My Life As a Preschool Teaching Comedian
By Jacob Godbey
“It’s like you have a whole secret life I didn’t know about,” my boss exclaimed after I told her I’ve been a comedian for several years. But keeping it a secret from her was my plan all along, because I am an assistant preschool teacher with a decidedly not family-friendly comedy show.
I started performing before I was hired at the preschool, and I purposely left the comedy shtick off of my resume. Until recently, my boss, my co-workers, and even the preschool children’s parents did not know that I’m one-half of Gingers On Ice. However, I currently reside in Missoula, MT, which is a town small enough that it doesn’t take long for people I know to notice my naked torso posted up around the neighborhood.
To my surprise, when my boss and the preschool families discovered the other side of me, I was not met with animosity, but rather support. I forgot that parents were also once twenty-somethings trying to launch a comedy career in rural Montana. Or at least they remember being young and brash. But they aren’t always aware just how much their kids sharpen my improv skills on a daily basis.
In October 2015, I casually mentioned to a 4-year old that the new Star Wars movie would be out soon and that I was excited to see it. His response? “Yeah, I’ve already seen it.”
He then described how there’s “A guy with a red lightsaber that has those two things coming out the handle,” and “There is a lot of ships that shoot lasers and blow things up.”
Sure, he that all checks out, but The Force Awakens hadn’t yet been released, so I decided to “yes and” this real-life improv scene. I fired back with, “And there’s this alien named Spock? And he takes Han Solo prisoner and Chewbacca has to save him, right?”
Knowing I knew that he was full of it, he dug himself an even deeper hole. “Oh yeah, those things are awesome,” he said. It was then that I realized he was just helping build an improv scene. And that’s not the first time that a child has helped me have a sense of humor about myself, because when they aren’t lying, children are unflinchingly honest.
I’ve been told by more than a few children to change the core of my being. During a routine day at the preschool, I had a song stuck in my head, so naturally my mouth subjected the tune to everyone around me. A 5-year old proceeded to cut me to pieces. “Jacob,” she said. “I don’t like it when you sing and make jokes.” Fine, but those are the only two things I do. Those are my only two skills!
I’m wasn’t sure if she truly intended her words, so I attempted to bring the singing and joking to a minimum, but the next week she looked me in the eyes and stated, “Jacob, I’m tired of you and I need a break from you.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite so proud.
Comedy and Early Childhood may not mix on paper, but in practice, certain parts of each job can be melded together to mutually benefit both. My friends have absolutely chided me, saying that they would not be able to keep curse words from children, but I’ve become a master at replacements. Darn instead of damn, oops instead of shit, and my goodness instead of holy fuck.
I realize that the kids I teach now will be in for a surprise if they Google my name someday, but I hope they find my jokes funnier when they are older than they do now. I also wish they could buy tickets to my show, because I need to pay rent this month. But such is the life of a comedian, I suppose.
Jacob Godbey is a comedian and writer based out of Missoula, MT. He is one half of the comedy duo Gingers On Ice and can be found on any social media @jrgcomedy.