AKRON, Ohio — The pandemic has not stopped the laughs.

And the life lessons.

The Northeast Ohio-based Stand Up for Downs group has turned to the internet and more specifically Zoom to continue its work of utilizing comedy to help build confidence and life skills for the Down syndrome community.

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The group founded by Canton native Rob Snow has been around for a number of years and started up after his own son Henry was born with Down syndrome.

It all began with a very personal talk to groups and conventions drawing from his family’s experiences mixed with some humor honed from a stint with Chicago’s famed Second City improv group.

These speaking gigs grew into a series of comedy shows to raise awareness and funds for the Akron-area Down syndrome community.

Snow, who lives in Medina, started offering improv classes locally for those with Down syndrome.

This continued to grow with classes springing up across the country.

When the pandemic hit, Snow said, he wasn’t exactly sure how they would continue on.

But the organization found an even bigger audience on Zoom.

So now there are dozens of classes with participants 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,” Snow said. “This is something that has really flourished.”

It has grown to some 40 online classes a week with about 500 participants.

And he explains this is more than simply learning how to tell “knock-knock jokes.”

By using humor and, more specifically, improv exercises, Snow said, it frees those in the classes to simply be themselves and learn some life skills along the way.

Those in classes learn to be more comfortable around others and be willing to make eye contact and hopefully land a well-paying job.

They also learn to laugh and make others chuckle too.

As part of this online expansion, the group is turning to YouTube to help promote the brand with a new show, “Yes and a Guest,” that features Snow along with instructor Jenna Swan, a Kent State graduate, lead trainer Maggie Bisesi, who lives in Lakewood, and program graduates Audrey Costilow of Amherst and Nick Doyle of Canton.

The second episode was just posted recently and features comedian Colin Mochrie of “Whose Line is it Anyway” fame.

The five-minute show features a few interview questions with the comedian then a series of improv exercises where they try to one-up one another with humorous results.

It was real a treat, Snow said, that students like Audrey and Nick could perform alongside a seasoned pro like Mochrie.

“They held up their own for sure,” he said. “They were super excited.”

© 2021 Akron Beacon Journal
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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