Clowning Around

August 15, 2013
BY David Snyder
Tips on how to perfect your routine as a classroom jokester

081613_insider_clowning_around1There’s a certain level of satisfaction in making a roomful of people crack up. And, as a career class clown, it’s one I’ve experienced time and time again.

My peak came during freshman year of college, when a quick-witted response to a question led to my 250-student economics lecture erupting in laughter. (The professor was not nearly as amused.)

I’ve been both lauded and reprimanded for my clowning.

A high school history teacher once booted me into the hallway and had me write a one-page poem apologizing for remarks I had made in class. Naturally, I made it funny.

As the school year approaches, the beauty is that a whole new crop of class clowns will endeavor to cement themselves in this illustrious fraternity.

However, what many novices do not know is that class clownery is an art form. There is a science to it. And having mastered it over the years, it’s one I am happy to share.

First off, never, under any circumstances, laugh at your own jokes: That’s Comedy 101. Here are some other keys:

Feel out the teachers: Determining which faculty are the most forgiving toward your humorous contributions is Job No. 1 for any aspiring class clown. While you may be the main act, it’s the teachers who run the show. Even the best jokester can be thwarted by a teacher with a zero-tolerance policy for classroom interruptions. And when an instructor has established a strict environment, it decreases the likelihood that classmates will laugh at your gags, fearing their own punishment. If a class clown doesn’t properly scout out the teacher, he can end up wasting his best material.

Pick your spots: Not every moment in the classroom is conducive to a joke. For example, if you’re minutes away from taking a test or being told about a complex assignment, it’s probably not the ideal time for laughs. The stress level among classmates is too high, and your peers are too focused to appreciate any humor you have to offer. Instead, choose a time when the mood is lighter, such as when you are working on the drill. I mean come on, who cares about the drill? The “end” is also prime time. End of class, end of the day or end of the year — all provide a window of leniency.

Don’t overdo it: The expression “less is more” is crucial for class clowns. Your classmates want quality, not quantity, and if you start blurting out remarks every chance you get, the hilarious contributions you do make will lose their luster. I’ve seen aspiring class clowns disregard their joke frequency, and the results were disastrous. Peers end up loathing the verbal intrusions, and once a class clown has lost his fan base, it’s an impossible hole to dig out of. Sometimes the best joke is the one not uttered. Save it for a better time, and make your classmates appreciate your gift.

Mix in some actual contributions: To me, this is the most overlooked element. When a question is asked in class, politely raise your hand, wait to be called on and deliver a thoughtful, appropriate answer. It’s the best kind of curveball you can throw. No one sees it coming. Not only does it set you up to be called on (with the intent of making jokes) in the future, but it shows your teachers and classmates that, hey, you’re a smart person who is paying attention and learning something — even amid the fun.

Don’t make it personal: This one is simple. Your jokes should poke fun at something related to the class content itself — not at the people in the class with you. Steer clear of cracking jokes about your teachers or classmates. It’s a bottom-of-the-barrel way to go about getting a laugh, and nobody likes a bully.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

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