The Night Satan Paid Our School a Visit

Source: The Night Satan Paid Our School a Visit

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Comedy’s B(j)orn Loser

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Some of my friends wondered where I was during the last week of June and now I’m here to explain.

My wife, Kathy, and I wanted to do something very different this year, so a day after school closed we boarded a flight bound for Iceland with the intention of checking out the burgeoning comedy scene in Reykjavik.

We arrived 5 ½ hours later, booked a room, got some sleep, then went off to find a night club that advertised, “The funniest comedians just south of the Arctic Circle.” We figured it was a can’t-miss getaway for three days. After all, the city had elected a standup comic named John Gnarr as its mayor in 2010. So off we went for an evening of laughs at the Goldengang Comedy Club.

Icelandic comedians have good intentions, but they do not have well-thought out routines. There is always a kernel of humor in their jokes, of course, but they need to work on their setups to those jokes.

The “best” comedian of the evening, Bjorn Hanssen, walked out to rousing cheers and then quieted the audience by saying, “You wouldn’t tip a waiter before dinner, would you?”

The audience chuckled.

Then, out of nowhere, he admitted that he doesn’t like to read much and he attributed it to the fact that current book titles don’t intrigue him. If they did, he said, he might take up reading. He then suggested titles that he believed would capture his attention: Twenty Reasons Why You Must Never Give Yourself a Vasectomy, Let’s Give Satan a Second Chance, and Suicide: What’s All the Fuss About? The last one got big laughs because suicide is rampant in Iceland. Hanssen mentioned that 10.4 people out of 100,000 Icelanders commit suicide every year. To put it in perspective, he stated that South Korea has the highest rate (24.7) per 100,000. “But we’re catching up,” Hanssen added gleefully.

Okay, not bad, but then he meandered for a while muttering about how he got caught in traffic that afternoon, and how a piece of meat he had ordered for lunch had a price tag underneath it. Again, the audience was going nuts, but my wife and I looked at each other like we hadn’t received the memo that his material was funny.

Then, out of nowhere, he shouted, “CANCER, BRING IT ON.”

Everyone howled.

Bjorn then announced that he was going to tell a joke for any Americans who might be in the audience. “The nearest lake to Three-Mile Island has the best nuclear fishin’ ” (PAUSE) My favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll song is by Steppenwolf. You know, “Bjorn to be Wild.”

The audience moaned at that one.

But he kept going.

“Have you ever seen an Eskimo beauty contestant?”

“Do midgets have short life spans?”

“And who retrieves the discuss after the athlete tosses it?”

That, believe it or not, was his big finish. The place went crazy. Afterward, I asked the bartender if there were any big-name comedians in Iceland.

“You just saw him,” he said.

“My wife and I would like two more drinks,” I said. “And make them doubles.”

Points Worth Considering After Graduating High School

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Recently high school seniors across America took part in their graduation ceremonies. But if I had the chance to pull them aside, I would have made three points before they moved on with their lives.

POINT ONE: If you want to experience a wonderful life start right now and look out for others. Believe it or not, it’s not all about you; it’s about the other guy. And while some of you are already on that path, a good deal of you need to consider this suggestion. So how can you begin?

Start small:

Hold a door for someone, anyone.

Say hello to a stranger.

Help anyone in need.

Volunteer.

Be kind.

Do what your parents and guardians ask without an argument.

Wake up every morning and say to yourself, “Who can I help today?”

Then act.

POINT TWO: Read.

Become curious about life. Find areas of interest and learn more about them. Not only will you become more knowledgeable, you will become richer in spirit because you will have something to share in discussion with others.

Don’t read just to bolster your test scores, read to bolster your life. After all, no matter what line of work you eventually pursue you will be dealing with people of all ages, various levels of education and experience. You want to be part of that conversation rather than wishing for that conversation to be over because you have no clue what others are talking about.

So subscribe to a reputable newspaper, read books, and look up words you don’t know. Reading will pay dividends in the future.

POINT THREE: Work hard and do your best.

Work is a four-letter word to some of you, but you might want to consider the advice of President Theodore Roosevelt who once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

How many of you are satisfied with just getting by? That’s okay for now. You are still maturing. But the day will come when you realize what your purpose is in life and you will grab it. Only then will you be inspired to give your best effort. You will show up to work on time, all the time. You will stay after hours to smooth out the edges of a project. And you will go home feeling you truly accomplished something that day.

But would it hurt to start doing your best in everything now? Think about it.

And so Class of 2015, find what you would love to do in life and then have a torrid love affair with it for the rest of your days.

How you can overcome the fear of public speaking

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Every September I tell incoming students to my English III classes that before the year is over they will participate in a writing contest and stand before their classmates and deliver a speech.

“No way, Mister,” someone always blurts out.

“This guy’s crazy,” another whispers.

I know why they react this way. They’re afraid to stand before their peers because they believe they’ll be ridiculed or come off seeming not as smart as the other guy.

Then I tell them a Jerry Seinfeld joke: “According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

The kids laugh.

Then I ask a question. “How many of you in this room are afraid of public speaking? Now, be honest.”

Ninety percent of them raise their hands. So I point out that they are all in the same boat.

“Now,” I ask, “how many of you want to see other people fail or make fools of themselves? Again, be honest.”

Not one hand shoots up.

And so a seed is sown to assure a successful writing contest in April.

We are now approaching April and the speeches have been handed in. Once again the students have made it difficult for the judges to select finalists much less winners. This year’s topic is titled The Last Lecture. It is based on the internet sensation of 2007 in which Dr. Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh delivered a most memorable talk advising his peers, students, and a worldwide audience about how to live a meaningful life. Not long after that he died of pancreatic cancer.

After we watch Dr. Pausch’s address, I tell my students that even though he delivered a touching, memorable talk, theirs will be better.

“How’s that going to happen? We don’t even have high school diplomas and he had a doctorate.”

“Good question. I’ll tell you how during the contest.”

So the students get to work. For the most part they must write the speech in class. I don’t want mommy’s and daddy’s fingerprints on this assignment. I convince students that it is important they consider their lives at age 16 and from time to time after that. As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The students are now excited about the contest. Some are asking me for criticism moments after writing their first paragraph. I tell them no. I’ve taught them how to write, now they must write on their own. For several days they write and rewrite and soon their pieces start to take shape. I now give their work a glance to make certain they have written in a conversational tone because their version of The Last Lecture cannot sound like some stuffy speech riddled with SAT words and countless quotations culled from dusty bookshelves.

No, this has to be from the heart. After all, the students are told they only have a brief time before they die so what will they tell classmates, friends, and family before they depart for the hereafter? Of course, many address the topic of death. Others thank their mothers and fathers for a job well done. Advice is often parceled out to classmates. But no one is called ever called out.

The students often come up with observations about life that I’ve never even considered in my 62 years. These are the magical moments I experience when reading over their copy.

When they finally stand and deliver their work, the students who battled me in September are often the ones who want to go first. They have something meaningful to say and they want to say it now. They talk about topics that are of concern to them: love, family members, and God. Precisely the topics Randy Pausch said he would not discuss in his Last Lecture. And that’s why many of our students wrote better talks than the man with the Ph.D. They got personal.

Speeches are met with tears, laughter, profound thought, and deep appreciation. Each student receives warm applause and leaves the podium beaming for having delivered a moving talk and having beaten back the fear of public speaking.

Then come the trophies. Each of my five classes receives three trophies for first, second, and third place. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. Teachers need to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to education.

The biggest thrill is when you see the winners strut across the classroom holding their trophies on high. Then I issue a warning, “Get these home safely. I’m not buying new ones.”

“Don’t worry, Mister, when you weren’t looking I texted my father to pick it up at lunch time.”

“Thanks for your honesty,” I say. “When you see your dad, tell him to also pick you up after 4 p.m. detention.”

Just kidding.