Always Leave ’em Laughing

D. Cameron is an intriguing combination. He’s an educator — and a stand-up comic. If you think teaching school is tough, you just haven’t encountered a demanding and sometimes hostile comedy club crowd. He will perform at the Clarion Hotel’s Comedy Zone in a fund-raiser for Turning Pages, the literacy tutoring program at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.

 In this interview with Turning Pages board member Jerry Bellune, he tells all — or mostly all. Comics keep a few secrets.

Q. What attracted you to comedy?

A. I decided to become a stand up comedian after I graduated from The Ohio State University. After numerous, unsuccessful job interviews to become an advertising professional (my college major), I said to myself, “Why not now?” So I started doing open mike nights in Dayton, OH, and the rest is what you see now.

Q. Who were your early influences and how did they prepare you for performing?

A. I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, watching a variety of comedians. Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sinbad, Billy Crystal, and Daymon Wayans.  I didn’t really listen to what they were saying, I watched how they controlled their performance with stage presence. It’s kind of like, if the audience senses that you are confident in your ability, they will be more comfortable with you.

Q. What about your experiences in teaching in the classroom?

A. I started substitute teaching when I moved to Charlotte, N.C., in 1998. I subbed for about four years before I decided to get a full-time job with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. I started in ISS (In School Suspension). I did that for three years.  I was about to go back to stand-up comedy when a principal from another school talked me into coming to her school as a BMT (Behavioral Modification Technician). She said that she needed my help to curb the unruly behavior in her school. My job was to “handle” the kids that constantly caused trouble. I was very good at my job. I started an exercise program at the school as an alternative to out-of-school suspension. I also tutored kids in subjects that they were struggling in. If a child doesn’t understand what’s going on in class, they become disruptive as a way to be removed from that class. They would rather be looked at as “bad” than “dumb”. I did that for about five years.  Then comedy called, so I answered.  I still substitute teach when I’m at home.

Q. What have been some of the humorous experiences you had in education?

A. I was the defensive coordinator for our football team. A boy named Raequan was one of my defensive ends. We played eight games. In six of the games I called him Daequan, because I thought that was his name. I would scream “Daequan” during the games to tell him to move around the defensive line.  No one told me his real name. He answered to it so I kept calling him by it. At our 7th game we were undefeated and his father was on the sideline with us.

As I started hollering his name, our head coach came over to me and said “Coach, his name is Raequan and his dad is standing right next to you.”  I turned to him and said, “I’m sorry, I thought that was his name. I’ve been calling him that all year.” I started calling him by his real name for the rest of that game. We lost.  Afterwards his father came up to me and said “You can keep calling him Daequan.”  We won our last game.

Half way through my first year as a BMT, I answered the call of a teacher for an unruly student. As I walked into the building, I could see the student being very disrespectful in what he was doing and saying.  As I got closer to them, the teacher looked at me and smiled. The student, whose back was turned towards me, stopped, dropped his head and said, “ He’s standing right behind me, ain’t he?” She nodded. Without turning around he said, “I’m sorry for being so disrespectful to you just now. Can I please stay in class instead of going with him.”  I smiled to myself, because, in just a half of a year, I made kids actually want to stay in class. I still kept in touch with that student. He’s a high school graduate and now he is in art school.

Q. How about humorous experiences as an entertainer?

A. As an entertainer, just about every night is humorous. Audience member say funny things. Comics are escorted off of the stage for being drunk and bad mouthing the comedy club and its managers.  One time a comic challenged an audience member to be funnier that him. Bad move. He lost. Very funny.  One night people threw money on stage for every funny thing I said, like I was a stripper. I collected about $150. I gave it to the wait staff.

Q. What advice would you give anyone interested in becoming a stand-up comic?

A. My advice to someone interested in becoming a comedian is to remain who you are. Don’t change yourself to become something that you think is funny. Believe in yourself and stay true to yourself. People can sense when you are not being real.

D. Cameron will bring his brand of clean stand-up comedy to the Clarion Hotel’s Comedy Zone on Gervais Street at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 in a fund-raiser for Turning Pages literacy tutoring.

For a $50 donation (fully tax-deductible), we have two tickets for you to the show. Call 359-7633.