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Thursday, June 11, 1998 Published at 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK


Have you heard the one about ..?

Would Frankie Howerd have benefited from a diploma in comedy?

There were these four students, right. For their final exam they had to make people laugh. In a pub. In Salford. No really.

Four undergradutes at the University of Salford are taking their final exam in a diploma course in stand-up comedy, with the Pint Pot pub in Salford, near Manchester, taking the place of the exam hall.

In front of a public audience, the four trainee comedians will perform routines that they have written and prepared themselves, with three lecturers from the university attending the show to assess the quality of their comedy.

Lloyd Peters, co-ordinator of the comedy course, said that there will be specific criteria by which the candidates will be marked, including timing, originality of script, facial and slapstick skills and how well they handle hecklers.

The students, who will be in the unusual position of being able to have a few drinks before their final exam, are taking stand-up comedy as a module in a wider Media and Performance Higher National Diploma course.

Among the areas of comedy taught at the university are how to tell a joke, improvisation, dress sense and microphone technique.

"The aim of the course is to produce comedians by giving students the confidence to write their own material and deliver it before packed drunken audiences," said Mr Peters.

Students' comedy skills will be graded on a scale of fail, pass, merit and distinction.

As a course assessor, Mr Peters will not divulge his own evaluation of what constitutes a joke of distinction until after his students' exam. BBC News online hopes to bring you some examples of officially-approved humour just as soon as the cheers have died away (it says here).

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