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.

“Okay.”

“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.