Tips From an Ex-Camp Counselor

Hey comedy homies, what’s new?! The world famous Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is about to get a whole lot campier, that’s what! If you’ve been out of the loop or are just now getting into the loop, DCH is proud to announce that it will host a summer camp for all those kiddos dying to start honing those improv skills and showing off their funny bones. campLucky for you, I knows a thing or two about summer camping. In addition to temple and law school, the one other place seemingly all Jewish parents force their children to attend is summer camp. Whether it be of the day or sleepaway variety, going to camp is a big, Jewy rite of passage that nearly every kid gets to experience at some point in life. The Jew currently writing this blog post (that’s me) has had the pleasure of experiencing summer camp from both the camper and the counselor perspectives.

Camp counselor-ing is easily one of the toughest yet most rewarding summer jobs a person can have. That’s because spending all day with other people’s children is both super-duper fun and a huge pain in the ass. At times, being surrounded by a bunch of elementary schoolers will definitely make you feel like a kid again, but it’s also a huge responsibility that’s bound to be filled with many heart attack-inducing moments. So, as an ex-camp counselor, I thought I’d share some of the important camp lessons I learned along the way.

Keep the Kids Busy!

Idle campers are the devil’s playthings. I kid you not, and cannot stress this point enough. A bored camper is truly a hell-spawn demon creature of death. I’m serious. Not giving a camper enough to do is a recipe for danger, my friends. For some reason, when allocated too much downtime, there’s a switch that goes off in a camper’s brain, turning he or she from a sweet, innocent mini-human to a destructive hellion out for blood. This takes place all in the span of about five minutes. It’s a lot like what happens when you give water to a Mogwai—just a no-good, slippery descent into gremlin-fueled chaos. I learned this one the hard way.

Toward the end of the camp day, I’ll admit I was worn out. Between giving a billion piggy-back rides, making a thousand-and-one lanyards, and endless games of tag and four-square, I was pooped and my footsies were ready to call it quits. I thought a bit downtime indoors, with actual air-conditioning, would be a fitting way to the end the day for my unit of nine-year-olds.

I plugged in a boom box (yes, I realize how antiquated this sentence sounds) and turned on some relaxing tunes, giving the kids an opportunity to wind down. At first, things seemed normal, so I didn’t worry. I turned to my junior counselor and asked her to watch the kids, thinking they’d be down to boom box and chill, and I’d have time to quickly run to the restroom.

I was gone a total of three minutes. Three minutes! I returned to witness what could later only be described as a fourth-grade-girls gone wild video in the making. There were kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs, kids climbing on the junior counselor like she was their personal jungle gym, kids coloring on things they should definitely not have been coloring upon, and to top it off, a group of girls had jumped on a table, took off their t-shirts, and were now spinning them around in the air like goddamn lassos (don’t worry, they had swimsuits on underneath). So for the love of all things righteous and good in this world, make sure your campers always have something to do, even if it’s the very end of the day and you just want to sit on your butt and veg out. Trust me; a stimulated camper makes for a happy counselor. Because, trying to gain control of a bunch of unleashed, rabid fourth graders is about as easy as milking a cat.

Expect to Hear the Unexpected

Kids are some of the greatest vessels for comedy gold, because they have absolutely no filter. They will say just about anything that pops into their strange little child brains. Little kid mouth diarrhea is superb for keeping you on your toes and, at times, questioning your sanity. Over my years of camp counsellorship, I’ve heard it all: the funny, the mean, and the downright peculiar. Here’s a list of a few of the most memorable:

  • Kid after receiving juice and cookies—“Can I have whiskey with my snack today? That’s how my dad does it.”
  • Kid after being scolded to wait his turn for lemonade—“Anything for you, toots!”
  • Same kid at the camp overnight—“You can sleep next to me. I’ll only watch you a little.”
  • “I love boobies. They bounce up.”
  • A kid upon finding out I was an unmarried teenager—“When are you gonna have a baby? Cause you’re like really old.”
  • “We don’t want to play with her because she pretends dumb things.”
  • “I like to smell ranch dressing...a lot.”
  • Kid to another kid—“Get on your knees and make like a horse.”
  • A group of boys chanting during a girls-versus-boys challenge—“We pee standing up!”
  • “If you’re mean to someone, you have to sit by yourself and eat cold Spaghetti-O’s.”

Always be Vigilant

Friends, in the words of the wise and noble "Mad-Eye" Moody, remember “Constant vigilance!” Always keep an eye on your campers. Kids have an amazing knack for sensing when you’re not watching them. And, as soon as they know that, they will inevitably try to get away with doing something evil.

spartaAs my campers played four-square, I made the mistake of taking my eyes off of them to gab with another counselor. It didn’t feel like a long time, but when I returned my attention to the unit, I noticed one camper sprawled on the ground crying and a circle of others around her. Uh oh, this couldn’t be anything good. “What happened?” I asked. Turns out, another kid straight up Spartan kicked her in the stomach when I had my back turned. You know, the kind of kick that a Greek army commander might use to knock a lowly Persian messenger into a pit of doom. How do I know the kid did this? Well, because after asking that simple question above, the rest of my campers were all too happy to re-enact the scenario for me. I watched a group of nine-year-old girls show me their best “This is SPARTA!” impression. When I asked the little Leonidas why they Spartan-kicked said crying child, her response: “I don’t know. I wanted to see what would happen.” First, wow that kid is an asshole and probably a sociopath. But, second, had I been watching, I most likely could’ve prevented the whole thing. Learn to keep your eyes and ears open, because kids can be sneaky little shits when they think you’re not looking.

Saltine Crackers + SunnyD + Hot Summer Days = Upchuck Express

I’m going to say this now: The above combination of foods combined with Texas heat is a disgusting mixture and should never be replicated under any circumstances.

There once was a camper whose diet seemed to consist purely of saltine crackers and SunnyD. He ate those same two items every day for lunch. Nothing else. Saltines...SunnyD...Saltines...SunnyD...a never-ending series of sad lunchtimes of Saltines and SunnyD. But one kid’s sad lunch buffet is another’s feast of treasures, I suppose. Anyway, one day, because it was in the high triple digits that summer, we took the kids out to the lake to escape the heat. On the bus ride there, this kid stuffed his face full of, you guessed it correctly, Saltines and Sunny freakin’ D. Well, unfortunately for all involved, crackers, O.J., and sun do not play well together. Upon arrival at the lake, the kid sat on a bench and watched as all the others ran off to  go swim, canoe, and enjoy the water.

“How you feeling, buddy?” another counselor asked.


“Really? You don’t look okay.”

The kid looked flushed and unsteady.

“I feel...”

At that moment, facing the counselor, he projectile vomited a long, chunky stream of neon orange remnants of Saltines and SunnyD (you’re welcome for that visual).

After doing so, the kid laughed, said he felt much better, and skipped off to go swimming. What?!

Lesson of that day: If you feed a kid nothing but crackers and faux orange juice all summer, he will eventually get nauseous and he will eventually vomit it all on your shoes.

Be Silly, Laugh a Lot, and Have Fun Because It’s Camp, Duh!

I think this one is self-explanatory. Enjoy!

miss camp

If you know a kid or someone with a kid between the ages of 5 and 17 who wants/needs to get their funny on this summer, DCH Summer Camp is the place to go June 20-24 and July 18-22. Register by April 15 and save $30! Registration ends June 6.

Lauren Levine is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. When she is not trying to come up with witty things for this blog, she is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur photographer, a Zumba-enthusiast, a dog lover, and an 80s movie nerd. In addition, she enjoys all things Muppet-related, the smell after a rainstorm, and people with soft hands.

A Dramatic Reading by Darek Tatum

Too busy to read to your kids (or to yourself)? Then listen in as Dallas Comedy House graduate and performer Darek Tatum does a dramatic reading of a series of children's bear books.

More dramatic readings are planned, so subscribe to his YouTube channel to stay updated.

What We're Loving: Narrow Genres, Gothic Impressions, Busting, Moving

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison forgets to cite Chuck &  Buck, Jonda Robinson admits bias, and Molly Jakkamsetti has children dance for her enjoyment. MV5BMTQ5NDQ5Nzg2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI3MDc1MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_I think the most specific genre of film I enjoy is what I call “Movies about a crazy person that puts on an independant play.” Before you fly off the handle and talk about how that’s barely a genre, let me remind you of Waiting for Guffman and Hamlet 2. Both are great films and both belong in that ultra specific category. But because this subset is such a small slice of the movie pie, I don’t often get to enjoy new releases. That’s what made this week so cool! We’ve got a new one for the pantheon! Beep! Beep! Beep! I don’t know why I put those there. I checked out OJ: The Musical and since it’s part of my favorite genre, it’s what I’m loving this week!

OJ: The Musical, formerly known as Orenthal: The Musical, follows the struggle of Eugene (Jordan Kenneth Kamp) as he moves to California to put on a musical and reunite with friends from his past. The music is really fun and fits the wacky tone of a musical about OJ Simpson. What I really appreciated about this movie though, was the way it showcased the mental instability and insanity of many creative people. The movie has it’s flaws, but the performance by Kamp and the music make it well worth viewing. - David Allison

urlI’m afraid someone’s been stalking me. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s the only way I can explain the most recent installment of The Dead Author’s Podcast that dropped this week. It’s like they made this one just for me, as this episode features one of my favorite funny ladies, Lennon Parham, playing the part of one of my favorite authors, Flannery O’Connor, to create a delightful hour of literary discussion. It’s one of those things that I didn’t even know I needed, but now I’m so glad I don’t have to live without.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Dead Author’s Podcast, it involves time-traveling literary legend H.G. Wells (played by Paul F. Tompkins) welcoming some of our greatest authors (played by some of your favorite funny people) to the present for a chat on their work and their life. In this installment you get to hear about everything from the effects of lupus on Flannery’s life (“three-legged races, no sir”), to her disdain for spending time with people (she’d rather just write them a letter), to her infatuation with birds (minus swans, as she claims they are “bitches”). If you haven’t checked out this podcast before, this is a great episode to start with. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t really know, since I’m biased, because they clearly made this episode specifically for me.

If you listen to the podcast and want more Flannery in your life, I suggest you give “Good Country People” or “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” a read. To see more of Lennon’s work, go watch season one of the sitcom she created and stars in with her BFF Jessica St. Clair, Playing House, then join me in urging the USA Network to renew it for season two. - Jonda Robinson

When-THe-DJ-Drops-Ur-JamI am not a big meme follower. My favorites are LOLcats and anything with Condescending Willy Wonka. In fact, I am not even 100 percent sure what "meme" means. It’s like the title of something, right? Someone help me understand Internet terminology!

Well a meme is what I am loving this week. A co-worker showed me this one – it’s of a child, and the meme is “when the DJ drops your jam.” The child is at what has got to be at a church. There are adults in front who appear to be looking down at hymnals and singing. They are blissfully unaware that behind them, a future club kid is raving it up. (Do people actually rave anymore? Forgive my dated references. I haven’t hit ‘da club’ in many a year.)

The music that is playing over is I believe is what the millennials call “dub step.” It fits pretty well with the child as she flails her arms about. And her little face is so serious, as anyone would be when her jam is being dropped. Like “YEAH IT IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN,” and indeed it does, for 45 seconds. And that is all it is, but it is beautiful in its simplicity. Just an innocent toddler, being taken over by the power of BASS. Whatever the actual music was must have been extremely moving, because this child is working it (I told you my references were dated).

You can easily find it on Facebook or You Tube. I encourage you to use it as your inspiration for the next time you need to bust a move (still dated). - Molly Jakkamsetti

What We're Loving: Branching Out, Lessons for Kids, Collaborating and Listening

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison wishes Bruno never returned, Jonda Robinson discovers the right time for treats, Molly Jakkamsetti waxes chumps like a candle.  urlIt’s always a strange feeling when a creative person, whose work you enjoy, decides to branch out and try a different medium. For some, like Donald Glover and Hugh Laurie, it works really well. For others, like Bruce Willis, IT DOES NOT WORK. You’ll notice that I put a portion of that last sentence in all caps, which was intentional as I was trying to reinforce just how much it doesn’t work sometimes. Even worse, these ventures sometimes ruin how much you’re able to appreciate the talents that drew you to them in the first place. It was with that level of trepidation that I decided to check out the band comprised of Harris Wittels, Paul Rust, and Michael Cassady. Individually, the three have done some fantastic work (Wittels-Parks & Rec/Humblebrag, Rust- Comedy Bang! Bang!/Arrested Development, Cassady-Earwolf/UCB) so on one hand, it seems like combining their talents had to work. On the other, they’re comedy writers/actors, so the idea of them starting a band is pretty terrible. So how did it end up? I really liked it! I’m rating the work of the band “Don’t stop or we’ll die” as WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK (Note: This instance of all caps was to remind you of the title of this weekly piece).

Now I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money; I’m not Suze Orman. Plus, the production quality isn’t always the best. But you should at the very least check out these songs, and then, if/when you enjoy them BUY EVERY ALBUM THEY’VE EVER CREATED (Caps for commerce). Here are some of my favorites.

Once In A While -Proof that they can play and sing music!

Lectric Roller Skates -The classic tale of the folly of man.

The Ballad of Bird and Fox -A dramatic take on the parental responsibilities of a bird and fox in a crumbling marriage

- David Allison smart-kidsI read an article this week from Time entitled “How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science.” Initially I overlooked it because I don’t have kids, and I enjoy naps too much to want any anytime soon. Then I thought about my students, and also myself, and decided that maybe this article could have something that I could use in my own life. Here is the list, along with my translation of what I’m actually hearing them say for my own life:

  1. Music Lessons (Translation: Dust off the guitar that you bought after an inspiring live performance by Sheryl Crow and finally learn how to play “My Favorite Mistake.”)
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth (Translation: Never stop looking for a smart, athletic man to marry.)
  3. Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them (Translation: Kids better start pulling their weight.)
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid (Translation: You SHOULD take all those naps. And sleep in when you can!)
  5. IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self Discipline (Translation: Get, I mean, “grit.”)
  6. Learning Is An Active Process (Translation: You should read on the treadmill.)
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing--At The Right Time (Translation: It’s ALWAYS the right time for a treat.)
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids (Translation: Choose to be happy, so you can be successful. To reference Sheryl Crow again, “It’s not having what you want/It’s wanting what you’ve got.”)
  9. Peer Group Matters (Translation: Hang out with people who are smarter and cooler than you so you can become smarter and cooler.)
  10. Believe In Them (Translation: Believe in yourself! If you don’t, how can you expect others to?)

In closing, I offer you this quote from the article: “Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.” So get out there, smarty pants! You’ve got so much to offer--use these tips and put those smarts to good use! - Jonda Robinson

mqdefaultIt’s been a rough week in Dallas, amirite? Let me take you back to a simpler time, all the way back to 1999, when MTV aired a special called 25 Lame. It was the 25 lamest videos as chosen by then-MTV viewers. The network vowed that once these videos were played on this special, they were never to be seen on MTV again. (Insert your own comment on how they ‘never play videos anyway).’

The hosts were 4 well known comedians: Jon Stewart (He may have just started hosting The Daily Show), Janeane Garafolo (who is seen smoking on set - no e-cigs back then!!), Denis Leary (sardonic as ever), and Chris Kattan (yeah, he was on SNL then). They watched each video and mocked them as they aired, a la Beavis and Butthead, and at the end they would “destroy” the tapes ( I remember one ended up in a blender).

As you would expect, most of them were one hit wonders (The Macarena, Milli Vanilli, and Rico Suave to name a few) and failed attempts by celebrities to launch singing careers (Eddie Murphy and Don Johnson were in the top 5).

The most uncomfortable moment was when Vanilla Ice made a special appearance to destroy his video for “Ice Ice Baby.” The hosts all acknowledged how awkward it was for them to mock the video while Ice is sitting right there. When they give him the chance to destroy his video, he takes a baseball bat and starts swinging around the set, almost hitting the hosts. I’m not sure if it was all staged, but I remember Kattan looked genuinely frightened. You can hear someone off set saying “that’s enough” so I think maybe it was a planned stunt that Vanilla took too far.

If you search “MTV 25 Lame” on You Tube, you may only find this part of the special. I hope you watch more of it, their comments are still pretty funny. Denis Leary describes Four Non Blondes “What’s Up” as the same thing he hears from a lady sitting on a street corner in New York, screaming “HEYY YEAAH YEAAH YEAH”… - Molly Jakkamsetti