Yesterday was JM’s birthday and he brought a banana cake and banana bread to class to celebrate. The cake was iced with cartoon figures from Futurama. My students asked why he had brought so many kinds of bananas to class? Ah you’re the “Banana Man!” I shouted. Lots of blank stares. “You know? The Banana man?”
Actually why would my students know about The Banana Man? I was captivated with The Banana Man’s antics as performed on Captain Kangaroo and The Mickey Mouse Club about 55 years ago. The Banana Man was originally a vaudeville performer, Adolph Proper, whose stage name was A. Robins. He died in 1950 and his persona was taken over by Sam Levine. The Banana Man didn’t speak– only “oohed,” “ahhed,” “wowed” in a high pitched voice at the amazing feats he would perform by finding immense amounts of materials and items in his pockets, including enormous bunches of bananas, which he would pile into cars of a small train. He would also vocally mimic the sounds of instruments made of cardboard and foam that he would “play.”
Because everything is on youtube, I was able to find an old video of the original Banana Man to play for my students. AV said, “Wow, he sounds a lot like you.” I guess I do make arbitrary and gibberishy sounds in class. Anything to keep students on task. I guess, in a small way, I have taken up the Banana Man’s baton and kept his spirit alive. It was nice to be reminded how much I really owe The Banana Man.