IT'S FUN BEING FUNNY
Hi! I'm Jamie Grimm, and it's really great to be back in front of an audience again.
A little while back, I won a couple of contests and was crowned the Funniest Kid Comic in all of New York. Not just New York City, but the whole state!
Now I have a shot at being the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic.
"The planet Earth?" asks Phineas of—you guessed it—Phineas and Ferb. "Or Mars? We built a portal to Mars for the science fair once."
"Fun never falls too far from the tree house," adds Ferb.
Yep! Phineas and Ferb, the two hysterical stars from the Disney Channel, are now my close personal friends. They even go to school with me.
Derek Jeter, the shortstop from the New York Yankees, shows up at Long Beach Middle School because he wants me to autograph a baseball for him.
Taylor Swift comes to town to ask me to be the opening act at her upcoming concerts. "Jamie Grimm, I hear you're the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic!"
"Not exactly," I tell her. "First I have to win a regional competition in Boston. And then there are the semifinals in Las Vegas. And the final finals in Hollywood ..."
"He's going to be a very busy boy," says Howie Mandel, one of the judges from America's Got Talent. He's come to Long Beach to help me train for the comedy competition. "Jamie needs new material. New jokes. A new hairdo. You like mine?"
Of course my best buds—Jimmy Pierce, Joey Gaynor, and Gilda Gold—are with me, too. We're on our way to school, where the principal has declared that today is Jamie Grimm Day.
"They're gonna give you your very own pep rally, dude," says Gaynor.
So after the cheerleaders do a "Jay-mee Grimm" cheer, our school principal, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, or Doof as he likes to call himself, starts to make a little speech.
"Wait a second," says Phineas. "Your principal is our evil scientist?"
I shrug. "I guess he likes the cafeteria food."
Dr. Doofenshmirtz goes on with the quick speech. "Today, Jamie, we gather here to wish you luck as you prepare to take the second, third, and fourth steps toward your goal of being the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic! Break a leg, Jamie. Whoopsie!"
When Principal Doof says that, I know this has to be a dream.
Because, you know, all those steps he mentioned? I'd be happy just taking one.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN REALITY ...
Sometimes people in my dreams say crazy dumb stuff because they forget I'm in a wheelchair.
Hey, I don't blame 'em. I'd like to forget it, too.
But I can't.
Of course, I keep hoping that one day I'll see a commercial for a new wonder drug called something like Spinulax that will magically make me walk again. Unfortunately, it would probably come with a list of gross side effects like all those other pills they advertise on TV: "Spinulax may cause constipation and diarrhea. Not to mention projectile vomiting. And sudden death syndrome—as in, oops, sorry, you're dead."
When I wake up, I'm in my bedroom. In the garage. Back in the real world. And I need to get my butt ready for school.
About my bedroom in the garage ... when I moved to Long Beach to live with my aunt and uncle, the only spare room in the house wasn't actually in the house. This is why my clothes often smell like a Home Depot.
I call my aunt and uncle's house Smileyville because when I first got here, nobody ever smiled. Not even the dog, Ol' Smiler. He hadn't wagged his tail in so long his butt was brittle.
Anyway, I think I've finally figured out why the Smileys always look so glum.
It's the oat gruel.
That's what Mrs. Smiley serves for breakfast, every morning. You know how they say breakfast will stick with you? Well, her oat gruel sure will. It'll stick to your teeth and the roof of your mouth. All day long.
Quick, somebody call one of those cable TV networks! I have an awesome idea for a new reality show: Breakfast With the Smileys! It'll be the exact opposite of those shows about the Kardashians or the Real Housecats of Beverly Hills. No glitz. No glamour. No nothing.
"Have a nice day," says my aunt, Mrs. Smiley.
"Don't forget your lunch," my uncle, Mr. Smiley, reminds me.
"Be home by six," Aunt Smiley adds.
Yep. They're even blander than oat gruel.
But they took me into their home when I had no place else to go.
And for that, I will always be grateful.
GUESS WHAT I SAW THIS MORNING?
As I'm heading up the sidewalk on my way to school, I see this really big, really green garbage truck grinding its way through something much worse than my aunt's oat gruel. We're talking mushy, juicy slop, slimier than the food scraps and sour milk sloshing around in the plate-scraper's barrel at my middle school's cafeteria.
And I start thinking about adding this to my comedy act....
If Long Beach wants a big green monster to gobble up its garbage, they should hire Godzilla. I hear they kicked the big guy out of Japan. Something to do with him yanking the tops off too many Tokyo skyscrapers and munching on them like they were Nestlé Crunch bars. I think Godzilla ate a few subway sandwiches, too. The kind made out of real subway cars.
If Godzilla moved to Long Beach, he could stomp on down the streets, scooping up and emptying out Dumpsters. Even with his monstrous screeches, he'd be quieter than the guys who usually show up on our street at six AM to do drum solos on everybody's trash cans. Thanks to the garbagemen, nobody on our block needs an alarm clock.
Of course, if Godzilla did move to Long Beach, every time he went to, say, an all-you-can-eat buffet, a dozen waiters would probably disappear.
And you know what you'd find between Godzilla's toes?
Slow runners. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.)
When I meet up with Gilda Gold at the end of the block, I tell her my Godzilla the Garbageman idea.
She laughs and whips out her iPhone.
"That would make an awesome short," she says, starting to record. "We just shoot the garbage truck chewing up trash but dub in monster-movie music and really loud sound effects."
"And voices," I say. "Make 'em sound like they're coming from people buried underneath the garbage. 'Help meeeee!'"
Gilda has a really cool laugh. A whole room can be cracking up, but you'll always hear her amazing giggle rippling through it all. It's the kind of laugh that makes a kid want to keep on telling jokes for the rest of his life just so he can keep hearing it.
Yep. Gilda's laugh is one of the reasons I want to be a stand-up comic more than anything in the world—even if I don't exactly fit the job description.
WHERE I FOUND MY FUNNY BONE
That's the first thing Gilda Gold and I ever talked about when my friends Gaynor and Pierce introduced us one day in the school cafeteria. Now she goes around Long Beach making short films. Maybe you've seen her latest video on YouTube—the one where two squirrels are watching a softball game while doing Abbott and Costello's classic comedy act "Who's on First?" I recorded the Costello lines, and Gilda did Abbott's. I'm not sure how she made the squirrels look like they were talking, but I think it had something to do with nut nibbling.
We had such a good time making that movie. Gilda and I both love funny flicks. Whatever Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, and Kristin Wiig are up to at the multiplex. Also, any movie from Pixar. Toy Story 3 is my favorite, but Gilda thinks Wall-E and Ratatouille are the best.
"Man, that is so gross," she says as the garbage truck dumps another load down its gullet. "What a great way to start the day."
I wiggle my eyebrows. "Yes, I've had a perfectly wonderful morning. But this wasn't it."
Gilda laughs that laugh of hers. "That's Groucho Marx, right?"
"Yep. One of the funniest comedians ever. I've seen all the Marx Brothers movies. The Three Stooges, too."
When I was in the hospital, recovering from my accident, the doctors and nurses kept telling me "Laughter is the best medicine." (But let's face it: If you have a splitting headache, two aspirin might work better than a one-liner.)
They'd bring me all sorts of joke books and funny videos to help me feel better when I didn't think anything ever could. I read and watched everybody: the Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, and more. I memorized entire jokelopedias.
I was recuperating for so long—doing rehab and physical therapy—I must've read, heard, or seen every joke cracked since the first caveman grunted "Knock knock" to one of his caveman buddies (and then conked the guy on the head with a club just so he could invent slapstick). And you know what? The doctors and nurses were right. All that laughing definitely helped me feel better. I almost forgot how miserable I was.
You don't have to be stuck in the hospital to need a sense of humor, though. I mean, just going to middle school is a pretty scary thing for a lot of kids, because the real Godzillas hang out there.
Gilda and I are reminded of that as we head into Long Beach Middle School together. Gilda sees him first.
"Uh-oh," she says. "You know our perfectly wonderful morning?"
"It's about to get a whole lot worse than Dumpster diving with Godzilla...."
BULLY FOR ME
Meet Stevie Kosgrov.
"Look at me, everybody," Stevie bellows into a microphone he probably stole out of the chorus room. "I'm a big, stupid comedian, just like Jamie Grimm!"
His mic doesn't have an amplifier. Stevie doesn't need one. The guy's a loudmouth.
"Well, if it isn't Nick the Hick," Stevie continues. "Nick's family's so poor, they eat cereal with a fork to save money on milk."
Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what he says, Stevie Kosgrov is not a comedian. He's a bully. Plain and simple. In fact, if it weren't for certain Third World dictators, Stevie would definitely be declared Bully of the Century. He once slugged a teddy bear that said the wrong thing when he pulled its string.
Stevie and his two buddies have turned the back corridor—the one everybody in my grade has to use to get to our lockers—into their private, insults- and-putdowns-only comedy club.
"There's a five-dollar cover charge," says Stevie's friend Zits.
"And a two-punch minimum," adds his other pal, Useless.
(Believe it or not, Stevie Kosgrov is an equal-opportunity bully. He gave Zits and Useless their nicknames. I find it pretty hard to feel bad for them, though.)
"Hey there, Jimari," says Stevie, zoning in on his next victim. "Calling you an idiot would be an insult to stupid people everywhere."
"Now pay up," says Zits, as Useless gives Jimari two knuckle punches in the arm.
"Let's go around the other way," whispers Gilda behind me.
"Nope," I say to Gilda. "My arms are too pooped." I move forward.
"Ladies and gentlemen, whaddya know—we have a surprise guest star," snarls Kosgrov. "Put your hands together for the Crip from Cornball."
Stevie's two pals snigger—just like they do every time he calls me that. See, I used to live upstate in a small New York town called Cornwall. Stevie, comic genius that he is, has turned Cornwall into Cornball. Clever, huh? The guy should write material for Jay Leno.
I inch my wheels forward again.
"What?" says Kosgrov. "You think you're the only one who can be funny? No, wait. You're not funny. You're just funny-looking."
"Stevie," I say with a sigh like I'm bored. "I need to get to my locker. Can I ignore you some other time?"
"You think I'm gonna give you a free pass because you're a gimp?"
"Look, Stevie," I say. "I'm not offended by anything you say. I'm just glad you're finally able to string words together into sentences."
Now Stevie steps forward.
"You know what your real handicap is, Grimm? Your mouth. It won't shut up when it should."
He might be right, but he's made me too mad to care. I give my wheels a good shove and zoom straight up the hallway.
Yep. I'm going to roll right over Kosgrov.
I've already learned the hard way never to let him roll over me.
WHO YOU CALLING CHICKEN?
Jamie!" shouts Gilda. "Don't!"
I totally ignore her and tear up the hall like greased lightning. (How they grease lightning, I haven't a clue.)
I'm pumping my arms furiously.
By the way, thanks to many months of using my arms instead of my legs, I now have a pretty good set of guns. It's like this T-shirt I saw at the rehab hospital: "Legs not working. Everything else meets or exceeds manufacturer's specifications."
My friends Jimmy Pierce and Joey Gaynor are in the hall now, too.
"Go for it, dude!" shouts Gaynor.
"Force equals mass times acceleration!" adds Pierce.
Have I mentioned that Pierce is a brainiac? He's telling me to increase my speed to better mow Kosgrov down.
Stevie doesn't move, though. He just casually crosses his arms across his chest and smiles at me, daring me to come at him.
I have the advantage. I have wheels and that whole "force equals mass times acceleration" science theorem thing on my side.
But Kosgrov isn't chickening out.
"Banzai!" I shout, and not because I love little trees. I'm about to crash like a kamikaze pilot, headfirst, into Kosgrov's gut, which is a pretty big (and soft) target.
Still he doesn't budge.
At the very last second, I chicken out. I cut hard to the right, swerve sideways, and crash into a wall of hardened steel lockers. I'm about to tip over and end up on my back like a cockroach (minus the kicking legs, of course), when Gaynor and Pierce rush in to catch me.
"Thanks, guys," I say as they prop me back up.
Then someone yanks the arms of my chair and spins me around.
"You always were a wuss, Grimm. Lucky for you, I'm too hungry to pound you for that little stunt. Now gimme your lunch money. Ever since you came to town, I don't get as much breakfast as I used to." He leans over me, giving me a full view of the food that got stuck in his teeth this morning.
Did you notice the oat gruel?
Stevie Kosgrov isn't just a bully. He's also Mr. and Mrs. Smiley's son.
Which makes him my cousin.
Which means he lives in Smileyville, too.
Stevie Kosgrov is like my own personal convenience store of pain and misery.
He gets to torment me 24/7.
IT'S A GREAT DAY—FOR ABOUT TWO MINUTES
Right after science class—where I learn about the conversion of momentum between objects in collisions (or why my knees dented those metal lockers)—the school day suddenly gets great.
Cool Girl is in the hallway.
I call her Cool Girl because she's extremely cool and, as you can see from the helpful illustration, she's also a girl. Her real name is Suzie Orolvsky. Which is very hard to pronounce. I sometimes think her ancestors should've come to America with a few more vowels.
Anyway, Cool Girl is different from any other girl I've ever met.
For one thing, we've actually kissed. It was 8:43 PM. On the Long Beach boardwalk. A balmy seventy-six degrees. Stars were twinkling overhead. Two seagulls and a hermit crab were witnesses.
Hey—you never forget the details of your first kiss.
Another reason Cool Girl is different? She says whatever is on her mind, whenever it happens to be there. If it's in her brain, it's going to come out her mouth. When I'm with Cool Girl, I feel like I can talk about anything and everything.
Excerpted from I Even Funnier by James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein, Laura Park. Copyright © 2013 James Patterson Chris Grabenstein Laura Park. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.