Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mr. Burr

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a story from your childhood that would best personify your personality today.

ME: In seventh grade, I had a math teacher named Mr. Burr. He was an older, mostly bald white man who always carried a comb in his front pocket, and spoke with a thick New Yawk accent. When the students would fall asleep, he'd kick the metal garbage can and yell, "Wake up! Wake up! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm trying to teach heah!" (New Yawker for "here"). In the winter, he'd open up the windows and let in the snow, and again yell "Wake up! Wake up! You lazy sons-a-you-know-whats! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm tryin' to teach heah!" And then he'd bust out the comb and run it up his bald head like Arthur Fonzarelli. So one day, I wrote a comic strip about him.

I had the man dressed up as Batman (Burrman), and had him do battle with the evil garbage pails who wanted to take over the world, using their freeze rays. Of course, Mr. Burr was impervious to cold, and his weapon of choice was a swift old kick in the garbage "can", if you get my meaning. My classmates loved it so much, I wrote more. I eventually had Superburr, Luke Burrwalker, Burrassic Park. You name it. I mean, it was just endless. I was not a popular kid in seventh grade (I had buck-teeth, bad acne, overweight, you name it) but my classmates LOVED "The Burr Files" as they were eventually called. I wrote comic strip after comic strip, and they ate that shit up. The only math lesson I remember from that class was "PEMDAS" or "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract" in that order. I remembered this because of his mnemonic "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" which he repeated over and over again. Eventually, Aunt Sally became a character in the comics - farting, belching, removing her clothing in inappropriate places, and Mr. Burr would always have to excuse her, even while trying to save the world.

I eventually branched out to parody other teachers, but Mr. Burr was always the easiest and ripest for parody. Towards the end of the year, in English class, I was asked to write a poem, and so I chose to write about Mr. Burr (I'll never forget this line: "Bash, bash! Now the garbage can's dented. / Whew, said he. Good thing it was rented!") The English teacher loved it so much that he showed it to all of the other teachers - including Mr. Burr. A day or two later, I was walking down the hallway, and a GROWN MAN grabs me by the shoulders and shoves me into an empty classroom. It was Mr. Burr. His face was pale as a ghost, and he goes, "What the hell you tryin' to do to me, kid?! The entire staff thinks I'm some kind of moron! Oh marone. You're ruining my life!" And I realized he wasn't kidding. The entire class of students (And apparently the faculty) thought my work was hilarious - but he didn't get the joke. Here I had nearly 100 comic strips all making fun of this man, and the butt of my joke did not appreciate it at all. And that's when I realized the human cost of parody.

I really don't like hurting people, but I love parody so much. I crave sarcasm and satire in my life, but I'm always mindful of that look in that man's eyes when he realized I was making fun of him. And had been doing so for months and months on end. I like to think I still write satire, but it's satire with a conscience now.

No comments:

Post a Comment