I never thought I would become a pageant dad.
So as I stood in front of 300 people with Leah at the Ohio University Faculty Pageant, I thought a thousand different things. None were more powerful than pride, especially when you consider the journey it took to get there.
Daniel Farkas…you HAVE to do this.
This was my wife’s reaction to the pageant request. A student in my social media class knew I used to do improv comedy, and thought I could be a contestant. I made casual conversation about this while cleaning dishes. The lesson of course is to delegate dishes to the kids from now on.
I had to do this, and Leah had to help. Leah loves telling jokes, and she’ll happily tell you she’s really good at it. I would tell jokes. Leah would tell jokes. Hilarity would reign.
About Those Jokes….
There’s a big difference between improv and stand up comedy. With improv, there is a team. We also made it up as we went. The audience kind of knew/expected things may not always go smoothly and was supportive.
With stand up, there is an expectation you will be funny. If not, there are consequences. Ego crushing consequences. Believe me, I know.
The last time I did pure stand up comedy was June 1998. I did a comedy monologue at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism annual banquet. I bombed. It was terrible. The best laugh was the director of our school cracking a joke about how my routine was proof journalism and jokes don’t go together.
- Did I make too much out of this? Probably.
- Should my ego have been able to handle it? Totally.
- Was I a pile of goo at the end of the night? Absolutely.
- Did I ever do jokes on stage since that night? Hell no…
To this day, I made that monologue/debacle out as one of the five worst nights of my professional career. I never told jokes on a stage since. Now, I was going back to the scene of the crime and taking my daughter with me.
What was the worst that could happen?
My wife took a half-day off of work to drive the kids from Columbus to Athens. On the way, my four-year old, who hadn’t had an accident in six months, decided to empty his bladder in the car seat.
One new Batman shirt and pair of jeans later, Leah would be late. Then Google Maps led my wife astray, and Leah arrived two minutes before the start. So what else could go wrong?
They forgot I was there.
Really. The hosts had bio pages for six contestants. I was the seventh. It was only when the judges said “What about Farkas?” that the hosts realized they forgot about me. They also had no idea who I was, where I worked or how I ended up here in the first place.
So now what? Be who you are.
I ad libbed. Improv is a gift. Instead of trying to be funny, I had a supportive crowd and I made up a bio on the fly. It helped to have an adorable Kindergartner on stage smiling from ear to ear. I was feeling pretty good until I realized I had to tell jokes in front of 300 people in less than 10 minutes. That’s when a funny thing happened.
Pride and confidence beat fear.
Leah is six. I was nervous and pacing. Leah was playing with balloons, petting a dog, and telling people about what she learned in science class. Static electricity for those wondering.
Leah had no fear. She ran right up on stage and waved at the audience. It’s tough for adults to do this, and here she is without a care in the world. And to think I’m supposed to be teaching her….
It was fun telling jokes. It was 1,000 times better seeing Leah grab the mic. Leah had three jokes to remember.
- What do you call a three-humped camel? Pregnant.
- What is the elves’ favorite subject in school? The elfabet.
- Why did the queen go to the dentist? To get crowned.
The first two jokes went well, and then Leah amazed me even more. Leah didn’t want to do a knock knock joke because she was afraid nobody would laugh. She wanted to do the dentist joke instead.
Turns out Leah was so in the moment she ad libbed her final joke (wonder where she got that from) and did the knock knock joke.
Leah clucks like a chicken and does the chicken dance.
Leah even cracked jokes during the interview segment, eliciting the following caption from the student newspaper.
“Leah Farkas, daughter of Professor Dan Farkas, mocks her father for talking at length during the Q&A portion of the 8th annual Faculty Pageant presented by Alpha Phi Omega in Baker Ballroom on Monday.”
I didn’t think the answer was that bad….
And the winner is….
Not us. A professor in a fancy tuxedo sang his guts out in the competition and deserved to win, although the dog singing Elvis was pretty sweet.
I don’t have a tiara, and I could care less. I never really understood how proud a parent could be watching their child play or work. To see Leah doing the things I used to do, being fearless, having fun, and being really good was the most thrilling thing to happen to me in a while.
I never thought I would become a pageant dad, let alone have a blast. Now about that next amateur night at the comedy club….
By Dan Farkas, CBUS Dads Contributor