“It’s Elementary” is a column asking 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
This week features Rob DeSantis who will be performing at Free For All tomorrow night, Wednesday October 2nd.
Before I start, I have to explain I went to a small Catholic School from 1-8th grade where I had the same 30 kids as classmates growing up. It was like growing up with a really large group of brothers and sisters you mostly hated and occasionally had odd incestuous feelings for. Much of the below information only makes sense in that context. We were years behind most kids our age, for example in my school an 8th grade guy and girl holding hands was kind of a big deal. Spending my childhood in that environment is what I attribute the fact I’m socially inept in my 30’s to. I also think my Catholic school education is probably responsible for why I ended that last sentence in a preposition.
Being Funny Gets You Out of School Work – I took a minute to think about how I really got into making people laugh and It occurred to me I started actively doing it to when I figured out if I had a school project and made it funny, I would automatically get an A+ on it whether or not I actually did any of the work. A great example was a group project I had to do in the 5th grade where 4 classmates and I made a video, and what we produced at the end of the day was a project that was a C- at best. That video was scheduled to be played in the class VCR (You guys remember VCR’S???) the following day in front of the entire class. That evening, without telling the rest of my group, I made an alternate ending to the video where I recorded myself talking directly into the camera, and then while the TV version of me was talking at the front of the room, the real live version of me walked up next to the TV and started having a perfectly timed and choreographed argument with myself. Unfortunately the TV version of me won the argument and the real live version of me walked out of the classroom with my head down. Everyone thought it was hilarious and we got an A+ for a project we put no work into and was terribly off topic.
This started a trend of me substituting trying to making people laugh instead of ever learning anything. This included doing a presentation on “taste buds” in 7th grade science class that was just an excuse to get a classmate named Chris Robinson blindfolded and trick him into eating Spam (it was a thing), a friend named Scott Reinhart and I realizing if we made one of our teachers laugh while she checked homework, we could show her same page of homework every single day (which worked for 3 weeks consecutively), and even in college I had a midterm in a literature class that was just 1 essay question, and had no idea what the answer to that essay question was, so I wrote a 3 page essay on way The Simpsons was the most intelligently written show on television…and got a C. To this day I wish I had a copy of that essay because the teacher’s comments were “This was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read, but next time I’d prefer you study.”
Being funny is a great way to get people to hate you – I started watching late night television around 7th grade and was a loyal David Letterman supporter. Around 8 th grade (and for the life of my I can’t exactly remember how this started) I would write a weekly “Top 10” list all having to do with our class. Like “The top 10 reasons why Julie dumped Jimmy,” kind of stuff. It wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but it was a great way of getting everyone to pay attention to me once a week.
So in my school the popular 8th grade girls in my class were all dating the popular 7 th grade guys a year under us, it was horseshit. So in an act of pubescent rage and defiance I wrote “Top 10 reasons 8th grade girl’s only date 7th grade guys” in what was blisteringly pointed satire about frustrating it was dealing with such 8th grade harlots. This was also the day I learned that guys; even guys you’ve known for years and consider to be your friends will always side with cute girls over you. When I walked out to recess, I got jumped by my male classmates who were in fact the same classmates I was trying to defend and claim were worth engaging in hand holding (sorry to be graphic), and subsequently no 8th grade girl and most guys didn’t talk to me for a few weeks, and I danced alone at the following Ice Cream social. …It occurs to me the last wedding I went to I was also dancing alone so I should probably stop using words like “harlot.”
Being Funny forces people to look at you – Being from such a small school everyone in my class had their go-to talent, there were kids that were good at music, there were kids that were good at art, and there were kids whose parents had money (in private school that counts as talent). So anytime the school was putting together a dance or talent show, everyone had their go-to talent, I always did some sort of funny sketch.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Elementary School kids have a talent show but it sucks. Watching 6 th graders do acoustic covers of a Nirvana songs while their voice cracks from being halfway through puberty is like being strapped to a chair and being forced to watch shitty music covers on YouTube…by which I mean both are really fun if you’re drunk. A friend of mine named Chris Beitz and I wrote a sketch called “The Ghost Duck” where we were duck hunters trying to kill the legendary ghost duck, and pulled out increasingly ridiculous weaponry to try and kill said duck (including the SNES Super Scope Bazooka). Trust me it was funny if you were in 7th grade and a virgin. My 8 th grade succession to that sketch was my friend Andrew Krause and I hosting and performing in my 8th grade talent show as Abbott and Costello. Andrew was Korean, (actually he still is Korean as far as I know), but we pulled it off because if you don’t know anything about super conservative Irish Catholic school parents, they don’t think “Korean” is that far of a stretch comedy wise from “fat.” That was a really roundabout way of saying they were mostly racists.
What I learned from these sketches was that being funny is an opportunity to being a kid-with-an-acoustic-guitar-playing-that-one-Weezer-cover-because-it’s-the-only-one-he-knows level attention whore, and all you need is an imagination and a friend with an SNES, or maybe a Korean. As most people reading this know, I just took that same philosophy with my podcast Bob & Dave are Terrible People and amended it to include “guy with a big Jewish nose.”
Dave Metter is a comedy person. Check out Dave’s fake local news show “Your News, Philadelphia!” this Friday, October 4th at the Shubin Theater from 8:30-9, and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.