“Have you always been funny?” I get asked that a lot. The answer is no. I didn’t come out of the womb like Groucho Marx with big glasses, bushy eyebrows and a cigar. I actually wasn’t funny until I was nine-years-old and then it was a very calculated move on my part.
You see, comedy was my last hope. I was an ugly kid. I was fat. I had a head shaped like the Planter’s Peanut man. I was nearsighted and wore cat eye glasses. I had a Toni home perm. My mother sewed me velveteen dresses that had high collars. The collars looked like the cones dogs have to wear to keep from licking their sore spots. If you don’t believe me, ask Saxon. She’s seen photographic evidence. The first time she saw a picture of me at this age, she thought I was dressed up as Queen Elizabeth for Halloween.
Queen Elizabeth I
It may be unbelievable to you now, but I wasn’t a popular kid. I sat at the back of the classroom. I wasn’t invited to slumber parties. Nobody traded me their ding-dongs for my snowballs at lunch time. I was picked last for Red Rover, Red Rover. The most popular girls, Lori, Trixi and Joni, held court everyday at the top of the jungle gym. Boys flirted with them. They laughed and giggled. I wanted so badly to be a part of their inner circle, but I didn’t know how.
I began to study the popular girls. I had to figure out what they had that I didn’t. Suddenly, it hit me. They all had names ending in an “i.”
I began to sign my papers “Laci.” I did that for a whole week and the popular girls never noticed. Not even when I dotted the ‘i’ with a little heart. The only person who noticed was my teacher who gave me a demerit for spelling my name wrong.
I happened onto comedy by accident. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when the teacher called on me. She said, “Layce, can you tell me about the Magna Carta?”
I didn’t like being called on. It made me nervous. Even when I knew the answer, I would break out in a cold sweat and stutter. But this time was worse. All the kids were looking at me and I got so nervous that I… Well, if you’ve ever sat on a hard wooden chair and pooted, you know how loud it can be.
The entire class stared at me. Nobody blinked. You could hear the second hand on the clock tick.
Thinking quickly, I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said the Magna Farta.”
The whole class erupted in laughter. I basked in the warmth of their applause. A star was born!
But I didn’t stop there. I used my allowance to buy a book, “Henny Youngman’s One-Liners.”
I sat up late at night, memorizing every joke Henny Youngman had ever uttered. The next day I went to school, armed to the teeth with enough one-liners to knock them dead in the Catskills. As the teacher called roll, I waited for her to say my name. And then instead of saying ‘present,’ I said, “Here I am! I just flew in from New York and, boy, are my arms tired!”
I didn’t get quite the reception I had been expecting. But I didn’t give up. I tried another. “I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport.” I was met by stony silence. I tried again. “Have you ever seen our teacher and her husband? They’re what you call a fastidious couple. She’s fast and he’s hideous.”
That was when the teacher grabbed me by my cone collar and dragged me out of my seat and toward the door. “He’s not her first husband,” I continued, “She’s been married so many times, she has rice marks on her face! Her bridal gown is wash and wear!”
And just as the teacher pulled me into the hallway, I cracked one last joke: “Take my teacher…Please!”
I learned a very valuable lesson that day: Not everybody understands comedians. But how boring would the world be without us?
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A new romantic comedy by Layce Gardner & Saxon Bennett
“An awesomely beautiful, funny, quirky, riot of a book!” ~SB