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Stand-Up Educator

October 29, 2010

Walking home from a cafe on Gulf Rd., I stopped by “The DVD store” this whole-in-the-wall place that sells, yes, DVDs…but more importantly they sell bootleg DVDs for 1 Kuwaiti Dinar each (roughly $3.50).  A decent collection, too.  So…I walked out with five movies.  Since I have to watch or listen to something whenever I cook dinner, I brought my laptop into the kitchen, started chopping vegetables and frying up a New Zealand steak, and began watching a movie called I am Comic — a documentary about the lives of stand-up comedians across the nation.  Afterwards, I laid out my shirt and tie for the next morning, crawled into bed, and wrote this in my notebook.

Oh, how about that movie I am Comic?  Talk about a road I’d love to go down if…well, if a lot of things were different.  I was so engulfed in the film, unlike any I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s like music – stand-up comedy…It’s like performing music in that you don’t have to be good-looking, athletic, or come from a wealthy background, or have serious connections or whatever.  You just need to have enough talent and drive to where these two things can continually play off of one another.  Like they’re constantly pushing one another…(like opposite ends of a slinky?)  The drive allows you to increase your talent, and the success from being talented encourages the drive…generally.  Like two runners in a long-distance race, their times being so much better because they’re able to push the other.

I’ve always had a HUGE admiration for people that were articulate and could speak well in front of crowds, explaining things in such a way that if it were explained by someone else just wouldn’t be as interesting.  Maybe that’s why I enjoy teaching so much…I’m constantly thinking about my articulation, the tone of my voice…the ups, the downs, the speed-ups, the slow-downs, along with my body movements.  As my principal said while I was student teaching, “These kids are always engaged in something, but I’d rather have you decide what they’re engaged in.”  Thus, the tricks, mannerisms, and phrases, of captivating 24 7 year-olds are never-to-be underestimated.

Well…this whole engagement thing is similar to being a stand-up comedian (I think it is, anyway).  Whether you’re performing at an open-mic night or teaching a reading lesson to 2nd graders, the process can be broken down into two things: (1) “material” and (2) delivery (or execution or “stage personality”).  The material are your jokes or you’re teaching objectives…  When you can embed these two things into some figurative shining object that people can’t help but pay attention to, then something you’re on the right track.

Sometimes the content/material doesn’t need an overbearing delivery.  If the content is “meaty”, you may not need to “sell your performance”…if the content is weaker, you may need to bulk it up with some hooky performance to keep the audience engaged.  (These are just thoughts, everyone…nothing more.)

I’m interested in this connection of stand-up comedy and education for the simple fact that I enjoy making people laugh.  Despite the fact, I’m usually not “the funny guy” in a group (nor do I pressure myself to try and fill that role)…I do enjoy making people laugh.  I’ll tell you one reason why.  Being the source of someone’s laughter (assuming you haven’t taken the role of victim in anyway) is perhaps the clearest indicator that your presence is welcomed and enjoyed.  And because of whatever insecurities I’ve carried with myself since childhood, I rather enjoy this feeling and reassurance.

Anyone can feign attention in a conversation.  We’ve all been there.  Somehow you got dragged to a cocktail party or a bar-b-cue.  Then you get stuck with “sir-talks-a-a-lot” or “boring-mcborington”, and the whole time you have nothing to say, nothing to contribute except a few sporadic head nods, some squinting of your eyes, even an “Oh, really?!” every now and again.  Unfortunately, I’ve probably been that boring guy before at a party, or where ever.  And I have felt those squinting eyes and sporadic head nods!  When that happens — I’m out!  Maybe I’ll think, You think I’m boring?  You can go back to watching your reality T.V. and petting your cat everyone’s tired of hearing about. BUT…every so often, people enjoy your company…and I can tell.  Because getting a laugh.  Getting a good knee-slapping, water-out-the-nose, red-faced laugh…well, is pretty damn hard to fake.

 

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