Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Meme of Past Glory II

12) I had another strange surge in popularity at another time in another place, when, at summer camp, I won the talent show for telling Steve Martin jokes. My 13) obsession with Steve Martin jokes had started when another member of our school carpool had told them. I had thought he was the funniest person I knew. So stole his game. I got the “Wild and Crazy Guy” album and memorized it and started telling Steve Martin jokes as well. By the time I was in full swing doing this, the other guy had changed schools and was no longer in our carpool, so he was not around to challenge me.

I told jokes I didn’t even get. One mother who sometimes drove the carpool thought I was hilarious and giggled as she drove.

In my second year at summer camp, the summer before seventh grade, I learned that I could gain prestige among my cabin mates by telling Steve Martin jokes while we were getting ready for bed in the evenings. One evening, our counselor told us that a talent show was coming and suggested I tell Steve Martin jokes for it. I didn’t want to at first, but a cabin mate said I should, that he would help me and coach me. So I wrote all the jokes out that I would tell and rehearsed them alone, and did a trial run in front of him. We figured out a point where I would ask the audience a question and he, as a plant, would yell out the answer.

At the talent show, other boys dressed up as women using soccer balls for boobs; they did the thing where one kid sits behind another and extends his arms and legs forward as if they are the limbs of the kid in front of him, and this “dual person” attempts to eat and brush his hair to the general entertainment of everyone watching. I’m sure, at some point, somebody wore a mop on his head. (This was a five-week, all-male camp. *shudder* 14) I went because there was nothing to do at home in the summertime, and because my mom had loved her summer camp back in her day. She had learned to love horses at her camp. 15) I had spent much of my very early childhood playing around a horse farm where my mother would go to ride, and I always thought that maybe, if someone had asked the horses how they felt about being ridden, they would give an answer the horseback riders did not want to hear. Anyway, by the time I went to camp I had already been put on a horse a few times, and I knew I did not like horseback riding. But I had to do it at camp. Thankfully this was not the focus of camp though. It was a general all-round sports, nature, character building camp for boys, with morning Christian devotions (16) this is where I learned the Lord’s Prayer). To be honest, I did get a lot of my character built in a good way there. But I had a lot of bad feelings, cried a lot, and do not associate the word “fun” with the experience. And really, so many of the kids were lacrosse players from the elite private school St. Christopher’s in Richmond, and had brought their own helmets and sticks and pads to camp, that a lot of the rustic atmosphere was undermined.)

A counselor told me later that, when I walked out on the stage, which was really the floor of the small barn which normally served as our wrestling arena (another sport I hated), he thought I was going to be a flop. It’s likely that most of the other audience members, all sitting on a grassy hill outside the barn looking into its open doors, thought so too. But I knew I had my supporter, my plant, with me in the audience, and, as with the ping-pong tournament, it did not occur to me that I might flop. I knew they would all laugh just as my carpool had, as my cabin mates had. And right from the first joke they started giggling. There were moments when I could hardly keep from laughing myself, probably mostly because I was giddy from all that positive attention, but partly because I was realizing anew that those Steve Martin jokes were pretty damn funny.

Mind you, I was never pretending that these were my jokes. I always said, “These are Steve Martin jokes.”

The next day, at lunch, I was awarded top prize for the talent show, which was a Coke. From the Coke machine. This was the best a camper could hope for in those days, at that camp. If you really did something noteworthy, like crawled under your cabin to get the bubble gum wrappers out (and you weren’t doing that as punishment for something else you had done) or rolled in the mud on a dare from a counselor, then you “got a Coke.”

Okay, that’s my meme in two parts.


Stew said...

Elrond: these last two entries were FANTASTIC! I wish I remembered that much detail from my childhood. With me it's more snippets. Borrowed Easy Bake oven here, Barbie Dream House across the street there, etc.

p.s. held up at gunpoint???

Jerry said...


Elrond Hubbard said...

Aw shucks, thanks guys! Looking back over the posts (and others I've made) I realize many are damn long and you are troopers just for reading.

Stew, yes, I was held up at gunpoint in the front yard that is still my front yard in January of 1999, at midnight, under a streetlight. The culprits were slick, one staying in the car, the other approaching me slowly at first, while I rather cluelessly presumed he would be asking for directions. One can learn a lot about life from their manner and skill.

lintqueen said...

Wow! Amazing storytelling -- and best yet, you did win the ping-pong tournament! Validation!