“It’s Elementary” is column that asks Free For All comedians to share funny memories from their elementary school years, namely events from their childhood that have informed their personal and comedic identities. Or, they’ll just submit some random anecdotes. Whatever they want, really.
by Dave Metter
I have always been interested in what has influenced and inspired comedy writers, especially during their youths when their comedic senses were still so fresh and less judgmental. This week features stand-up comic Alex Grubard, who will be performing TONIGHT in the semi-finals of Philly’s Phunniest at Helium, as well as at Free For All this Wednesday.
1st Period: THE WHEELS ON THE BUS
In Kindergarten I had a problem sleeping with girls on the bus. Like a big problem. See, I would go to “after-school” after school was over. My neighbor Julie also went to after-school and we would usually sit together on the bus. The point is it was a really long bus ride. And I would get tired! The soothing sounds of children screaming at the top of their lungs would lull me to sleep and Julie would sometimes slip out of the seat without waking me up. One time I woke up at the bus station. It was scary. There were school buses everywhere! How horrible! A five-year-old’s worst nightmare. The bus driver brought me to the bus depot where they fed me donuts and coffee.
2nd Period: PENCILS DOWN
I moved to a new school across town. I was the new kid. Uh oh. I think being a new kid is one of the biggest factors in making someone a comedian. There were two kinds of pencil sharpeners in my new school; a hand-crank pencil sharpener and an electronic pencil sharpener. I had only been aware of the hand-crank sharpener and had discovered with old friends that if you put your pencil in backwards it’ll sharpen your eraser instead of the graphite. I know, we had filthy minds. Anyway, I tried this trick in the electric pencil sharpener, broke the fucking thing, didn’t tell anyone, started using pens, etc. One day (probably later that day) my teacher sits the class down and flips out on us. “Who broke the pencil sharpener? I want to know the truth. I want to know everything!” Whimpering like Old Yeller I stand up and pour my heart out: “I broke the pencil sharpener! I didn’t tell anyone! Also I think I started the Gulf War!” I thought I was about to be arrested, but my teacher was all, “Good job for telling the truth, Alex. I’m proud of you.” Wow! Got away with murdering a pencil sharpener. Also all my oldest friends still remember this as my first impression on them. Pretty funny, I guess.
3rd Period: G
Believe it or not, I wasn’t the only Alex in my new school. Awful. The other Alex was Alex M. and I was Alex G., which someone shortened to only G as a nickname. When I say this nickname stuck I mean I still get wedding invitations addressed to G instead of Alex Grubard and I always will. Alex Grubard is basically a stage name.
4th Period: IT’s MILLER TIME
My teacher Mr. Ghose was a funk musician who had us sing American folk songs to start each day, formed us into a kickball team called The Ghosts, wrote original Charlie Brown musicals for us to perform in front of the school, and was even fucking his TA. And she was hot! Also, he was the funniest person ever. Constantly hilarious. Like he must have taken an improv class or something. So funny. He did however make one joke that has infested my brain like a parasite. Almost a non-sequitur, he told a joke he said during an Indiana Pacers game his friends thought was funny. “If I were on the Pacers I’d pass the ball to Reggie Miller, because his last name is the name of a beer.” To this day I still do not understand what could possibly be funny about this idea. Sadly this is the only joke he ever told I remember verbatim.
5th Period: HECKLING
I had a teacher who read “Sideways Stories From Wayside School” which is a wicked funny book that I had already read. I kept doing that kind of heckling where you think you’re helping. I would interrupt, “This part is so funny, everybody.” In my defense I was not a comedian yet and at the time I also thought having a good sense of humor was cool.
6th period:CHRIS ROCK
The end of elementary school is when my friends and I started sleeping over at each other’s house. People began acquiring N64s starting Christmastime and we would play all the classics until 8 am. But before that there was television. Like a lot of it. Probably too much. My grandparents owned an antique store in Santa Fe and had come across a JVC CX-500. The first episode of Saturday Night Live I ever watched was November 2nd, 1996 with my best friend Mike and we unknowingly turned the knob hoping to find something good. We watched that whole episode in black and white with analog reception on a portable television/radio/tape recorder hybrid formed into a suitcase. It was hilarious.
See Alex Grubard this week in the semifinals of Philly’s Phunniest tonight at Helium, and headlining Puck Live in Doylestown on Thursday. Alex also co-host’s the monthly show Comedy Bonfire at The Fire, can be followed on Twitter at @alexgrubard, and even more at http://alexgrubard.tumblr.com. And of course Free For All this Wednesday.
Check out Dave Metter’s fake local news show “Your News, Philadelphia!” each first Friday starting October 4th at the Shubin Theater. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.