - at least at first - but in the end nobody can say I don’t have passion. I pour my soul into all my classes.”

Bill Gorgo has been in charge of teaching Level 1 classes for several years, and he has earned Dobie’s full endorsement. “Bill is an outstanding comedian in his own right and has been a real teacher on the high school level for decades. Students are in great hands with Bill, and he’s one of the few comedians I know who are as passionate about helping new talent develop as I am.”

What are people saying about Bill Gorgo?

“I will not only use what Bill taught me in future standup but also in many other paralleling artistic endeavors.   I thank you very much for that.  I also just want to tell you how refreshing it is to go through a comedy program in this town and not feel like you've just been taken advantage of for a year.”
Darren C. – Chicago

“Bill has a laid back teaching style, but totally knows what he’s talking about. I am a musician by trade, and saw after the first lesson how many similarities there are both onstage and off between music and standup comedy. I had a great time in class, but learned a lot as well.”
Joe N. – Chicago

“I am a single mom and have always loved standup comedy. I wanted to treat myself to a class but was afraid of it being a ‘boys club’. Bill made it comfortable for me and also the four other women in our class. It was a life changing experience, and I’m SO glad I did it. Thanks Bill!”
Elizabeth S. – Barrington, IL

There have also been a distinguished list of guest speakers through the years who show up as their schedules allow including Gideon Bailey, Michael Issac and $100,000 Star Search Champ John Roy. Dobie and Bill both strive to offer different viewpoints from working professionals.

What do classes entail in 2014?

Comedy is a completely different business in a completely different world than it was in 1995, and Zanies classes are always evolving and improving to stay with the times. Dobie and Bill are markedly different in their comedy and teaching styles, but both agree that there are fundamental ingredients of what it takes to build a foundation upon which a career in comedy can be built and those basic ingredients will remain constant forever. Every field of endeavor has a basic skill set.

Dobie and Bill have broken their combined FIFTY PLUS YEARS of hard earned practical experience down to three basic but information packed levels designed to help the beginner focus on several aspects of what he or she will need to master as a performer in the 21st Century.

The game is not the same as it once was, and those entering without help can find it to be both overwhelming and intimidating. There is a LOT more to it than ‘just being funny’ and classes are structured as such. They are designed to be fun, interactive but also in the proper order to insure anyone who might want to take it farther and attempt a career will have laid a solid foundation to do so in today’s scene. There is no getting around that hard work is involved, but what worthy pursuit isn’t?

Level 1 - Basic Training" Your First Five Minutes

Location Dates Cost Register Online
Chicago SUNDAYS @ 3 p.m.: Sept. 14, 21, 28 + Oct. 5 $250.00
Purchase Tickets

This is a four week introductory series of classes designed to equip students with an overview of what standup comedy is – and what it isn’t. It is NOT improvisation. It is NOT acting. It is NOT anything other than what Zanies has been known for in Chicago since 1978 – standup comedy.

Standup comedy is a distinct CRAFT, and is treated as such by all instructors. Improvisation and acting are also crafts, but they are different. Some aspects may be similar, but standup comedy is its own entity and that needs to be established up front. This level will present a solid base for growth – even for those who have dabbled in any aspect of performing before. It’s basic training.

Level 1 classes are designed for anyone from the total novice who has never stepped on a stage before to those who have been working up to one year and/or 100 times on stage. Bill Gorgo is a master at breaking down the beginning fundamentals in an easy to follow and interesting way.

This session provides decades of hard earned knowledge broken down and concentrated into an easy to digest format, and features safe but personal critique of your material in front of the class on the final session. More growth will take place in these four sessions than in four years of blind wandering at open mics and amateur nights. You will gain a whole new insight into everything that goes into being a standup comedy performer, and have a distinct head start over anyone else.

Some but not all of the topics covered in Level 1 classes include:
- A standup comedy overview of the craft and business from the boom years of the ‘70s and ‘80s until today, and where you might fit in.
- Joke writing and what it takes to get good at it the fastest.
-How to develop an effective stage character.
-Proper stage technique and how to look and act like a professional entertainer onstage and off.
-How to handle hecklers and WIN every time.
-Conquering stage fright.

Classes will focus on preparing you for your first year in comedy, and/or how to use what you’ve learned in any other walk of life you may so choose. Many of our Level 1 students use this class to punch up their lives in other ways.

“Dobie Maxwell taught me more than just standup comedy. As a high school science teacher, I use many of his lessons on a daily basis. My ability to connect with my students through CLEAN humor is invaluable. In many ways, I do five shows a day, five days a week, and I am eternally thankful for the lessons I received from Dobie at the Zanies class.”
Steve S. – Geneva, IL

“I run an advertising portfolio school. Standup comedy is a lot like advertising; they both use insights, they both require good writing, they both are (supposed to be) fun and funny. In 10 lessons, Dobie did a great job helping our students craft a 5 minute standup routine worthy of any professional comedian.”
Jeffrey E. – Chicago

“Dobie encouraged me to believe in myself as a humorist and comedian. His direct, often funny and insightful advice made me a better professional speaker and humor columnist.”
Deb D. – Naperville, IL

**Registration can be done online by clicking the On Sale link above, or you may call the Zanies Chicago box office and register via phone.

**Cash, Check, Credit Card, or Money Order is accepted as form of payment.

**Name, phone number and valid email address required to register.

**Deadline for signing up for any class is the Friday before the first class.

**Classes will have no less then 5 students, no more the 10.

**If you wish to cancel your enrollment you must do so prior to the start of the second class of the session. No refunds will be offered after that.

Level 2 - Building Your Rock Solid Foundation

Class Location Dates Cost Register Online
Chicago To Be Announced $250.00
Purchase Tickets

Level 2 is a more in depth continuation of Level 1, with many of the same ideas and concepts being stressed on a deeper level. There’s no way one four week session will plant fundamentals that will last a lifetime without having them nurtured and developed.

The goal of this four week session is to build upon the five minute routine that was built in Level 1, and to strengthen and polish it to get consistent laughs in front of real audiences. The craft of standup comedy requires the performer to work and rework material so it flows smoothly and can garner consistent laughs performance after performance. Is it easy? NO. Is it rewarding when it works? ABSOLUTELY!

This is an invaluable opportunity to get accurate and unbiased feedback from professional eyes that have the experience of a lifetime to correctly critique each student’s performance. That alone will save YEARS of aimless wandering, and provide guidance and direction to develop faster.

“Dobie's class was the first step I took in fulfilling my dream of being a working comic, something I never thought I could do.  I learned the importance of not only having a strong stage presence, but in constructing a character that audiences would enjoy.  Dobie also refuses to sugarcoat the business and emphasizes how hard you have to work to be a successful comic.  Also, before the class I had no idea how to structure my ideas or observations in a way to make people laugh.  Through the class, not only was I able to learn the importance of set ups and punch-lines, but how to effectively use them.”
Scott King – Chicago

“I had taken comedy classes before, but none of them offered what Dobie Maxwell had developed. Dobie's method of joke writing is easy to understand and systematic in creating new ideas. Dobie's experience and input was well worth the price of admission. Most stand-up comedians learn their trade by trial and error. Dobie was able to critique my material and take me past the trial and error period most comedians’ experience. Most beneficial of all was Dobie's passion for the art of comedy.”
Eric H. – Palatine, IL

“Dobie and Bill are real working comics who give you a great start on learning how to be one.  If you work hard you will come out with your first five minutes and will be on your way.”
George H. – Schaumburg, IL

"Stand-up comedy is the purest form of communication. A standup comedian knows INSTANTLY whether he or she is communicating or not and Dobie Maxwell understands - REALLY understands through years of study and hard work on the road - how people communicate. I am a working actor and Dobie's class showed me how comedy works and that has translated to better auditions and more work. As a teacher he is in a class by himself."
George T. – Orland Park, IL

“I have always been interested in stand-up comedy and had tried my hand at it several times over the years, always with disasterous results. I took Dobie's Comedy Class and that made all the difference. I was able to confidently perform stand-up and became a regular in the Chicago comedy scene. Another bonus to Dobie's comedy training is all the contacts that you make in the comedy world. I still see performers today that I met at one of Dobie's classes.”
Karl N. – Waukegan, IL 

Level 3 - Intermediate Standup Comedy

Class Location Dates Cost Register Online
Chicago To Be Announced $400.00

Level 3 is an intense six week course designed to help those who have been performing regularly from one to five years. Some of the same topics will be covered as in the Level 1 and 2 courses, but in a much deeper and more personal level.

It’s the equivalent of teaching a class of grade school students HOW to write in first grade vs. WHAT to write later on. The initial beginner’s process tends to be unpleasant and repetitious, but is necessary for everyone to go through to attain ‘chops’. Level 3 builds upon previous training and opens creative doors that haven’t been explored. It’s exciting, and very inspiring to see the true creative gifts a given student possesses begin to manifest and take root. This is where it begins to happen, but it’s done in an environment of encouragement and safety.

Remember learning how to drive a car? The first few lessons can be overwhelming with a lot of confusing details, but eventually it becomes a process not even thought about. This is a very similar situation, and Level 3 will be able to help someone who is putting an act together do it not only faster than they would on their own but with a proper plan in place to produce the best results in the long run. Six weeks are needed because there are a lot more skills to focus on.

The goal of Level 3 is for each student to have a ‘high five’, or their very best five minutes of material to begin taking their comedy experience to a higher level. Five minute segments are the correct way to build one’s career, as that’s how long most showcases are from open mic nights to national television appearances. Too many aspiring performers make a mistake by thinking they have or have a need for “hours of material.” It’s SO wrong. Let’s find a funny five minutes first.

There are many subtleties to developing a ‘high five’, and one thing Dobie and Bill can provide that few others anywhere can match is an experienced eye for critique from a place of having put in the time in front of thousands of audiences. What they tell you comes from a rare place that no newbie can access by any other method than earning it. This is why Zanies classes are the best in Chicago. Experience like that just can’t be faked. It’s like aged cheese or Scotch. Older IS better.

At the end of Level 3 classes, a student can expect a personalized battle plan of how to proceed and make the most effective use of every single time on stage. Quality stage time is much harder to get than any time in history, and that’s the only true way for any performer to grow. Still, that doesn’t mean taking a quality class can’t help. It can prepare you to make the best use of the time you get, and that will allow you to grow at the absolute fastest rate possible. It’s a combination.

Also covered in Level 3 are more in depth writing exercises, more detailed performance tips and several weeks of hands on critique on an actual Zanies stage performing in front of classmates. It helps those listening to become better observers of comedians and those on stage get to grow but not have to do it alone at some open mic without encouraging but needed critiques. It’s win/win.

Level 4 - Advanced Standup Comedy

Class Location Dates Cost Register Online
Chicago To Be Announced $400.00

Level 4 classes are aimed at the student who aspires to make performing a career. It’s for the experienced performer who is either thinking about or already making a living and wants to take themselves to a higher level in several areas. Again, fundamentals will still be stressed as always but there will be a more personal approach to meet individual needs to make comedy a career.

This will also be a six week course, and delve still more in depth into all aspects of comedy both onstage and off.  You’ll learn how to present yourself like a professional to bookers you’re working for and how to get in with those you aren’t. Subtleties and hard lessons learned will be broken down to analyze, so Dobie’s lifetime of making mistakes isn’t in vein. It’s much better to learn from someone ELSE’S mistakes, and that’s what you’ll be able to do without consequence.

Also covered in Level 4 is self promotion, using social media, merchandising tips and when to know when “you’re ready” for the next step on the entertainment ladder. You’ll again leave class with a personal battle plan custom made for you with a list of steps to take to achieve your goals in a realistic manor. You’ll make valuable personal contacts both in Chicago and all over North America, and have the ear of two nationally touring working headliners to go to for advice along your journey. That’s a luxury many performers don’t have, and that alone is worth the price.

You can expect to be pushed to your limits, but in a positive way. Dobie and Bill and all of the other guest speakers and instructors have been through the wars. Nothing you are told in a Zanies class hasn’t been experienced by the instructor, and you will be able to gain access to knowledge it has taken any one of them years if not decades to learn. It’s like getting a peek at  an opposing team’s play book in football. What you do with it is up to you, but chances are it will be useful.

Another aspect of Zanies classes that is stressed is FUN. Quite honestly, most who take a class will never pursue comedy as a full time vocation and that’s totally fine. Most students just want a chance to be with other funny people and try it out. We’re fully aware of that, and if that is your reason for attending you will be welcomed for who you are. We make class something for all the students to look forward to, and it is our desire for you to consider it the highlight of your week.

Still not convinced?

“Dobie is a great teacher. He has a servant’s heart and does more than is expected in every way. He is honest – which is critical with this craft. There is no room to be a “yes man” here.   He draws from years of experiences in the industry and being in his class was a positive and beneficial experience. Dobie is more than a teacher, he is a friend. He really likes people and wants them to succeed. He doesn’t “keep/hide” the good stuff for himself – he gladly shares as much as he can. That’s REALLY rare.” 
Rocky R. – Naperville, IL

Dobie Maxwell is a first rate teacher and a world class comedian.  I have enjoyed taking classes with Dobie for several years.  He showed me how to find my identity on stage and how to craft jokes into routines.  There are many options for comedy instruction out there, but Dobie Maxwell offers a practical personal approach to mastering the nuts and bolts of standup comedy.”
Phil G. – Actor and Television Reporter – Tucson, AZ

“Dobie offered me encouragement without lacing it with false hope.  As a result of following his advice, I am now earning money writing for professional comedians.  Plus, he's just a nice guy and a really fun friend to have in my corner.  However, he would not be my first choice as a chauffeur.”
Nancy Jo P. – Los Angeles, CA

“Dobie’s class was tons of fun! It’s great for anyone who wants to do stand-up or just feel more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. He encourages his students to work smart and clean. I’ve taken Dobie’s class twice and will occasionally drop in and observe when I need to get refocused. Whenever I perform with other comics it’s easy to tell the ones who have taken Dobie’s class. I am a Dobie Disciple.”
Tony T. – Tinley Park, IL

“I am an immigrant from Instanbul, Turkey. I took a class at Zanies with Dobie when I could barely speak English. Over time Dobie helped me a lot both in comedy and life. I will NEVER forget his kindness. He is a great teacher and my good friend. I found out I was funny, and I love comedy more every day.”
Tacettin A. – Chicago

"I am a seasoned performer and took Dobie’s class to refine my stand up comedy technique.  Right off the bat, I felt welcomed and supported.  In class, we were presented with a number of approaches to generate material, and then structure it for presentation on stage.  This allowed everyone to find a method that worked for them, in essence tailoring the class to meet the individual needs of the students.  Comedy is an art, having as many viewpoints as there are people to present them.  I was deeply impressed with Dobie’s ability to encourage and nurture students with his own special brand of enthusiasm.  I would recommend this class to anyone looking to create a solid foundation. Anyone can benefit from taking this class, be it a modest creative exploration, or the beginning of a career in comedy.”
Tamale S. - Chicago

“Dobie Maxwell is one of the finest and funniest human beings I've had the pleasure to know.   He is also the best teacher I've ever had and taking his comedy class was the best decision I ever made.  I've learned more about comedy, writing and how to look at life from Dobie than from all my years of school combined, college, law school, everything.   If you're fortunate, you meet a handful of people in life about whom you can say, "He changed my life permanently and for the better."  Dobie is one of those rare people for me.  All this and he's a great friend, too.”
Teme R. – Rogers Park, IL

About the instructor - Bill Gorgo:

Bill Gorgo is a twenty plus year veteran of the standup comedy scene in addition to being a credited high school teacher. He has performed across North America and taught comedy at Columbia College in Chicago.

Bill's laid back style onstage and off and his continuing study of the comedy business makes him an extremely qualified authority on the subject of standup comedy.

His teaching skills are polished, as is his knowledge of all aspects of comedy, onstage and off. Bill's passion for the entertainment business shines through in each class. His students love him!

About the instructor - Dobie Maxwell:

Dobie is considered to be one of the best to train anyone in standup comedy. His former students and the Chicago Tribune agree.

Dobie has taught one day seminars from Marquette University in Milwaukee to Laffs Comedy Café in Tucson, AZ to Uncle Funny’s Comedy Club in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and several corporate sales meetings across North America.

He has also taught at and been asked to return to the prestigious Round Table Convention in Hollywood in which comedy writers from all over North America gather to learn all facets of the comedy business. That convention was started by Gene Perret, who was Bob Hope's head writer for many years and a writer and producer for The Carol Burnett Show and many other successful projects.

“Meeting and working with Dobie was a major highlight of 19 years of running our annual comedy convention. His passion jumps out immediately, but his deep knowledge of what he’s talking about and his unique ability to teach it to others was a joy to watch year after year.”
Gene Perret

As Dobie teaches in his classes and seminars, "Other people's pain is HILARIOUS. When it's yours, it might feel bad to you but you're making others laugh, whether they admit it or not." It's cruel, but it's a fact. Well, Dobie Maxwell can make you laugh. If not, he can teach you to find your own sense of humor and try to make others laugh. It's not as easy as it looks, and he has saved you many years of time having to go through the grueling trials and turmoils he has gone through. Think you're having a rough day? Think of "Mr. Lucky" and it should put a smile on your puss. That's the whole idea of a comedian anyway. Dobie doesn't mind.

Learn from the master of mistakes, and avoid his pitfalls, and learn from his achievements.

Dobie has written several articles on getting started in the standup comedy game, and offers them to you FREE OF CHARGE whether you take the Zanies class or not. He also has a monthly newsletter with new articles designed to offer insight to new performers in this crowded and confusing time. Write to him and request any or all of the following:


“There’s just NO substitute for experience,” he says. “If you’re going to take a class, spend your money wisely. Why give money to someone who has never DONE it? We offer a 100% money back guarantee. You don’t need to go anywhere else. We’ve been here since 1995 for a reason.”


Any further questions can be directed to Dobie Maxwell at or Bill Gorgo at Hope to see you in class! This will be our best year ever, and we guarantee you’ll get FAR more than you ever imagined. All the best in your pursuit of standup comedy, as the world needs laughter more now than ever before. Why not YOU to provide it?