Growing Up Funny – When We Were “The Not Ready For Prime Time EVER” Players

We grew up with Mad and Cracked magazine. We grew up watching Saturday Night Live while our parents talked and drank coffee in the kitchen. I don’t know if four kids could really appreciate the comedy master class we took part in, but we drank it all up until it became part of who we were.  We smuggled the forbidden George Carlin album to listen to it upstairs in my cousin’s room and where other parents might have had to worry their kids might watch porn on the brand new cable, we watched any stand up comedy special we could.

So, Mom, I’m sorry.

I never slept when I stayed over at Aunt Jean’s house, unless you count the naps Lorraine and I would take in the afternoons. On the flip side, I still do a mean  “Edith Ann”. So, win win, right? Oh, and thank you for the Steve Martin album that Valentine’s Day. I still have “King Tut” on my iTunes library.

We were already funny kids. My cousins could read a grocery list and make it hilarious. My aunt laughs hard enough to make herself nearly choke when she tells the story of how one clumsy, untrained, chubby second grader/prima ballerina pirouetted across the new tile floor, tripped off the step, fell into the lap of a distracted by wrestling uncle, got up and completed her performance of “Swan Lake” without missing a beat. I still maintain that the dive from the step was an important part of the choreography.  And, I can’t emphasize the importance of the right socks when undertaking this classic Russian ballet.

Before Fey and Pohler, there was DuFresne and Marciano.  There were skits, improv and the kind of classic character studies people love (Rosanne Rosanadana and Emily Latella often appeared at the dinner table, together. Later, the unofficial female, Italian American members of the Monty Python crew performed live for our family) We created characters that live in the annals of family lore: The Mockers, The Valley Girl, but then what can be expected from a team that penned the immortal:

“Close the gate, Close the gate,

Come on everybody

and close the gate….”

We were four and our Nonna did not appreciate the humor.  Young wiseassery is never appreciated, even after you do close the gate like you were told a million times. Go figure.

Also, it hurts when you get dragged inside by your angry Nonna. I don’t know if you know that, but it does.

We didn’t need Lorne Michaels, because we had my cousin Jeff. He was the mastermind, the producer/creator of such comedic gems as “Geppetto” (a classic skit performed completely with a gooseneck desk lamp and dog toys), The Toymakers, Figs(ha! I can’t be pinched from here!), and this earworm jingle for a cereal General Mills still occasionally tries to steal the recipe for…

“ooohhh….sniffin’ mah Whiffies…

How I LOVE to sniff

Whiffies ceee-reall…

with the whiffy fruit flavor…

 My brother would appear from time to time. His comedy style at the time was something like taking John Belushi and Chris Farley, sprinkling them with espresso and a ton of sugar, cramming all of that into the body of a hyperactive eight year old boy, spinning him around and then watching what happened. The best thing about my brother was he needed very little coaching. Usually, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” was all it would take. Jeff’s friends came through, stand up comics doing their guest host turns like champs.

We even had an announcer. My younger sister was the best one you could imagine. Of course, her announcements also brought the show to an end. “Mom…..they won’t let me in the room with them……”

There are times where we sit as adults and wonder if we missed our callings as doctors, lawyers and whatever other thing we might have been.  Then we laugh.

Because we’re still funny.


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