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Beginner stand-up comedians bring laughter in graduation show

Jeffrey Paul Jurgens (far left) awards all graduating stand-up performers a “diploma” for their participation in the class on Tuesday, Oct. 10. 2023. (Jimena Romero/WUFT News)
Jeffrey Paul Jurgens (far left) awards all graduating stand-up performers a “diploma” for their participation in the class on Tuesday, Oct. 10. 2023. (Jimena Romero/WUFT News)

What do a Canadian, a pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse, a redhead, a customer support representative, a mom of two teenagers and an administrative specialist all have in common?

They all performed stand-up comedy Tuesday night at the High Dive, most of them for the first time. Their performance represented the culmination of the eight-week class that five out of the six performers took at the Gainesville Improv Guild (GIG).

Administrative specialist Luke Gordon, 29, had been wanting to try stand-up comedy for quite some time.

“At the beginning of this, I told my friend Justin that I wanted to work clean; Nate Bargatze, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, they are some of my favorite comedians, and I want to be like them someday,” Gordon said at the beginning of his act. “But that day is not today.”

The sixth grader in him came out as soon as he started writing his piece, he said. He first joined the guild in March by attending the improv sessions held every Tuesday. At a performance in the summer, he found out about the stand-up comedy class and decided to enroll.

“(Luke’s performance) caught me off guard just because it was a little raunchy. And I found that to be a nice change of pace from things,” attendee Marshall Nickel, 33, said. “I really liked it.”

While Gordon’s approach to stand-up comedy was very joke-based, other performers took an anecdotal route.

Robin Thompson started his act by confessing he is an immigrant from Canada.

“Canada is a large country north of the U.S., and  Alberta is a province in that country that shares a border with Montana,” Thompson joked. “Montana is a state in your country.”

Thompson had joined the class because he wanted to learn how to write comedy. He didn’t know, however, that he would have to perform on stage. His wife, Tina Dietz, had taken the class in 2019 and took it again with him this time around.

“I wouldn't have done it without her,” Thompson said. “It's a good couples thing to do.” He said that sharing this experience with his wife allowed them to get out of the routine.

Being the second time Dietz took the class, she found a change in her work.

“I do feel that there's a difference in the material that I created the first time and the material that I created now,” she said.  Dietz said she’s experienced personal growth and that “repetition really does make a difference when you're working with an art form like comedy.”

In her piece, Dietz unpacked what it is like being a woman in her 40s having two teenagers.

“My family always says that I came out of the womb believing that any flat surface was a stage,” Dietz said. “And I just always have enjoyed entertaining people and this group experience.”

Trent Brown, 22, a customer support representative, had been wanting to do stand-up comedy since he was 10 years old.

 “Just having the opportunity now to finally pursue it was like golden to me,” Brown said.

Brown’s piece focused on dreams he had in the past. He included impressions of Steve Harvey and Shaggy Rogers from “Scooby-Doo.”

“I enjoyed the fact that it was a bunch of different people telling their unique view on life. It was just a different flavor every time,” Zach Rose, attendee and former comedy class student, said.

Justin Dennison started his monologue telling the audience about how he was bullied in his childhood for being a redhead. Like Gordon, he also got introduced to the stand-up comedy class through his participation in improv.

“It is not something that I'd ever thought to do. I usually just told stories on the spot about my experiences,” Dennison said. “I also recognize making them comedic was a coping mechanism. Really thinking about all the actions and specifically about what I say has helped me refine my comedic voice.” 

Allie Owen, a pediatric ICU nurse, didn’t take the stand-up class but was invited to cover the spot of another student who had to drop out at the last minute. She has been doing stand-up comedy for over a year having performed at other venues in Gainesville such as Vecinos.

“Sometimes it is a little tough the stuff that we see in the hospital. So, one of the ways that I found to cope was writing,” Owen said. “I had been writing jokes for a while, so I wanted to test it out and have found multiple opportunities in the area to do stand up.”

Jeffrey Paul Jurgens is the director of the guild and has been hosting the stand-up comedy classes for nine years now, twice or three times per year.

“It's always very interesting to see how everybody approaches their comedy,” Jurgens said. “A lot of people are sharing very personal things; a lot of the comedy that comes out of this class is from variances in life.”

He teaches his students to write about their life and perspective on the things that surround them to produce their stand-up monologue.

The requirements to take the class are to pay $150, be 18 years or older and want to perform comedy. 

At the end of the performance Jurgens awarded each performer with their ‘diploma’ symbolizing the graduation of the class.

Jimena is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing