You’ve probably seen the images on your Facebook timeline: Those funny little quips that teachers post about their students, like a kid answering “What ended in 1896?” with “1895.” Funny, right? Well, comedian Lucas Bohn sure thinks that kids say some pretty funny stuff — so he decided to create a career around their inadvertent jokes.
Bohn is a stand-up comedian by way of elementary school teacher. He would come home from teaching kids all day and realize that what he had in front of him, grading papers, was great stand-up material.”I would show the assignments to my wife then write a joke about it,” says Bohn. He soon realized that he could write a lot of jokes, and when teaching got in the way of comedy, Bohn took what he’d seen in class and took it on the road.
Now, Bohn has a pretty sweet gig performing on cruise ships two weeks out of every month. Cruise ships? Yep, and he loves what he does, performing seven nights a week to what he describes as standing-room only crowds, with attendance in the hundreds. Six of those nights he’s in the ship’s comedy club, performing more traditional stand-up. He then devotes one night to a larger crowd, performing in the ship’s theater. It’s this show, Lesson Plans to Late Night, that he’ll be performing at Threshold Rep this weekend.
Lesson Plans to Late Night is a little bit stand-up, a little bit multimedia comedy. Here’s an example: Bohn reads what a student, Frankie, wrote in response to “I earn money at home by …” from a large screen, so the audience can see Frankie’s answer too. Frankie writes, “I don’t. I am a freeloader.” Bohn then takes the joke one step further, saying, “And look at all the old white republicans, saying, ‘He’s a democrat!'”
Bohn says that when he first came up with the idea for Lesson Plans to Late Night, he thought, “It’s so simple, anyone could do this.” And Bohn has no shortage of material; he’s always getting submissions from people who find funny things their kids write in school.
Sometimes, though, he just stumbles upon some really funny signs and billboards, taking advantage of found funnies and incorporating them into his stand-up. A recent find outside of an ABC store read, “You can’t hit your kids, but you can hit the bottle.” Cue laughtrack.
“I wrote the show for my wife, just to sit at home and make her laugh,” says Bohn. But since those first living room shows, Bohn has realized that his comedy has the power to transcend, especially on cruise ships. “A lot of people are from other countries,” explains Bohn of his audiences. “I’d see them leaving my shows, and I know they were thinking, ‘Oh, he’s doing comedy, I can’t understand him.’ And it really got to me.”
So, he thought about why non-English speakers left comedy shows, and what he could do to make the jokes more accessible to them. “I realized they were leaving because they don’t understand why this is funny and I thought, ‘How do I bridge that gap?'” The answer came in the form of pictures — those rudimentary kids’ scribbles and drawings proved to hold a universal appeal.
While Bohn’s cruise ship gigs are successful, he didn’t always think he wanted to give up what he calls “land gigs” for the high sea. “I used to think that cruise ships are kinda where acts go to die,” he laughs. But then he realized that audiences are really receptive on cruises — he admits that it may have to do with the fact that they’re kinda stuck there — and he’s never looked back.
“Comedians are communicators,” says Bohn. “I take the thing that made me laugh and I think, ‘How can I explain this to an audience member and get them to have the same reaction?'” In Lesson Plans to Late Night, Bohn makes the whole explanation process a heck of a lot easier, with help from some funny kids. “Not only am I telling, but I am showing,” says Bohn. “It’s a double punchline.”
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