Chuck Brooks: The stage was set from the beginning
"I could never do what you do." When I would tell people I taught high school English, that was a frequent reaction. I would also hear that line even more when I would emcee an event over the years. Whether it was a pep fest/assembly, OnStage, the annual marching band festival or any number of other venues, people would generously share positive feedback and follow it with "I could NEVER do what you do."
That got me thinking recently. Whatever made me think I could?!
My five siblings would likely agree we all, except for maybe one of us, were recipients of the "ham" gene. Another way to put it: We have never really been shy in front of people, especially crowds. The earliest evidence of this came in the form of impersonations from me. There were two I especially enjoyed doing.
The first was a character from "The Jackie Gleason Show." In the "Joe the Bartender" skits, a patron of the bar, Crazy Guggenheim, was always inebriated. He also had a distinctive speaking style. My father encouraged me to do the impersonations when relatives and friends stopped by. I wasn't even 10 years old.
In my teen years, ironically another alcohol-infused character appeared on television—Foster Brooks. He could be seen on "The Dean Martin Show" or various roasts Hollywood did during the '70s. My father, once again, loved it when I'd "Do Foster Brooks!"
Strangely, it was one of our rare bonding moments as father/son. It always made us laugh because Dad would try to respond with the same Foster Brooks delivery. He was hysterical in his efforts. Even now, it makes me smile to recall it.
In high school, I loved theater. I was never a sports guy until 1982. The reason I remember that year is unimportant. Until then, however, it was all about the stage for me.
I was involved in our community theater during the three years between high school and heading to college. I had gotten involved in Toastmasters, thanks to the prodding of my high school choral director. Toastmasters is designed to "help members improve communication, public speaking, and leadership skills."
During the educational hiatus those three years, I also was able to talk a talented friend into forming the "Brooks and Smith" comedy team. We performed for organizations and events in our area. I wrote the comedy sketches, and all was right with the world.
Once in college, after a year of transition, my head resident and I pitched an idea to our college television station, conveniently located in the basement of our dorm. We wanted to do a college dorm version of "Family Feud." We called it "Wing Feud." The name sort of explains how it operated. I hosted it and my head resident took charge of the "business" side of the show.
I also wanted to revive the comedy team idea, so I asked a new friend I had met in a class if he wanted to do basically what Smith and I had done. He jumped at the idea, and I had a second television show in the works: "The Brooks and Hatfield Comedy Hour." We didn't do a ton of these, but the ones we did were always fun with a small studio audience of primarily our friends from the dorms.
"All the world's a stage!" Homework? Who had time!
In my first year at Rosemount High School, I was talked into emceeing the Christmas party, and I was persuaded by the secretaries to plan the annual end-of-the-year district secretarial banquet. I emceed the night for a couple of hours of comedy and fun. Two years later, I was given the pep fest/assemblies microphone; then came announcing football, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, track, basketball, swimming and wrestling events.
The senior parents, as you know, got me to help with the Senior-Parent skit for the senior class of '83, and eventually they gave me total control. I was being asked to do other events as the years passed.
In the '80s, a parent asked me to announce the Apple Valley Fourth of July parade; she was and still is in charge. That was about 30 years ago; I'm still doing that.
OnStage became a yearly happening for me, and I loved my role mostly when I was in front of or among the audience doing ad lib stuff. You may know me as the voice of the Leprechaun Days parade in recent years, and more recently, I've added bingo calling to my list of microphone fun.
I can't forget the annual fall RHS Marching Band Festival in the stadium. I'm given a script for introductions, but I have free reign with the crowd, and that's a kick! Yeah, I kinda like the mic.
I think I'll be buried with a microphone. You never know when I might be asked to emcee something in h... . C'mon, folks. There's really no question about that, is there? Sheeeesh!