It was a hot, steamy Tennessee afternoon at the end of the school year. The biting smell of overheated metal and hot tire swings deadened the air. the concrete was hot enough to burn through the bottom of your shoes. Clouds of dust rose up whenever a group of kids would rush by panting in the heat and running. It was an amphitheatre of sound of kids screaming and mocking each other, occasionally you’d hear the teachers whistle but there were too tired to care if we all disaggregated into heaps of corpses, of which we were halfway there.
I had recently received a book of jokes from my Grandmother which I promptly memorized, convinced that if I could tell a good joke I could make the other kids laugh, and perhaps have a chance at more friends. Instead all I got was eye rolls, laughed at and dirt kicked in my general direction. I longed to be funny, I already had the funny looking part down so how hard could the other half be?
It was a quick lesson to learn that amongst my peer group I wasn’t funny. On occasion I’d crack a joke quietly to a small group of friends and they would laugh. It was a few year later I was informed of my unintentional knack for being sarcastic. My friends didn’t quite grasp it, but my parents laughed (after I cleaned my room of course), my family laughed, and I was even able to coax a laugh out of a teacher sometimes. With the deep down desire to be popular and get along with my school mates I tried to hide the fact that adults thought I was funny from them. It only made being “odd” even more difficult.
Many years later at the age of 12 I was giving a homily at a church where my traveling choir was singing. I took every chance there was to speak in public and throughly enjoyed it. Somewhere in the middle of that mini-sermon I cracked a joke completely unplanned, and was greatly rewarded with laughs. It was the start down the meandering road of defining my brand of “funny“.
For the next few years I spoke in public at every chance I got, I honed my skills of being in front of crowds, memorizing lines, improv, acting on stage, and getting over any kind of stage fright. I sang, I played instruments, I talked, I joked, I championed anything that needed a public voice. My peers still didn’t get me but adults thought I was funny, I asked many of my elders who opinion I respected and they said I had a gift. Talk about an odd gifting.
I had many opportunities over time to work in broadcast radio and television where being semi funny and being able to improv was a cherished skill. Also the fact that an audience any size didn’t intimidate me I was good in front of that mic talking about whatever the issue at hand was. Politics was brought up to me, but quite frankly I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, and where I was headed. I spent some time in the magic arena, learned a lot and nope…. I won’t tell you where the rabbit really is. My favorite was the comedy, there is just something about that feeling you get deep inside when you make people laugh and smile.
During all of these years I honed my writing skills (as I”m sure you can tell by my typos… it’s 5am bite me) and took every journalism class I could and wrote constantly. I wanted to become published, not just a self published number, but actually be picked up by a big name publisher. After a few attempts and drama associated therewith I became very discouraged and finally got on the blogging movement. I have now been blogging since late 2004, and it’s been quite the journey.
For many months I’ve had an a generous offer made to me to “come out of comedy retirement” so to speak. I had already made the transition years previously to go back into professional modeling from “retirement” and have enjoyed success there. So after thinking it over, talking about it with my husband, and praying about it, we decided to go for it. It was actually my modeling that opened a door for me that I hadn’t thought of opening for a while yet. When the time is right the time is right.
I still can’t tell a joke to save my life, I start cracking up in the middle of it and it goes down hill from there. I’m more of a situational, improv, tell it like it is, comic. I’m sarcastic and am not afraid to show it. Set me up for a joke and before we get to it I can almost guarantee my ADD has kicked in and “Ooooo Shiney!” and I’m off talking about Al Bundy when I’ve missed the set up completely. When you come to see me on stage you get me. Sometimes with a baby on my hip, a left over cheerio from earlier in the day lodged in my hair, and a ruckus laugh. You don’t get a fake person, you get the real me. There’s no telling what I’ll discuss, there’s no telling what exactly I do, all I can do is hope you laugh and enjoy it as much as I enjoy entertaining.
I received an email from an old friend from school the other day with “What happened to you?” basically wanting to know what happened to the geek who was mocked, laughed at, and was quite unfashionable. Now I was popular, but popular only in the way that everyone knew who I was, not because I was being invited out to the parties. It made me feel good in the sense that we all have the opportunity in life to shed our old skin and become who we want to be.
Do it honestly, with truth, and with honor. Don’t rush “God’s time” he knows what we need and when we need it, and just when we are grown up enough to handle it.
**photo by Luc Welch