“It’s Elementary” is a monthly column that asks comedians to share funny memories from their elementary school years, or “periods” (get it?? Like moments in time, but also like in school!) from those formative years that have informed their comedic identities. Or, they’ll just submit some random anecdotes. Whatever they want, really.
by Dave Metter
I have long been fascinated by what has influenced and inspired other comedy writers, especially during their youths when their comedic senses were still so nascent and less judgmental. Be they films or television shows, random anecdotes or funny relatives, I ask comedians to share a few experiences or works they recall notably from their elementary school years. This premiere edition of “It’s Elementary” features Philly stand-up comedian Carolyn Busa.
1st Period: Jeopardy Theme Song
The first time I truly thought I was the most hilarious person in the world was kindergarten. I was sitting at a table with none other than Tommy, better known these days as Tom. Tommy was trying to relay a story to me but he couldn’t remember the next part. Typical kindergartner. Well, as I sat there patiently waiting for Tommy to remember his next line I started humming THE JEOPARDY THEME SONG. Freaking hysterical, right? I was all “Oh I’m waiting for him to say something. Alex Trebek waits for people to say stuff. Alex Trebek is on Jeopardy. BOOM!” I went home and had to tell my parents about my hilarious on-the-spot thinking. However, when I couldn’t remember the next part of my story, instead of humming the Jeopardy theme song, my parents left me at the kitchen table. The next day I learned the letter F.
2nd Period: Kelly can’t eat peanuts!
Man, I’m realizing now what an impact kindergarten had on my sense of humor. At the time you’re all wrapped up in the little things like the ABCs and sharing and the correct way to handle scissors—what you don’t realize is your life is being shaped. In my case that shape is some sort of amoeba-type thing, but STILL! I met my oldest friend in kindergarten: Kim, better known these days as Kimmy. Well Kim invited me over to her house. It was my first time ever at her house and I was trying to make a good impression. We were sitting at her kitchen table talking, eating peanuts, spelling; just a couple of new friends shooting the shit when in walked her dog Kelly. This was one of my first dog experiences so I was super stoked to get in there and play with this creature. Kelly was all about it and just absolutely begging for more attention. We realized she really got a kick out of when we threw peanuts on the floor, so we made a trail of peanuts around the kitchen table. There she went picking them up one by one, spinning circles around us. Every time she picked one up we erupted in laughter. Dog! Peanuts! Hilarious! Her parents must have heard us laughing so they came in to SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT. That’s something parent’s would say. When her mom saw we were eating peanuts she said, “Make sure you don’t give them to the dog. Kelly can’t eat peanuts!” Dayum. Well, for whatever reason, we both nearly peed ourselves. I imagine if Kelly started vomiting up the peanuts we fed her I would have shot water out my nose and experienced my first snort. This event marked the first time I noticed two of my now-favorite funny things: Dogs and Mistakes.
3rd Period: Friends
Yeah my actual friends were great, awesome, funny blah blah blah. But the real friends that made me laugh were Ross, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe, Monica and Rachel. Friends was my first obsession. I lie. Dolphins were my first obsession. It was a big day when all my Darwin (SeaQuest DSV!) posters came down and Matthew Perry cut-outs from People magazine went up. I started writing because of Friends. Half of my diary entries consisted of recaps of Ross and Rachel’s endless struggle. I started a quote book that began with Friends quotes: “What kind of scary-ass clowns came to your birthday?” (Chandler Bing), “Hummus! I got the hummus!” (Phoebe Buffay), “Whatever, my girlfriend’s a lesbian” (Ross Geller). The Friends quotes turned into real friends’ quotes then family quotes and eventually the notebook turned into my own ideas. Just thinking about the gang brings a tear to my eye. I sure do miss them. What? Their reruns are on TV no less than four hours a day, seven days a week, and Courtney Cox is back?! Next you’ll tell me The Rembrandts are getting back together…
4th Period: VHS Tapes
Which brings me to probably the most important piece of technology of my childhood: The VHS tape. I have a lot to thank the VHS tape for. My entire childhood is recorded on tapes that now sit in dozens of boxes in my parents’ basement. In chronological order, no less. There are some gems that when watched now prove I was indeed always annoying and starved for attention. There’s the classic New Kids on the Block dance-off with me and my sister in the living room. I don’t know what’s funnier, my sad attempt at mimicking my sister’s hitch kicks or the puke-green shag carpet that blanketed our downstairs. There’s the tour of the Museum of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys we set-up in the basement. Yes, we had enough Happy Meal toys for a museum; yes, I’m fairly sure that’s why I’m a vegetarian now. And my personal favorite, the Joan Osborne “What if God Was One of Us?” music video. This consisted of pre-braces, overbite Carolyn lip-synching and walking around her room in an oversized dolphin pajama shirt (callback!). But more importantly the VHS tape allowed me to tape all my favorite comedies as a child. Friends, of course, Saturday Night Live, The Rosie O’Donnell Show (come on! Cutie patootey!), The Simpsons, and everyone’s favorite, The Price is Right. Apparently daytime TV really cracked me up. DVDs are so fragile when compared to the mighty VHS and for someone who slept with an equal amount of stuffed animals and Best of Friends tapes, my heart remains with Kodak.
Carolyn Busa will take part in the podcast Bob & Dave are Terrible People this Wednesday, March 6th at 9pm on LaffCast.com, and is performing at the Women in Comedy Festival on Thursday, March 21st at Nick’s Comedy Stop in Boston, MA. She also co-hosts the Laughs on Fairmount open mic with Mary Radzinski every Monday night at Urban Saloon.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.