Listen up, and listen good. Mrs. Campbell didn’t come to class today, and you know what that means: it’s time for all you hopeless chucklefucks to watch how it’s done. All you open-mic wannabes better get out your gel pens and take notes on how to bring the laughs. This ain’t your daddy’s whoopie-cushion shit, nah. This is gonna earn me Class Clown senior superlative nine years out.
So in Mrs. Campbell's place, the principal sent us—get this—Mr. O’Briley. This poor sap. He smells like unearned confidence and unleaded gasoline. Listen, I know my mom still dresses me and all, but my man here came to work wearing suspenders WITH a belt. I was gonna go easy on this dude, but alas, the vein is just too rich.
Sure, Mr. O’Briley might think he knows how to handle third graders. Just play a movie on the projector and we’ll all be putty in your hands, right? Doze off behind the desk and dream about the G.I. Bill or whatever?
Mr. O’Briley hesitates for a moment before calling the next name. He pretends that nothing is amiss, but we all heard the crack. His psyche is shattered.
Heh, as if I’ll ever FUCKING let you get that far. Your wobbling knees will fail you as you stand before me, and as you crumble in despair, you will realize your dominion is merely a facade. No matter how loud you may beg for a reprieve, you must remember that Mrs. Campbell isn’t here. I’m here. And I have your ass until carline.
Great, he’s starting with attendance. I’ll do some easy crowdwork here. A lot of starters might do the ol’ Tyler-Two-Timer where you swap names with the kid sitting next to you. It’s a easy way to get the crowd on your side, and a great way to end up stuck in this dead-end town for the rest of your life telling people that your shtick is “just ‘too highbrow’ for SNL anyway.” The crown of comedy hangs heavy on my brow, and I will not disrespect its weight with cheap yuks such as that.
“Emma?” “Present.” A perfect setup. A softball, really.
“Gregory?” “Present.” Almost there.
“Joseph P.?” “Present.” Here it comes.
I dare destiny to blink as I stare it in the face. Mr. O’Briley calls my name. I lean back on my light blue plastic throne.
The laughter comes slowly at first, in stifled chuckles. This is what you want. You come out with the big hits too early, you got a one-way ticket to Mr. Hannigan’s office, and, buddy, ain’t no sense of humor in that office, I tell ya.
Mr. O’Briley hesitates for a moment before calling the next name. He pretends that nothing is amiss, but we all heard the crack. His psyche is shattered. Now he knows that “Mrs. Campbell” is just the name on the door; this is my classroom.
With attendance over, he turns his attention to the lesson plan. His naivete is almost charming. He doesn’t even see me hunched over behind my desk, seeming to reach into my backpack. And he certainly doesn’t see my other hand, the palm delicately placed over my mouth. With the precise expulsion of air into my palm, the rapid slapping of lips on palm recreates the ultimate comic noise that my patrons all clamor for: a “fart,” sounding as if from a butt.
“So, Mrs. Campbell left a note saying you’re on, uh, chapter 5 of–”
“Uh, yes, um, anyway, Mrs. Campbell’s note says–”
I take in some more air.
“Now, is somebody making far–”
If he asked anything after that, I couldn’t tell you. It’s lost to history now, silenced by the thunderous laughs of Mrs. Campbell’s classroom. Some even allege that they heard laughs from Mr. Langiello’s adjacent fourth grade classroom. A good sign, as empire always has its eye on the horizon.
I sit back up in my seat and catch a glimpse of Mr. O’Briley’s panicked visage. I’ve strained his authority through my comedy sieve, and all that remains is his pathetic, withered husk. He was always nothing, but now he can’t keep lying to himself. The best comedy emerges from truth, and it’s a damn shame, but the truth is, he doesn’t have what it takes to rule this classroom.
The lunch bell rings. It’s time to commune with the adoring masses. I’ll let them fight for a bit over who gets the honor of my companionship at their table, but I’ll ultimately make the rounds. Mayhaps I’ll collect a few Capri Suns as tribute. A good king graciously gets to know all of his lessers, after all.
I’ll also give Mr. O’Briley the dignity of 30 minutes to himself, to weep alone at his pretender’s desk. I just hope the contents of that thermos hearten you for what’s to come, Mr. O’Briley. You haven’t even heard my closer yet.