While participating in a roundtable discussion at a professional writer’s conference, someone asked how I was qualified to write a column about college issues (since I am well past my school years). My answer surprised my fellow writers. Before performing at over 500 schools as a professional comedian, I attended quite a number of universities as a semi-professional student. Unlike my peers who had one major and attended one college for four years, I had seven majors at five universities (and one correspondence school) over a span of nine years. Seems every summer break I would stumble across inspiration for a new field of study that would send my college life spinning in a new direction the following semester.
The first school that foolishly accepted me was Texas Women’s University. It was only the second year they allowed male students to attend. I was eighteen and had hormones bouncing around inside me like a pinball machine, thus the thought of having two dozen females to every one male was an irresistible lure. The girls on campus joked, “Men here are like parking spaces: the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped.” There was only one real requirement in order for a guy to qualify for enrollment: he was required to choose a course of study in the medical profession. I agreed, but quickly discovered the sight of blood rendered me horizontal.
So began and ended the first of my following parade of majors:
NURSING MAJOR – I thought it would be cool to be a “registered” nurse, because I thought they got to carry a gun.
BIOLOGY MAJOR – I was particularly interested in the mating habits of other species, in case there is anything to this reincarnation stuff – I wanted to know how to score.
THEATRE MAJOR – I quit after I realized a degree in theatre would only qualify me to tear tickets in half.
ART MAJOR – Expelled the first semester for trying to trace the model.
ENGINEERING MAJOR – My dream of getting my own train ended when I was the first student in the correspondence school’s history to be expelled for playing hooky – I mailed in empty envelopes.
EDUCATION MAJOR – I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps. She was a substitute teacher and at this point I was excelling at being a substitute student.
After almost a decade I ended up being a double major:
LAW and PSYCHOLOGY – I figured I could be an asshole… and know why.
Before I continue sharing my vast history in higher education, I should also divulge some information about my high school experience. I attended a very small school. How small you ask?
Sex Ed and Driver’s Ed were taught in the same car.
So when it came time to choose a college, I was determined that it be a big one… with indoor plumbing. I’m not knocking small schools. You can have everything at a small school that you can have at a big school—except a secret.
After my failure at TWU, my parents insisted on choosing the next school I would attend. While they agreed to let me attend a large university, they decided on one that had no distractions to my meeting their high academic standards. They enrolled me in Big & Boring University (I will withhold the actual name of this Texas school in hopes they one day hire me to perform). Within three months I was expelled for living off campus… in Vegas.
After my failure at BBU, I decided I needed professional help in choosing my next college. I turned to the extensive research provided by an esteemed source: Playboy Magazine, which publishes an annual list of the nation’s top party schools. I knew right away the school I picked deserved its party reputation when I walked in my first class and a bouncer stamped my hand.
Most schools are understandably concerned with “binge drinking” on campus, which scientists define as having five or more drinks in one sitting. At my school, it was not considered a “binge” if at the end of the night you could still count all your drinks on one hand. In fact, it was not considered a “binge” if you could still count.
At one point during my sophomore year I was reported missing for about three weeks. The beer companies put my picture on the sides of the cans. By then I was drinking beer to sober up.
Needless to say, with all the partying going on—with or without me—I found it difficult to study. It’s no wonder: my dorm-mate would keep me awake all night as he threw up Red Bull & vodka. (What a brilliant combination – totally sick with no chance of passing out).
All I learned at party schools was that college is the only time in your life you won’t look totally White Trash for having an empty liquor bottle collection. (I hope that didn’t offend anyone… whose parents have an empty liquor bottle collection).
Soon my grades began to suffer, much to the chagrin of my parents, who were footing the bill. Before I had departed for college that year, my father had offered me incentive: if I made decent grades he would buy me a car, and if I made the Dean’s List he would buy me a car that runs. My goal, on the other hand, was to avoid expulsion. I tried taking every course on a pass/fail basis. This puts a student in the odd position of being overjoyed at getting a D, knowing he achieved his goal of doing the very minimum amount of work necessary to pass, and angry when he gets an A, knowing he could have spent less time in the books and more time in oblivion.
I finally bottomed out at party schools at the end of my junior year, that glorious time in a college student’s life when every other day someone he knows turns 21 and expects him to celebrate with them. My grades were nothing short of a disaster. When I told my parents the bad news my father asked, “How close were you to a passing grade?” I told him the truth, “About three seats.”
What did I get out of my many years in college (other than eight arrests and no convictions?)
- I got 3,285 credit card applications (estimated at one a day for nine years). I wish I had followed my comic friend, Michael Dean Ester’s advise, and returned each envelope back to the credit card company with a brick inside, since they have to pay the postage.
- I got a small amount of knowledge of a big variety of subjects and a tremendous amount of knowledge about college life. Such as: real dorm rooms are not as big as the ones on TV and in movies, but if you can survive in the smallest room ever, you will appreciate every other place you live for the rest of your life. Also, it’s a good idea in high school to practice eating cardboard to get used to the food in the college dining halls.
- I got violated every year. I think the school store should be kind enough to give a tube of KY to every student just before he sells his textbooks back at a fraction of the cost. (I have not sold a textbook back in years and it still hurts when I sit down.) They hated buying my books back because I highlighted. I eventually developed my own system with textbooks: instead of highlighting the important parts in yellow ink, I crossed out everything else in black marker. I just dipped that calculus book in ink.
- I got a chance to meet people, many of who I am still in touch with today. They call me at least once a month… to ask when I’m going to pay back my student loans.
- I also got to surprise some people at a professional writer’s conference.
“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit: laffguru.com