Posts Tagged ‘sitcoms’

Bill and Noah and Albert and Me

April 21, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

The fact that I could memorize just about anything that interested me became evident at a very early age.  While I couldn’t learn science to save my life (and still can’t!), I could eventually recite half-hour sitcoms with the greatest of ease.  One major accomplishment was that by the age of six, I had committed to memory every skit on my parents’ The Best of Bill Cosby album.  It never occurred to me that I could simply recite the routines, but I did enjoy making friends and family laugh by lip-synching and acting out Mr. Cosby’s stories of Noah’s conversations with his next-door neighbor and God, as well as humorous tales of The Lone Ranger, Fat Albert, and Adam and Eve.

Then, I had an idea.  If my best friend Dave laughed so much at my pantomimes, maybe the entire class would like them, too!  With my mom’s and my teacher’s permissions, I took the record to school one day, stood in front of the class, and pretended to tell them stories.  It was a hit!  First-graders were giggling at every desk, and even my teacher laughed.  About a year later, I realized that I had a brand-new audience in the second grade, and I repeated my one-boy show.  By the sixth grade and the end of my elementary school run, I had performed the entire LP of routines a total of seven times (including a repeat performance in the fourth grade, due to a family move to a whole new school districtful of fresh listeners).

In retrospect, I’m not quite sure how I got up in front of those students.  I had awful stage fright throughout my childhood.  I guess it was the fact that someone else really did the performing, and I just went along with him, that relaxed me.  I mean, I couldn’t really forget a line, now, could I?  They were spoken for me.  And as history proved, the routines were pretty much guaranteed to get laughs.  Those first years, I had to sweat through mouthing one “damn” and one “hell,” but no teacher so much as raised an eyebrow, so I relaxed about that.

It’s sort of a shame that I deemed junior high too sophisticated for the Cosby/Pender show, but I know I made the right choice.  In a way, it would have helped me during the seventh grade, during my nervous first weeks of wandering the halls looking for classrooms (which I now had to switch every hour), remembering locker numbers and combinations, and surviving a new crop of bullies.  I did slowly learn that making the bigger, tougher boys laugh was a smart move, and I always attempted to entertain the roughest kids I could find during the early days of each new school year.

It was just a bit tougher, since I had to do it on my own.  Leaving Bill and his characters behind was quite a rite of passage.

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