February 2004 (v6 i4)
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Class clown struggles with insecurity
Not sure if other students are laughing with him or at him
by Kristin Hillery, Managing Editor

SAN DIEGO — Park Village Middle School class clown Jeff Shellhammer had a breakdown during his science class early this week in the middle of doing an impression of his teacher, Mr. Wangberg. Shellhammer’s quivering bottom lip and teary eyes caused his classmates to laugh even harder than usual, unaware of the seriousness of the moment.

“Oh man, Jeff is the bomb! He was all like, ‘I’m Mr. Wangberg, King of the Wangs, and I know all the secrets of life’ and great stuff like that,” classmate Brandon Miller said. “Then all of a sudden his face got real red, and he started crying. I think he was doing an impression of some girl he dumped the other day.”

After returning to his seat, Shellhammer blew his nose on his shirt and laughed as if nothing had happened. The other students continued giggling, and some high-fived him and passed congratulatory notes his way. Despite his peers’ obvious approval, Shellhammer still had doubts about the quality of his classroom comedy.

“It’s cool to see them laughing and stuff, but that’s just it — are they laughing at me or with me? I have no idea most of the time,” explained Shellhammer during fifth period lunch, his mouth full of pizza lunchables. “I mean, I really wonder about that stuff. Are my jokes funny, or am I just one of the dorkwads I make fun of, and they’re laughing at me because of that? Even worse, am I ugly? I don’t know. I really, really, really don’t know. They probably just feel bad for me.”

A typical school day for Shellhammer, a seventh grader, involves shooting spit balls at sixth graders on the morning bus ride, arriving to each of his classes five or more minutes late, and pretending to be uninterested in most things. He is known for engaging in such chuckle-inducing behaviors as farting during silent reading, burping on command, and reciting classic lines from Little Nicky.

Shellhammer’s impeccable comedic timing and wit are a result of his self-criticism. “When I get home after school, I always take some ‘Jeff time’ to try to focus on remembering everything I said that day, and then I decide whether or not it could have been funnier. Take yesterday, for example. During P.E., I was pretending to be a robot from Australia. In hindsight, I should have made that robot from England so I could’ve worked in a few jokes about the royal family and bad teeth. I’m an idiot — I can’t believe anyone is even talking to me today.”

Though Jeff’s constant joking and speaking out of turn have earned him the reputation for being the class clown at Park Village, he manages to hide his sensitive, self-conscious side from most people. Only a few close friends and select family members like Shellhammer’s best friend and self-proclaimed “sidekick,” Steven Blanchard, have been witnesses to Jeff’s low points.

“Jeff is the most hilariously hilarious dude I know, but sometimes he cries for no reason when we’re hanging out,” said Blanchard. “I usually just keep playing Final Fantasy and pretend like I don’t notice.”
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