Heard Any Good Poop Jokes Lately?
To say last week was rough would be an understatement. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas PD shooting? Honestly, rough can’t come close to expressing what I’ve felt over the past few years. This institution that we call America has gutted itself to the core and shown the world its seedy underbelly with an unapologetic ferocity that has left me speechless.
I’m a wordsmith. A playwright, screenwriter, and stand up comic. Words are the tools of my trade and using them effectively to create an emotional connection with an audience is what I’ve trained myself to do. Yet, I find myself unable to formulate witty phrases and illusions to create that bond to express my sense of hopelessness, fear, and regret. I’ve taught screenwriting, writing for television, and sketch comedy writing. Showing people how to get to the meat of what’s ailing them and transform that pain into something humorous or, at least, bizarre enough to lift the audience out of their own dread takes skills. I’ve spent years in the trenches of comedy. I’ve performed under the most stressful of circumstances and I’ve used those experiences to help other achieve the same.
So why do I find myself lost in my own despair with a lack of words to express myself in detail?
None of what’s happening in this country is new. Hell, I could detail my own experiences dealing with law enforcement which range from writing for police dramas and taking ride-alongs with the NYPD to being constantly harassed and pulled over by the Santa Monica police department and well as the Beverly Hills police department all because I was driving, at the time, a Mercedes Benz 190 D. That’s the noisy diesel one that you have to warm up for a long time in order for you to drive it anywhere.
Then again, none of those situations matter. There’s a part of my life that extends itself from the privilege of being a writer only to have the same privilege ripped away as soon as I made a right out of the Sony lot. The reality of being a black person in America is that the later part of that previous statement isn’t unique to me. It’s our universal truth that extends to every part of this country.
For my own spiritual needs, I avoid receiving my news via television. Responding to BlackLivesMatter with AllLivesMatter is exactly like the framers of the Constitution stating ‘that all men are created equal’ while owning slaves. I’ve spent years finding creative and positive ways to deal with my anger yet every time I hit the power button on the tube I’m flooded with images and sound bites that strip away at the hard shell that I’ve constructed to keep that wrath at bay. Much like The Incredible Hulk, it’s always there; I’ve learned how to control it. However, last week I had to find another way to keep me going and not allow the crushing daily blows to my psyche control me.
The only thing that kept me rational was my summer job teaching kids stop motion animation.
I’ve taught kids ever since I wasn’t one. They’re emotional sponges that have the ability to pick up on what you’re feeling and either comfort you or push you to the limit. I have to mentally prepare myself for anything that could happen and now knowing how much or how little their parents have talked to them about what’s going on puts you in an awkward position. What do you say if one of the kids brings it up? What if they want to make a Claymation film about what they saw in the news? How many African-American teachers have they had and how do you explain systematic racism in way that a 7 to 11 year old can understand?
Well, none of that matters to them. It’s not in their mindset. All they want to know is why they can’t make a film that stars a singing pile of poop.
Yes, that’s right, a singing turd.
They would grab the brown clay, roll it into a ice cream cone shape, and put eyes and a mouth on it. His name was Mr. Poopers and they wanted him to whip and nae nae.
“No, you can’t do that.”
“Why, Mr. Ken?”
“Because… poop is-“
“Ha! I made you say poop. Hey every body, Mr. Ken said poop!”
They all laugh and deep inside I did as well.
“Look, I know I said you can make a film about anything you can picture in your head but your parents aren’t going to be happy if I allow you make a film about a singing… one of those. Plus, you’re shooting at five frames a second. You won’t be able to sync the mouth to the words.”
“But, Mr. Ken-“
“No! No movies about poop!"
“I made you say poop again.”
They all giggle and then make little turds to put on the chairs of their classmates.
Was it a waste of clay? Yes, but it was much better than having to explain what was going on in the world to them.
That is what’s amazing about kids. They can make shit magical. Maybe there’s hope they can find a solution to all this crap surrounding us.
In the up coming months I plan to bring you articles and editorials on writing, interviews with comics, and tackling the creative process of writing and performing as a person of color but for now, I’ve got to prepare for another week filled with childlike creativity and hopefully, enough poop jokes to keep my anger and disappointment at American society at bay.