Comedian and educator Eddie B. found the hilarity in the difficult and often unreasonable circumstances public school teachers face in the line of duty, and the performer’s unabashed, uncensored portrayal of true-to-life in-class situations is resonating with instructors everywhere.
The Houston native will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre on his Teachers Only comedy tour, and his raw and honest depictions of public-school scenarios will offer teachers a humorous outlet for their frustrations.
After teaching for 11 years, Eddie B. reflected on the aspects of the profession that left him so exasperated he actually found them funny.
“Have you ever been so mad, you just laugh?” Eddie B. asked in a recent phone interview. “Your so mad that, after a while, you’re not mad anymore.”
A self-described “regular guy who got caught up in teaching,” Eddie B. said teaching wasn’t his first choice —he estimates about 75 percent of teachers would say the same — but he does carry a profound respect for the craft despite his comedic criticism.
“You find out what you have to go through, and it’s frustrating,” Eddie B. said. “And I happened to be a comic before I became a teacher.”
The humorist said he never tried to merge his passion and his vocation, preferring instead to joke about issues in his personal life like his upbringing and his relationships, until he started making videos titled “What Teachers Really Say.”
In the series, he addresses everything from what educators do on snow days to the confounding scenario of students who can’t read and write but insist on passing notes.
“The best part of any type of stand-up is telling your truth,” Eddie B. said. “When the videos came out, it caught on. I came to find out a lot of educators want to talk about the stuff we go through but can’t, because they’re scared to lose their jobs, rub the administration the wrong way, or be labeled as a troublemaker and strategically eased out of their district.”
While moments in his routine can be moderately vulgar, they reflect his personal life and experience. In contrast, joking about public schools, teachers and the youth of America without offending people, he admits can be a delicate balance.
“I think it’s (about) … staying true to your part in it,” Eddie B. said. “My part is simple. I’m not bashing teaching. It’s something that we (teachers) know about. If you’ve been teaching long enough, there’s something about it that you don’t agree with, but there’s also the little bit that brings you back (to teaching) and that’s the progress is creates.”
The comedian said there is always a teacher, parent or administrator who takes a joke the wrong way, but he’s hoping that shining a light on the plight of teachers is helping to open communication among educators, their employers and the parents of the children they teach.
“We bridge the gap between teachers and administrators,” he said. “It’s a shame the people we work for are so disconnected to what we go through.”
Onstage, Eddie B. utilizes an arsenal of physical comedy to accompany his witty recreations of classroom encounters, and he said his gestures are key to communicating his experience.
“For people who don’t teach, it generalizes the job and gives you a visual of what actually goes on,” Eddie B. said. “They don’t have to be physically present to see what happened. If you can paint the picture with a visual onstage, I don’t care if they weren’t raised like you or come from a different economic status, everyone can relate to a visual, because you can apply it to something you experienced.”
Although his routine involves various topics, Eddie B. is proud of the therapeutic effect his comedy seems to be having on his fellow teachers.
“I get stories about teachers,” he said of his flooded email inbox. “They say things like, ‘You take the stresses out of teaching. We play this every day, and we feel better. I play it for my kids.’ I’m going to keep telling these stories and talking with the passion I have. It’s life-improving comedy. It improves your way of thinking and dealing with life and shows you can approach negative situations with some type of positive. That gives teachers longevity.”
Eddie B. even wants to get school districts involved, imploring them to send their teachers to one of his shows to experience the camaraderie and positivity of one of his performances.
“Have them come out,” he said. “Watch the morale change.”