My son, a kindergartner, has to do homework four times a week. While that might sound excessive, the assignments currently consist only of a page or two of simple number recognition exercises in his math booklet. In addition, the teacher sent home about 20 optional activities designed to reinforce letter sounds, sight words and vocabulary.
Last week, KFP and I did one of the activities, creating silly sentences, where each word started with the same letter. We agreed that anything starting with “B” (balloon, boy, bus), should bounce, and that anything starting with “T” (train, tiger, truck) should travel or trip.
After we’d done a series of silly sentences, KFP suggested we sing some silly songs. No rules; just improv, the sort of thing we’d done before while taking a long drive. He started us off with a song called “The Elephant Drives a Truck.” We took turns singing lines, with no real rhyme scheme, telling a rambling story of an elephant who crashes into everything and then gets in trouble.
“Now let’s sing another one,” KFP said.
“Sure, I’ll start this one,” I said and began a song about leaves falling off a tree.
KFP interrupted me. “That’s not funny,” he said.
“It’s only the first line,” I told him. “You set up the joke, and then you have a punch line.”
“What’s a punch line?” he asked.
“The part that’s funny.”
“Ohhhh!” he said, and I could see enlightenment sweep across his face.
I realized at that moment that most of his humor is conceptual, about the ridiculousness of the premise. I explained that humor can also come from playing off expectations. The unexpected can be funny, I told him, and hammered the idea in later when one of his shoes fell off while he was walking.
We started again, creating a silly country-western song inspired by the upcoming Farmer Fun Fall day at KFP’s school. We even rhymed occasionally: “Come down to our jamboree, where we’ve got cows and pigs for free!” At the end, we both called out “Yee-haw!” in unison.
If we’d have been on the stage, that would have been a great blackout moment.
But since this was real life, and he is five, he kept trying to recreate the magic of that silly elephant truck song. In the coming days, we sang about a rabbit driving a tractor, about a mouse driving a bus, all essentially the same rambling saga of animal-wrought destruction and chaos.
Then, as we were sitting on the grass, waiting to pick his friend up from his bus stop, KFP asked if we could write another silly song.
“OK, but let’s make this one different,” I requested.
“I’ll start,” he offered, and began, “The elephant took off in his rocket…”
I chimed in, “And blasted into space.”
KFP continued, “And he crashed into the Milky Way…”
He had to stop singing then, because I laughed uncontrollably for minutes. My pupil.