When Teachers Do Stand-Up

Right over your heads, that one. Whew! I’m glad no one was decapitated. I know every standup thinks their material is hilarious, but the fact is that I am not just your garden-variety struggling comic at age 61, I am also a retired teacher. That’s cred, as you kids call it. I’m trying to teach you people, by telling clever, ironic, well-crafted jokes with a story arc that leads to a punch line. I don’t want you to just laugh, I want you to think.  I’m trying to be entertaining, yes, but it’s ultimately about finding the truth. 

No, my material is just fine, thank you. The problem is your lack of cultural knowledge and/or intellectual curiosity. No one got my allusion to Beowulf in that last bit? My comparison of Grendel, a beast so terrifying that every person on earth was afraid of him, to top members of the Trump administration? It’s rooted in a literary reference to an epic poem known as “Beowulf” that is far more bizarre and violent than any modern tale of despotism.

So no one reads Beowulf anymore, because you’re so busy texting your genitals to each other. But okay—and you all could learn something from this—when I saw that my lesson plan was not connecting, I was prepared with a back-up. I shifted seamlessly to a more modern cultural reference, Ma Barker. A mother of four who coordinated vicious crimes for her children to commit? In this case I made an adroit parallel between the parenting styles of  Donald Trump and Ma Barker. And I completed the arc by equating the coal miners who supported Trump to the Barkers’ murder victims. And because I knew there was no point in pursuing Beowulf further, I didn’t make a connection between Ma Barker and Grendel’s mother, who was an even more vicious beast than Grendel. It would have been very, very clever.

But I guess following that thread to the point of laughter is impossible for you because a historical allusion can’t be older than ten seconds with your generation, huh?  Haven’t we heard enough lame Trump jokes here tonight? Yes, he’s orange and fat. But I doubt any of you would even know that much about him if he hadn’t been a reality TV star first. That’s all you know: Who indeed are The Real Housewives of East Trenton going to gang slap this weekend?

No, I am not sitting down. I never let my classes go early. I paid my five dollar cover and so did you and you can waste your own money by not paying attention but there are some people who are actually here to learn. I didn’t want to use my time on review instead of exploring  new material, but—Don’t use that tone with me. Your options are you can laugh or not laugh, but you may NOT interrupt me. If you’re bored, then drop the course. There’s the door. Oh yeah? Well, F you too. I don’t allow language like that in my classroom, but F yourself right back, and get a thesaurus while you’re at it. That’s another thing about you young comedians, you think you invented profanity. You think you’re pushing boundaries and being subversive by saying the C-word fifteen times in reference to your girlfriends or mothers.

Oh, ha ha, yes, there is going to be a quiz after. Talk about original. But I’ll bet that not one of you could write a short, clear, concise passage about the themes I’ve covered tonight. You wouldn’t get so much as a D because, even though I led you through the steps of the jokes and then decisively executed the punch lines, you still didn’t meet the objectives. Makes me wonder: Didn’t anyone before me teach you how to concentrate?  It’s a skill you will need in every aspect of your lives.

Yeah, I know I’m getting the light. Interrupted by the bell. Seems like the management is suddenly concerned with punctuality. Not in any hurry to put out the sign-up sheet, were they, before they took our money and then pulled our names out of a hat so we could stand on this patch of floor they’re calling a stage?

Oh, bald, very good. Keen powers of observation you have. Your brain is going bald. Try putting in two hours of homework for every five minutes of stage time, like I do. Good night. You’ve been a very weak audience. Yeah, don’t quit your day job either. And don’t come looking to me for a recommendation, ‘cause if you think you’re not going to need work someday when this doesn’t work out…