Is There a Bully in the House?


“I think the greatest gift a parent can give their child is a sense of humor”…Toni Attell

Laughter heals the child in all of us. Some of the “Comedy Pups” rehearsing with Toni Attell.

I have always wondered what makes a child or teen a bully. Is it their upbringing, their social network, or the fact that they might feel left out, or perhaps, are just showing off for their peers? Now with the movie Bully showing, I felt it was a good time to air my feelings about this topic, since I have worked with children, teens, and college students most of my adult life, and I have seen children taunted by other children.

I remember being bullied while I was in grammar school. When the kids were laughing at me, the feeling was … lonely helplessness. The lesson I learned was that if I could control the comedy, that is, do something that would make the kids laugh with me and not at me, I would feel better.

With all the horror stories in the news, I wondered, if we created some new programs in schools, that were “out of the box” activities, like Improvisation, Stand-Up Comedy, or Clowning, perhaps the kids would not feel “that helplessness” and have a place to release their stress and harness it into something creative and positive.

For many years, I took children and teens, between the ages of 6- 19 years old and created comedy troupes, called “The Comedy Pups.” I created the troupes, because a thirteen-year-old boy, three hundred pounds, was bullied and beaten in his school. I taught him comedy and he performed on Jay Leno’s show, many times. The kids in school stopped bullying him.

Comedy and Improvisation is something the whole family can be involved with. Comedy gives kids a handle on how to present themselves to their peers. It also brings family together, with everyone participating as a group. We are all made up of stories of survival; we can turn it around and make people laugh with us … rather than at us. Storytelling is an American tradition. A sense of humor heals people like a good story.

Toni Attell is a teacher at UCLA-Extension and also teaches private acting classes in the Valley. She wrote a book called “Just Kidding, Stand-Up Comedy for Kids of All Ages” available in book form on and Amazon-Kindle. You can reach her at

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