Lynette Gough, the Volunteer Comedian
Introduction: What Do You Have To Joke About, Lynette, And How Can It Make You Rich?
I have been teaching writing for 5 years, and teaching how to express oneself is partly teaching students how not to say “how to express yourself” or using “general ‘you’” in academic essays. Just that problem takes forever, guys. I say “guys” instead of “guys and gals” or “guys and chicks.” “Ladies and gentlemen” takes too long to type.
So let me begin. I’m a volunteer comedian. I’ve done it without pay all of my life. See, people volunteer at church, they volunteer to go to Africa to treat diseases, and I am a volunteer for Amedysis Hospice, where I talk to dying people and crochet lap robes and prayer shawls for them. I also joke about everything. I can start out with saying my name. My name is Lynette. What’s my last name? It’s Gough. “How do you say that?” I don’t know how you say that. I can’t hear you. “How do you pronounce it?” Guess. I’ll tell you later. I made it a game at several small business meetings. One person got it right on the second try. The brave ones tried 3 times. I’ll tell you in a minute. It’s a hard name to live with, which is what I said in a Dear Abby column with the original Dear Abby. I said it’s popular in Great Britain, but here it’s a curse because no one knows how to pronounce it. She put my first name and where I lived, even though I signed something else. I thought she’d automatically not do that. I got marriage proposals from strangers and hate calls from where my Dad, Dr. Walter Gough, lived, and is still loved, Mound Bayou, Mississippi. When he died, there wasn’t room to stand outside the church, there were so many people there. That’s where my name is recognized, no, revered. That’s a great name there. Everyone knows how to say it there. I called her newspaper office, and Dear Abby herself, with the lisp, called me at home. I told her to apologize to my dad. He called me afterwards, laughed, and said how hard a name it was to have. There are people, though, who would look me dead in the face and say, “Don’t joke about your name! Your father was a great man! That’s his name, dangit!” Well, not “dangit,” but I want to keep my jokes as clean as possible. So can you guess how to say it now? “If you have a cough, come to Dr. Gough.” That was the radio ad he ran. I think Dad would have been an engineer if he had another name, but now I can say my dad was a doctor, and that’s how you say my name. It’s still a hard name. I still get “Miss Um” near midterms when I teach English class. Those students don’t get A’s, not because I’m mad at them, but because they don’t pay attention. My favorite teacher’s name was Sherrill. She was an English teacher, just like I am. I volunteered to teach English as a Second Language at my church, too. Anyway, I asked her one day if I was saying it right, She-RELLE. She said no, it was SHARE-ill. I tried to get other students to say her name correctly, but she didn’t correct anyone else, so for her 30 years of teaching high school English, about a hundred or a hundred fifty students a year said her name incorrectly. That’s why I don’t have an education degree now. I couldn’t face that possibility. It’s a reality since I teach English at community college and universities, but only 1-3 classes at a time, not 6 a day. Well, that's still 50 people every 6 months, more in the summer, but not 150 every single day.
So if you are out there and like my stuff, please let me know. I have fibromyalgia, so at best I can be a professional sit-down comedian, not a stand-up one. But before I do that, I have to try out my bits. I originally wrote and tried to post 13 pages of jokes that I wrote in about 2 hours. No, students, I won’t make you try to do that! But do you know you can’t do that? Have you tried? Well, you will work your bottoms off in my class. I’m 47, so I know a lot of stuff. I know a lot about life, and I can joke about most of it. I don’t have a joke about surviving Hurricane Katrina from my apartment and losing my home, stuff, and basically my city. But I have to be funny now because God kept me alive during that and longer. I have a job to do, and that is to teach writing to people who don't like to write. I will either get them to love or hate writing, but they will write a lot for me.
I have a million jokes about a million things. I like to teach people about the world so they can laugh about it. My mother, Dr. Joy Wigfall, a psychiatrist and minister, did that every day, paid or unpaid, and no, she was NOT rich. That's another post. It might have been unsolicited advice if it were other people, but she talked in a way that made people listen, at least the ones she picked to talk to. She didn’t waste time on stupid people, who are people who don’t want to learn. I need to frame my first day’s class lecture to make sure they give me A work. People want D’s to get degrees, which tears me up inside, but it’s the way the world works nowadays. I don’t like people who don’t want to learn. Ask the blind man at church. I made him use his cane for the past two Sundays. I was yelling at him, in church, yes, but I was telling everyone that he is not crippled, he’s blind. People who don’t want to do things for themselves are lazy. If you were raised by two doctors, two Black or Negro doctors, then you know when people work hard, they can rest, but some people, especially in my family, don’t like to rest even then. I also understand that I don’t really understand the definition of the word “lazy,” especially when I’m yelling at a man, a blind man, in church. I’m a gentler version of my mother. There are several students who will say, “A gentler version of what?!” when they read this. Honestly, I’m trying to be nice. I’m just sometimes loud at the same time. Someone called it “tough love.” I call it being a volunteer World teacher and paid English teacher. If you learn anything today from this, know that I will tell you what I think you need to know to be successful. I am successful because I have a master’s degree, but I’m also successful because I know book learning is no match for life learning. I have cleaned houses and waited tables, and I can do that again to keep the roof, my own roof because I own a house, hello, over my head. Pride doesn’t have anything to do with what you do, but who you are. Yes, If I can instill pride in my students, any student, with tuition or without, I have done my job and made my parents and my God proud of me.
Lynette Gough, Owner, Make A Great Impression Writing Consultant Firm
Editing and Proofreading