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The Great Zucchini
January 27, 2006 8:00 AM   Subscribe

The Great Zucchini Eric Knaus, aka "The Great Zucchini," is a 35-year-old community college dropout who works only two days a week. But he takes home over $100,000 a year because he knows how to make preschool children laugh. His "act" is largely improvised, his "props" are old, dirty, and in desperate need of repair. So how (and maybe more importantly, why) does he do it? As Gene Weingarten, the author of this extremely funny, moving piece, says: "if you want to know why … it's going to take some time." He’s not kidding – the story runs almost 10,000 words. Do yourself a favor and read every one. (via Lileks)
posted by pardonyou? (45 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
And... here is his website.
posted by iconomy at 8:14 AM on January 27, 2006


Check his hard drive.

And I'm always leery of sites that advertise "Terrific prices" and then don't list those prices.

Nice vest.
posted by fenriq at 8:25 AM on January 27, 2006


Fantastic article. I'd love to meet the guy--from Weingarten's description he sounds like one of my best friends (though I don't believe my friend has gone through the trauma Knaus has seen). Hanging out with someone who has that kind of childlike openness can be almost magical. It can also be frustrating, for the reasons the author touched on.

fenriq, that's a pretty serious implication you're making there. Y'know, sometimes people are just really good with kids in a way 99.9% of the population will never be. It doesn't automatically mean they're child molesters, any more than being good at basketball or math means you're taking steroids or copying someone else's paper.
posted by schroedinger at 8:35 AM on January 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


schroedinger, I agree. I've known people like this (and if I'm honest sometimes I display some of the same qualities). I thought Weingarten's imagery of this guy clutching his calendar book -- his only concession to organization or responsibility or adulthood -- while throwing dice at the craps table was particularly moving.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:41 AM on January 27, 2006


Wow. What a great article. Thanks.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:45 AM on January 27, 2006


schroedinger, no implication, just kidding around.
posted by fenriq at 8:45 AM on January 27, 2006


Absolutely fantastic article. I thank Lileks (and Dave Barry, who HE got it from) for bringing it some well-deserved notice. I wish the WaPo online article had been formatted better, it seems like they can't multi-page any article longer than 5 pages. It was a bit of a shock to think I was almost done, then get to the last page and realize that it was only about halfway through the article.

And fenriq: TFA says that he charges $300/show. So there ya go.
posted by antifuse at 8:52 AM on January 27, 2006


Amazing story and amazing writing.
posted by GuyZero at 8:56 AM on January 27, 2006


Great, great article!

Thanks, pardonyou!
posted by BobFrapples at 8:58 AM on January 27, 2006


Cool story. How much more will it cost me to get him to come to my kids third birthday party in two weeks?
posted by raedyn at 9:05 AM on January 27, 2006


Fascinating article. You have to wonder how long he can keep doing that job before he loses everything. It just takes a couple of missed appointments and he's the "unreliable great zucchini".

It'd would be interesting to know how the article will affect his business too - obviously it's all good advertising but I can imagine some parents having second thoughts about employing him after reading about his quasi-dissolute lifestyle.
posted by patricio at 9:09 AM on January 27, 2006


I wish the WaPo online article had been formatted better, it seems like they can't multi-page any article longer than 5 pages. It was a bit of a shock to think I was almost done, then get to the last page and realize that it was only about halfway through the article.

antifuse, I had the same experience (which is why I linked to the print-friendly version). I started thinking, "man, this fifth page seems awfully long." But, of course, that's where the payoff is.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:11 AM on January 27, 2006


Wow. I share the curiosity about how this will impact his career, but I'm just blown out of the water by the writing.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:15 AM on January 27, 2006


Truly astounding writing
posted by Mick at 9:20 AM on January 27, 2006


That was an amazing article. Thanks, pardonyou
posted by gaspode at 9:22 AM on January 27, 2006


Again, accolades to pardonyou, and Gene Weingarten. A stellar article.
posted by moonbird at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2006


If you enjoyed the article you should probably look at the next day's live chat with Gene about it.
posted by phearlez at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2006


Cool story. How much more will it cost me to get him to come to my kids third birthday party in two weeks?

Why on earth would you be holding three birthday partys for your kid within a fortnight?

I kid I kid...
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2006


Great, great article. and a great story.
posted by o2b at 9:38 AM on January 27, 2006


Outstanding
posted by Smedleyman at 9:43 AM on January 27, 2006


That was, indeed, worth the time to read it.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:53 AM on January 27, 2006


Man, I hate clowns.

Man, I loved this article.
Thank you.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:57 AM on January 27, 2006


Loved the article and I hope he manages to get his life together and still entertain the kids!
posted by obeetaybee at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2006


Gene Weingarten is a quietly fantastic writer. Usually, he gets the back page of Sunday's Washington Post Magazine, but he occasionally does (or gets to do) longer articles. He also gets the credit for giving Dave Barry his first break. Plus, he lives in my neighborhood (and sometimes writes about it), so I pass him on the street every now and then. Every time, I think, "man, I should say something," but I never do. Maybe I will next time.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:07 AM on January 27, 2006


Great read, thanks!

The followup phearlez posted is interesting too. It answers a lot of good questions raised by the article, including the speculation about the effect on his career, as well as the formatting thing:

washingtonpost.com: It's actually pretty mundane. Our system only paginates up to five pages, so the bulk of a long article always ends up on that fifth page.
posted by First Post at 10:12 AM on January 27, 2006


Alright, I've had a chance to read the article and I've gotta echo other folks approval. It is well written and provides a fairly well rounded concept of who he is.

This is very telling, "Look, I'm not Mister Rogers, okay?"

Nope, but he does have skills that beleagured parents need and kids love!

Excellent post.
posted by fenriq at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2006


That was a great link. I don't know what else to say about it.
posted by furiousthought at 10:24 AM on January 27, 2006


Another great and moving Weingarten article here:

Snowbound
posted by empath at 10:28 AM on January 27, 2006


Thanks for the chat link, phearlez! I actually had tried looking for that, but only came across Weingarten's weekly humor chat archives.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2006


Fantastic article, thanks.
posted by crunchywelch at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2006


Both articles [great zucchini and snowbound] were amazing, thanks.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2006


Great read.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 11:20 AM on January 27, 2006


excellent, interesting article... what a pleasure it is to read good writing.
posted by RockyChrysler at 11:51 AM on January 27, 2006


And another, previously discussed on MetaFilter.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:04 PM on January 27, 2006


Wow. I started out thinking, "What a cool guy!" and just got sadder and sadder.

But I'm glad I read it. Thanks, pardonyou?.
posted by wallaby at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2006


In the live chat linked by phearlez, there were a few users reporting spyware problems at The Great Zucchini's homepage, linked by iconomy above. Caveat clickator. (or something)
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2006


That was a terrific article. I had never heard of the Great Zucchini. Now I want to shake his hand.
posted by jenovus at 1:48 PM on January 27, 2006


The spyware was comet cursor, apparently. It's avoidable.
posted by raedyn at 1:52 PM on January 27, 2006


I think grey is far better than black or white. Great article.
posted by Ohdemah at 1:54 PM on January 27, 2006


Excellent articles. Thanks!
posted by graventy at 2:17 PM on January 27, 2006


Ditto with the praise for the article. What a fantastic read.
posted by sien at 7:56 PM on January 27, 2006


Fantastic article.

Perhaps a followup will be written, describing the epic rivalry between the Great Zuchinni and Broccoli the Clown.
posted by gsteff at 9:30 PM on January 27, 2006


Great stuff. Never realised I wanted to be a children's entertainer before. Or an inveterate gambler!
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:02 AM on January 28, 2006


Great stuff. Reminds me that Andrew Jarecki was making a documentary about a NYC party clown (for a somewhat older kids), when the clown told Jarecki that his family would make a more interesting subject for a film. And so he made Capturing the Friedmans
posted by huzzahhuzzah at 4:51 PM on January 28, 2006


Excellent, thank you so much, pardonyou?.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:07 AM on January 29, 2006


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