My family recently hosted a German teacher as part of an exchange program for three weeks. Not a foreign “student” exchange, but teacher. My wife is a teacher as well, so the two of them – my wife and Simone – have a lot to talk about.
At first, I was very nervous about the whole affair. Three weeks is a long time for someone to stay at our home. Even my own sister can only last two days before she reaches her maximum tolerance and has to leave.
But we were offered a lot of information to prepare ourselves with. For instance, according to one of the brochures, students who come to America from Europe are often a mere two-to-three hour drive from another country. So, their sense of travel is a bit skewed compared to American culture. Sometimes, they become a little frustrated with their host families, if they can’t take an afternoon and drive from Minnesota to the Grand Canyon.
Before Simone arrived, my kids had a ton of questions about how they should behave and what to expect. A couple days before her arrival, we saw a German store and they had the idea of buying her some German candy. I, however, thought this was a terrible idea. I was certain that she would be nothing but disappointed. Why would we offer her the experience of feeling like she was at a corner convenience store back home picking up a chocolate bar, especially when she came all the way across the Atlantic to experience American life?
What I have learned that I love most about Simone staying with us is her German accent. She – and most people from other non-English speaking countries – have a real hard time saying the word “squirrel”. But, they think it’s hilarious. There are even YouTube videos dedicated to German students trying to say the word.
Think about how easy it would have been to root out German spies during WWII…
“Look! Up in the tree! There’s a fluffy grey… what are they called?”
Our houseguest doesn’t have this problem, though. She’s actually amazingly intelligent. She speaks six languages – three of them perfectly fluently. She even speaks English much more better than I do.
So, my kids were asking what they could do with Simone. They wanted to play games with her…
“Dad, can we play chess with her?”
“Axis and Allies?”
“NO! No, no, no!!!”
So, I buried the game in my neighbor’s yard before she got here.
Next, my good buddy Greg Hahn joins me from backstage, as he prepares for his stand up routine by memorizing his sixteen new jokes. Greg has been a professional comedian for over twenty years. Now, when some people boast about doing their chosen profession for over twenty years, there is a sense of pride in their voice. But, when Greg tells people he’s been at it for 22 years, he’s pensive, as he waits for the reply, “…then you should be WAY better at it than you are!”
Now, when Greg takes the stage, his energy level is so off the charts, he is simply captivating – which shows the development of his talents. When he was younger, instead of being captivating, he was more of an annoyance who drove people out of the comedy clubs as quickly as they could settle their checks and run!
Greg’s come a long way since his career in the Marines (or some may say he has gone backward a long way). Rising up to the rank of Captain, Greg enjoyed the military environment where everyone dressed the same, everyone spoke the same, and communication was clear and concise. But, when it came time to let loose, it was hard to find anyone as open and free to let loose and laugh as a room full of Marines.
In his current line of work, he’s learned that performing for corporate crowds is the exact opposite. They are typically very buttoned up and hard to get a laugh out of. At most corporate events, the people aren’t there for the comedy. They are usually there to receive an award, have hors d’oeuvres, and kiss up to their bosses. From a comedian’s point, there is much more work in winning them over.
Greg has an advantage in these moments, though, because his brand of comedy is so over the top, out of control, that in contrast to the boring, monotone statistics the audience had been hearing at the breakout sessions all day, Greg completely rocks their world with jokes!
As Greg says (or screams) in his corporate event pitch: “PUT ME IN FRONT OF YOUR PEOPLE. WHAT COULD GO WRONG!!!???”