For his first step in elective, unnecessary, self-directed therapy, a stand-up comic recalls his first two memories. What surfaces is largely inaccurate, grossly delusional, and therapeutically unsuccessful.
My very first memory is from when I was a baby. Or maybe a toddler. I don’t know. All I know is that, at the time, I was too young to know what they called small humans back then. I was also too young to know words, or thoughts. I was basically a blob with eyes. Cut me some slack.
I remember sitting in someone’s lap, surrounded by people, and there were yellow-ish curtains. At least I think it was yellow. I can’t be positive I was able to distinguish color. Maybe they were white. Or sheer. Is sheer a color? The point is they were laughing. Or yelling. Or maybe hungry? No, I’m sure they were laughing at something I’d said or done. Or maybe excreted. The point is, I was the center of attention, and it felt right. It was my first audience, and I was killing.
The next memory I have is from preschool, and it was the first time I thought I might be funny. I would have thought I was funny as a baby/toddler/small human, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have thoughts yet. Preschool was different. I was a confident, five year old little boy. I was also precocious. I was at the top of my preschool class, dominating my fellow classmates in skills like freeze tag, nap time, and saying the magic word. And calling myself precocious.
This particular day at the Fircrest Presbyterian Church Preschool was Test Day. And the tasks were simple—for me at least. Have I mentioned I was precocious? I aced Zipping Up My Coat and Sitting in a Chair Without Falling Over.
The Finger Test was a curve ball. They asked us to tap each finger to our thumb. I was like, “Yo, Teach, when I get to Lil’Pink, do I repeat and then go back? Or just tap the pinky once?” I was always a gangster.
I’m not exactly sure what they were testing. This didn’t feel like some sort of state-required test. Was the teacher bored? Looking back, these seem like the kinds of tests Jane Goodall administered to her ape pals. I don’t know when the conversation was at the end of that day. “Mr. and Mrs. LeDonne, congratulations, you have a chimp.”
After crushing the Finger Test, only one task remained—the Stairs Test. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, was to walk up a flight of stairs, turn around, and walk down. Simple enough. The first two kids ascended easily but struggled on the turn. They might have been afraid to let go of the handrail. I don’t know. I wasn’t coaching them and didn’t have time to get in their head. They were my competition. I think. They eventually got back on track and finished strong. Then it was my turn. The teacher said, “Your turn, Playa.” Or something like that. I can’t remember every detail.
I got to the top of the stairs faster than everyone else. When it comes to tests, I always finish first. [But only in tests, ladies.] I went to turn around, but felt an urge to do something different, something unexpected. This little voice in the back of my mind said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” and instead of turning around and descending like a normal child, I walked down backwards, like an idiot child. You can imagine the hilarity that ensued. I laughed. The kids laughed. I had my first audience and I. was. killing. Again. Unfortunately, I was too young to take my act on the road so I signed autographs until snack time and wondered how I’d write about this memory thirty years later.
The rest of my childhood was spent impersonating characters I saw on In Living Color, a sketch comedy show featuring Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Ali Wentworth, and three dozen Wayanses. I’d run around saying things like, “Homey don’t play dat,” “All the sudden the fuzz show up,” and “do you have them big breastases?”
That is, until, Ace Ventura Pet Detective came out, and then I spent the better part of ages 11 to 13 impersonating him. Every time my parents asked me to do something it was “ALLLLL Righty then.” I’m surprised they didn’t stop asking me to do things, given how annoying it must have been to have a little idiot running around over exaggerating every single affirmative.
And yes, I was still doing impressions from Carrey’s In Living Color days, which include Vera de Milo—a steroid-using female bodybuilder who had a deep breathy voice and a horse-whinny laugh.
Surprisingly, the ladies were not throwing myself at me in my pre-pubescent days. Crazy, I know. That wouldn’t come until…never.
You might be asking what someone could actually do with all these impersonations. The answer is, “Not much.”
In grade school, my friends and I used to spend our lunch breaks getting each other to laugh so hard we’d blow milk out our nose. That was our view of fun, and boy, was it fun. It was great back then. Come to think of it, my friends and I still try to do this. Not much has changed. But when you’ve discovered a good thing—and I would argue the challenge of getting your friend to laugh so hard he blows milk out his nose is a great thing—why would you change?