Just a Thought – Standing Up with UPCC

The United Parents of Culver City threw themselves a multi-purpose party on Sunday June 9. It was a combination of a first birthday, a fundraiser, a candidate launch and call for volunteers and a talent show. I have a huge weakness for talent shows, so I opted to break new ground for myself and do some stand-up comedy.

Probably half the crowd had been at the AVPA’s Java Gala the night before, and the other half had been at the La Ballona International Festival, so it was a fairly subdued gathering; even the most dedicated party goers among us do just run out of steam every now and then. Babysitters tend to be in short supply on Sunday night as well, so many people were there solo while the spouse was home with the kids.

The raison d’etre of the UPCC  is to go beyond the PTA and booster club ethos of supporting the schools, and get involved in the political structure that supports education.Some folks seem to feel this is radical to the point of being revolutionary. I just think it make s sense, and it was good reason to get together and have some fun.

I’m always surprised (and often disappointed) in the number of people who seem to feel that parenting and politics are polar opposites. I think teaching your children how to be politically effective is as vital as sex education and tooth brushing. You wouldn’t consider yourself a very good parent if you sent your offspring out into the world with dirty teeth and no idea how their bodies work. It’s just as important that they know they have rights, and that their voices matter. This is how the world works.

There were two charming people in charge- UPCC President Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin and VP and MC Steve Zee. Talent was nicely broken out into music, dance, magic and comedy, interspersed with introductions of the endorsed candidates, and a push for a bond measure to fund the needed infrastructure changes at the schools.

Steve Levin, the CCEF ‘Volunteer of the Year’ from Farragut, is stepping forward as a school board candidate. With his professional credentials at NASA/JPL, he does have the title “rocket scientist.” Levin declined the chance to make a speech, noting that “We are here to have a good time, and relax. There will be time for speeches later.”

Kathy Paspalis, the current president of the school board is standing for re-election. She also said a few words, noting the evening’s entertainment was a good way for the UPCC get an early start on the upcoming election.

Scott Malsin, David Tobocman and Alan Terrell were billed as the UPCC Blues Band, and they did some easy intro music for each of the performers. Pablo Sune payed some wonderful jazz guitar, Mike Cohen did a bit of magic and comedy that took some amusing commentary on the school board election through several sleight-of-hand tricks, Steve Zee showed off his tap dancing talent and Jorge and Valentina Garza added in  a musical performance as well.

Then I took a deep breath and big swallow of my lemonade, and got up and told some jokes. And I got some laughs.

When I was writing my act, I did do a bit of research, watching some routines from two of my favorites, George Carlin and Roseanne Barr. George probably stopped voting after Nixon, and I did not want to take the cynical route. Roseanne ran for president in the last election, just because she could; there’s my girl. So I figured a few parent jokes, a few political jokes – and no swearing or being cruel. If you need to eff someone over to get a laugh, that’s a pretty cheap laugh. So – gentle teasing, just a touch.

I have long had a rule that I never say anything behind someone’s back that I would not say to their face, and that even serves in regard to comedy.

I might do it again, or I might just say “Ok, I always wanted to do that, and now I have.” Standing up with a bit of comedy can be very politically effective.

Jeannine and Steve both ushered the end of the evening towards the huge birthday cake parked on the side of the room, celebrating UPCC’s  first birthday. They may have a lot more to celebrate next June.


The Actors' Gang

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