TimmyDaddy: Improv camp and other end of summer tales

Margo Sullivan, fourth from left, takes part in Improv Camp at Whole World Theater.

Margo’s big takeaway from the first day of 4th grade was that that her teacher Ms. Olson’s sense of humor was exactly the same as that of her Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Phillips (“Like, literally the same jokes!”). I said they must both attend the same Teacher Jokes Seminar over the summer. Margo was aghast that there would ever be such a convention. “That’s a really dumb idea, Dad.”

Ms. Phillips was a fantastic teacher, though, so I’m optimistic about this school year and thrilled that it is underway. Even though it ends with the last day of July, Summer vacation finds a way to get a little long in the tooth. Aug. 1 comes around and we post the First Day of School pictures to social media with a celebratory nod to our fellow parents.

Predictably, it horrifies our friends up North: “That’s cruel!” “It’s the middle of Summer!” The best reply I saw was on my friend Andisheh’s page where he explained, “once the crops are harvested, there’s nothing else for them to do.”

What they don’t understand is that the singular goal of the sweltering Atlanta summer vacation is to get through it: air conditioning, pool time, ice pops and travel if you can. We pass longer car rides vying to be the first to scream out “Chicken!” when a yellow car is spotted. Or we keep our minds sharp by guessing the next song on the radio. I scored the first point of our 10-hour drive to the Outer Banks with “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers. It was an educated guess since Hits 1 played it once every 23 minutes or so. The only way I could tolerate that station all day was to dominate the game. My family has never been as impressed with me as when I scored with “Sweet but Psycho” by Ava Max.

Margo closed out Summer with a joke seminar of her own, the Whole World Theater Improv camp. They hold a performance on the last day, which is cute, I suppose. But Improv makes me uneasy when talented adults are performing, so watching kids is peak discomfort. The director calls out something like “You’re a penguin applying for a mortgage!” and these kids are supposed to just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind? I mean, I’ll probably re-write this sentence three or four times before you ever read it so you can imagine how difficult an hour that was for me. Margo’s first skit had something to do with broccoli. She delivered a few decent lines while her cohort simply convulsed on the ground as if he had been poisoned. Margo looked down and finished the scene with, “You good, bro?” I wasn’t.

Not surprisingly, some of the performances devolved rather quickly. Homicide and cannibalism were recurring themes, but in a Hansel and Gretel sort of way, I guess? Kids are weird. There was one girl who delivered “like poor people” as a punchline, multiple times. I cringed so hard it was an abdominal workout. Maybe Mime Camp would be better for her next summer. In between acts the director would remind the audience that these are your kids, by the way.

Luckily for the business side of Improv, most of the parents weren’t as tortured as me. Other than overusing the dab technique, Margo did great. And she loved it, which is basically 1,000 percent of what we look for in a summer camp. A few kids were legitimately talented, too, although I’d still love to see their agents steer them towards something with a script. Or just back to school to broaden their knowledge base before next year’s show. Either way, in my opinion school is a wonderful place for kids to spend the month of August. We can leave the Improv to Ms. Olson for a while.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at tim@sullivanfinerugs.com.

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