The Drive

The Drive


They say when you die, your whole life passes in front of you. Having never experienced death, I can’t say whether that’s true or not. With a couple of stand up classes starting this week, I’ve decided to let my life in comedy flash in front of me.

Actually, I thought it might be a good time to share my own experience. This way my students won’t make the same mistakes I did and end up unemployed, like I’ve been since March.

Since this is the first of the series, I guess we should go back to the beginning…I really don’t remember much from the womb…I’m kidding, we’re not going back that far. We’ll start with my one year old birthday party…

I am going to include some of my childhood, because it’s an important part of the way we develop a sense of humor. For the majority of comedians, it comes as a defense mechanism. There’s some feeling of inadequacy we are trying to disguise.

For me, I was an overweight kid before video games. The invention of sitting on a sofa and holding a remote has greatly increased the amount of fat kids today. In my class, I was it.

I was shy and unpopular and the few friends I made was because I could make them laugh. It was never anything I would say out loud. I would just say it quietly to the kids sitting next to me in class. Some would laugh, others would say,

“Shut up fatty.”

The laughs were worth the tradeoff.

A strange thing happened in the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I shot up five inches and with that, I thinned down. Then, I was starting at middle school. There were a lot of new kids from all over. They didn’t know me as “Fatty Johnny Knight.”

That’s the year I really came out of my shell. The things I would say to one person, I was saying out loud and making the whole class laugh. Our seventh grade math teacher would occasionally call me to the front of the room to solve a problem on the blackboard.

She knew what was going to happen, but she’d let it go for a while. She was younger and would be laughing as well. Standing in front of that class getting laughs, is where the thoughts of becoming a comedian started to run through my head.

In ninth grade, when I was 14, George Carlin was coming to town to do a concert. Me and two of my friends got tickets the day they went on sale and got right down front. I had never laughed so hard in my life. As we left the theater and started walking to catch the bus, I said,

“That’s what I’m going to do.”

From then on, there was nothing else I wanted to be. I was always working on writing things to make my friends at school laugh.

After high school, it was off to Duquesne University and all new kids. The first couple of years, it was a lot of studying and hard work. Although the comedy bug hadn’t left me, I was too busy to do anything about it.

During my junior year, I started taking more classes for my major, Communications and Theater. Also with a minor in Journalism and I was in both majors with a lot of the same group of people.

It was during this time that I picked up an extra notebook. I had one for each class and one note book to write down my jokes. I would go to the library or Student Union between classes and write material.

With the major I had chosen, there was a lot of opportunity to get in front of people. Doing bits from plays in front of the class, we shot a film at the County Jail and then there was production class.

The class was to learn how to shoot, edit and produce film. The thing is, you need something to film. This is where I would always volunteer.

My friend Bill had a dry and witty sense of humor and we worked well together. The best thing about him, he could keep a straight face when I said something funny. There were times when I would catch him off guard and I could see him biting his tongue but, he never broke character.

It was my senior year, I was making my peers laugh, I had a notebook full of material. I was ready to give this stand up thing a try.

Or was I? Find out next time…

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