“It’s Elementary” is a monthly column every first Wednesday 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 personal and 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. This month features stand-up comedian and writer Elise Thomson-Hohl, so nice they named her thrice. Elise is a rule-breakin’, convention-shirkin’ rebel and has opted to share a wonderful lil’ anecdote instead of a few even lil’er ones.
THE FIRST TIME I DID STAND-UP/WHY I GAVE UP MUSTARD IN THE NINETIES
BY ELISE THOMSON-HOHL (PEN NAME ETH)
“I can’t find my lunch,” I yelled back to Mrs. Pegler and the rest of my first grade class from the cubby as I continued to rummage through my Jansport backpack.
It was the spring of 1995 and I was in the first grade; by this time I was already aware that my classmates referred to me as weird, so I spent the majority of my time at school trying to go unnoticed.
I felt my brown paper bagged lunch smashed below my binder at the bottom of my bag.
I sorted through my packed lunch until I felt my sandwich, and began tearing off the aluminum foil.
I had calculated about three minutes of time before Mrs. Pegler would come look for me in the cubby, which left me about two minutes to eat my entire mustard and cheese sandwich in peace.
The concept that eating certain items of food at lunch made you cool or un-cool was alien to me, until I began noticing that I was eating at the last seat at the end of the table. From my observations, it was the COOLEST to buy lunch, the second COOLEST to bring Lunchables, and socially acceptable to eat peanut butter and jelly on white as long as you had name brand snacks to accompany the sandwich (Cheetos and CapriSun). I had started eating my lunch as privately as I could around Christmas; kids were teasing me for eating ‘WEIRD’ sandwiches, and the possibility of buying lunch or bringing ‘cool’ food wasn’t ever going to be an option.
“SHE’S EATING A MUSTARD SANDWICH”.
I stopped dead in my Jelly’s, impregnated with dread. I turned to see Yi-Ming standing at the mouth of the cubby, pointing at my sandwich.
“No I’m not Yi-Ming.”
I crossed my arms, with a thousand years of indignance, tightening my grip on my sandwich.
Yi-Ming began beckoning our fellow classmates over.
I was dead in the water. I weighed my options; not only did I have a good amount of sandwich left, but there was also mustard all over my hands, making it impossible to shove the rest of the sandwich in my mouth and hide the evidence. I was looking at a minimum of two to three months of mean nicknames, with solitary lunch confinement indefinitely. I needed to make a decision fast.
“Hey Yi,” I stammered, as I realized that all eyes were on me, “I think there is something on your pants”.
Yi paused, he had to be smart about his next move, it was winner take all.
“Oh yeah?” Yi answered coldly.
“Yeah, a MUSTARD SANDWICH,” and with that I ripped apart my sandwich and winged it across the cubby hitting him mustard side down squarely in the thigh, Yi burst into tears and everyone cheered.
As I was escorted down to the principal’s office, I passed by the lunchroom, everyone stared at me, and I waved happily and confidently, I realized my first truth that day, when all else fails, draw a large crowd of first graders around you and make someone cry.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer, member of sketch comedy collective Iron Potato and creator of the fake local news show,“Your News, Philadelphia!” Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.