Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Weight - It Gets Better

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Weight - It Gets Better

Article excerpt

Way back in 1 974, long before ñrsl lady Michelle Obama started the "Let's Move!" crusade against childhood obesity, I was The Fat Kid. I was 1 3 and in the seventh grade, and it was the first time I can recall experiencing empathy, and the lack of it. On a hot, smoggy afternoon in the San Gabriel Valley, the gym teacher decided it was a good day for a race. At least he made it an "officiar' race: with prizes going to the top three runners from each set of four competitors. Coach drew names from a baseball cap and I wound up with two star basketball players and someone from what was then called special ed named Dave. As The Fat Kid - and there was only one per campus back then, it seemed - losing races was part of the job description, but those odds I could live with.

The course, one lap around the baseball diamond, looked doable, even to me, the guy my classmates called Bob the Blob. As I rounded third, the basketball players had already headed for the showers. But I chugged along, visualizing a white ribbon on an otherwise empty corkboard at home. I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to see Dave on my heels. Instead, in a cloud of dust, he had made a bee line from second base to the finish line. I watched, furious, as the gym teacher cheered him on, even though Dave was obviously way off-course. Right after I huffed up to the backstop and tagged it, Dave said, "Nice try, Blob."

That's when I realized that before the race, Dave and I were just two outcasts thinking the same thing: "Whatever it takes, there is no way I'm going to let that kid beat me."

I was picked on a lot as a boy because of my weight. I tried to fight back with humor. One of my tormentors was named Clay. He chased me home from junior high on a regular basis, threatening to beat me up, until I finally got up the courage to say, "I think my dad has an ashtray made Out of you." On that day, while icing my swollen, busted lip, I decided to start writing much better material.

And when The Fat Kid finally became the funny fat kid and then, at 350 pounds, the funny fat comedian, I could tell jokes about being overweight: "I had a cholesterol test. They found bacon," and, "When I dance, the band skips."

But over 10 months in 1991 I lost 175 pounds - and half of my act. Nobody wanted to hear those jokes from a thin person, and that led to my second chance at empathy. As a stand-up comedian, I use empathy as a secret weapon to find common ground with my audience quickly. …

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