I Was a Professional Class Clown

My Real Memoir

I cracked me up. And by second grade I’d discovered I could crack other people up, too. Note the key word there: crack. As in that which produces a rush of pleasant feelings and is highly addictive. But like the drug crack, being funny was also illegal. Unless the teacher wasn’t watching.

Or unless you were good enough to make a living at it. Like the Marx Brothers had, or my first literary hero Mark Twain had. Or like my favorite TV star Dick Van Dyke did, or my favorite musical spoofers, Allan Sherman (“Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda”) and Tom Lehrer (“Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”) did.

Around the time I turned 13, there was a growing satire movement. It showed up in the mock seriousness of Stan Freberg and Bob Newhart, and in the cultural and political lampoons of Jules Feiffer and That Was the Week That Was. I was a creative schizophrenic: I wanted to write and perform seriously (still do), but I also kinda wanted to make fun of all that seriousness (still do).

And so, with the departure of my uber-serious first drama teacher Mr. Baxter, I decided to join the ranks of professional class clowns. I’d gained a bit of a funny-guy rep after my first play performance. And so, building on that, I created an absurdly serious poet character named Roger, who was in-fact a Feiffer-esque tribute to Mr. Baxter.

Hungry for free entertainment, a student committee booked me to perform in the cafetorium during lunchtime. Accompanied by an overzealous bongo player, “Roger” starts with the words “Limonada running down my vest,” and continues with something like “I must grow legs, I tell you, must drink and eat off my chest until I am standing behind you and yet always in front of me…” It’s pure stream of consciousness nonsense. But Roger the Poet, who considers it quite profound, grows increasingly agitated as the bongos drown him out, and finally storms off stage in a fit of angsty rage.

The audience roared. It was pure, undiluted clown crack. My ego swelled to three times its normal size that day. So much so that, right after the school year ended, I auditioned for a community theatre production, got cast in a lead role, and then quit because I didn’t think the other actors were good enough. Steel-spined Mr. Baxter would have slapped me six ways to Sunday. But genteel Mrs. Bonner, the drama teacher who took his place that fall, had a spine made of crepe myrtle, and was completely ill-equipped to handle…

A professional class clown.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to I Was a Professional Class Clown

  1. Pingback: Fun House of Pain? | Mitch Teemley

  2. For me to tolerate a class clown as a classmate, his antics had to be very clever and not mean. Worms in the pencil sharpener? Not cool, Jimmy Outlaw.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. annieasksyou says:

    “I was a creative schizophrenic: I wanted to write and perform seriously (still do), but I also kinda wanted to make fun of all that seriousness (still do).” I like this a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. revruss1220 says:

    I’m afraid I never had the talent to be a true class clown. But I always admired those who did. I was usually content to be the “friend of the clown.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All my early heroes were funny or fun-loving. You mentioned some and I’m sure you’d recognize my others. You know more than most that to make people laugh is a huge gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. murisopsis says:

    Clever clowning had my admiration. Idiocy tried my patience…. We had several class clowns. All of their clowning involved mockery and meanness. In high school there emerged a comic who used wit and words to tickle the brains of all who could understand!! I had a crush. But he never looked my way – I was too serious.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hetty Eliot says:

    The class clown is usually the most depressed person.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I always love your posts about your childhood, Mitch, and this one didn’t disappoint. (I also figured you were the class clown.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ann Coleman says:

    I’m not surprised you were the class clown! But I suspect you weren’t the type who bullied other kids with his humor, and that means you were one of the good ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You were born to entertain-to act, to write, to speak. And you appear to have always done it well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 🤣 at one of my schools , class clown was risky, asin the other class gets one stroke of a cain , you get ten. But i so loved Mark Twain back then , his funny sad stories are still amazing. Ooh and i even loved the huckleberry Finn adventures. Who doesn’t want back what once was !

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    Mitch, you have written about this often, and it always makes me smile. I wanted you to know that when I read aloud Charlotte’s Web to my class every year, I always think that Avery (Fern’s older brother) is you. Well, he really is. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: How Not to Do Theatre | Mitch Teemley

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  15. Pingback: The Year I Invented Myself | Mitch Teemley

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