Developing Your Comedic Voice: 5-Week Workshop with Zahra Noorbakhsh

Demystify inclusive comedy and gain techniques for funny, unforgettable prose with guidance from an award-winning comedian, playwright, and viral essayist
Registration for this course is closed.
Email us to add yourself to the waiting list for our next offering.

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June 9–July 14, 2022*
Thursdays, 7-9pm EST (4-6pm PST)
*No class on June 30th

“Funny is funny” is the greatest myth ever written about comedy. All of us have a sense of humour that is specific to a context. The real question is, “Is your audience in on the joke?” How do we craft comedic set-up, pacing, and timing that creates genuine laugh-out-loud moments, every time? How do we walk the line between comedy and drama? How do we build and manipulate tension without alienating our reader or bogging them down in exposition?  

Over the course, students will write short, humorous essays and learn how to build on funny gems for an authentic and unique comedic voice with award-winning comedian and essayist Zahra Noorbakhsh. (More details below)

Zahra’s workshop has been a great normalizer when everything else is so chaotic. It’s also been awesome just inspiring more story ideas. I’ve learned so much from her expertise. I started enjoying comedy again.

– Wayman Barnes, Flash Comedy Writing

Over the course, students will write multiple 900-1500 word essays. They’ll have a gap week in late June to select and edit a final essay and will continue polishing it with lessons learned from class. Submitted assignments will receive feedback from the instructor. The final essays will also receive line edits. Students will gain a workshopping methodology for instructor-facilitated group feedback.

  • Understand what makes inclusive comedy, or comedy that punches up.
  • Receive tailored feedback for your work and skill level.
  • Develop an essay writing process for fast turnaround, from idea to draft.
  • Write on multiple essay topics and edit one final polished piece.
  • Identify potential outlets for your essay topics and voice.
  • Cultivate approaches to the revision process that prioritize self-care.
  • Gain a workshop methodology and language for group notes as well as solo edits.
  • All students will leave with the fundamentals and guidance to master the laugh.


Suitable for writers at all levels. You may enter the course with a piece to workshop or you may develop your piece over the course of the class. If you’re unsure whether this course is for you, ask us at


Thursdays, 7–9pm EST (4–6pm Pacific)
June 9–July 14, 2022 (No class June 30th)

  • Class 1 (Jun 9): Introduction 
  • Class 2 (Jun 16): Generating Tension 
  • Class 3 (Jun 23): Slapstick Prose
  • GAP WEEK (no class June 30): In this gap week, students will revise final essays and send in their drafts.
  • Class 4 (Jul 7): Character Game & Story Tropes 
  • Class 5 (Jul 14): Pitching, Review & In-Class Readings (friends and family invited!)

I’m a faster and more confident writer thanks to Zahra’s hacks. Definitely would recommend this class to anyone looking to sharpen their skills.

Marcia Aguilar, Flash Comedy Writing

After checkout, you’ll receive a receipt with a link to download your syllabus, which will include Zoom passcodes, pre-class homework, and additional course information. You will also receive an emailed reminder a few days before your first class.


This course is intended for committed students. Feedback is tailored to the student. No prior experience writing or performing comedy is required. You may enter the course with a piece to workshop or you may develop your piece over the course of the class.

Please be on time, meet your deadlines, and read other classmates’ pieces to workshop together.

In addition to attending each class, you are expected to be available across all dates to complete your writing assignments. If your work is more than 48 hours late, however, you may or may not get feedback.

The course is intended for live participation, however, if you can’t be present for a class, or must leave early, a recording will be provided in the student folder the morning after.

Students are expected to be present and intellectually curious during class time. Please be ready to participate with working cameras and audio. If you’re ever stuck or may need accommodation, please reach out to your instructor or TA. Remember that instructors are people and cannot know what we don’t tell them.


Pandemic University is committed to offering a fulfilling and inclusive education. Classes are held via Zoom with Closed Captioning features enabled through auto-transcription technology. A teaching assistant will be present to correct transcription mistakes and assist in other ways. The course includes workshops and class discussions, thus students are required to participate through audio; accommodations can be made for people with speaking or other disabilities if they inform us ahead of schedule. Video is encouraged of all students in order to optimize everyone’s virtual classroom experience.


Space is limited to 20 students. Anyone wishing to cancel their registration has until June 1, 2022 to receive a guaranteed refund. If you cancel between June 1 and 8, 2022 we will only offer a refund if and after the vacated spot is filled. No refunds whatsoever will be offered after the course begins on June 9, 2022. Violations of the Code of Conduct may result in your removal from the course without compensation.


Although PanU is technically a fake university, we’re committed to high standards of artistic integrity, quality education, and maintaining a safe virtual environment for students. Abusive behaviour toward classmates or instructors will not be tolerated at any point during the course, including in private messages, and will result in expulsion without refund.

Other violations that could have you expelled from this course include: refusing to participate in group workshops; plagiarism and misrepresentation of others’ ideas as your own; racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia either in your notes (written or spoken) or in your work; sharing recordings of classes; sharing classmates’ work without their consent.

The final say on whether or not you continue in class belongs to the instructor alone. If you have any questions, email

I appreciate the safe space Zahra provides and the opportunity to take this fun, creative journey with such great classmates too. I now write faster, perform better, have less fear of making mistakes, and feel more empowered to unleash positive creativity on the world.

– David H Wall

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