Things To Do

Viral Sensation and Elementary Teacher Joe 'Mr. D' Dombrowski Brings the Laughs to Addison

Elementary school teacher Joe Dombrowski found a new life through stand-up comedy after going viral with a spelling test prank.
Elementary school teacher Joe Dombrowski found a new life through stand-up comedy after going viral with a spelling test prank. Curtis Brown
There will always be teachers, kids and comedy, Joe Dombrowski says. The evergreen nature and reliability of those three things are how the elementary school teacher found a new life through stand-up comedy. His tour will stop in North Texas this week with a show at Addison Improv on Oct. 14.

Dombrowski’s comedy career began when he pulled an April Fool’s joke on his class in a video that has since gone viral.

The video is your typical, wholesome clip that somehow finds its way on your aunt’s Facebook feed where it is then shared millions of times. A teacher pulling a spelling test prank on his students, it turns out, is the exact kind of distraction we needed in a time of COVID-19, partisan politics and Jake Paul.

Dombrowski is a welcome addition to the internet sensations that come out of the world wide web. As an educator, he's using his new platform as a stand-up comedian to talk about the daily lives and challenges teachers often face in a school system that doesn’t always work in their favor.
“I want to make non-teachers laugh,” Dombrowski says. “Those are the people who make decisions about education, not teachers. Which is totally ass-backward.”

Comedy is a vessel for truth, and if parents can gain an understanding of the reforms needed in education, then Dombrowski feels he is doing his job.

As a gay man, Dombrowski also breaks social stigmas as an example that men can be relatable, funny and down-to-earth educators. There is power in his friendly approach to teaching.

“There’s this huge issue out there where people who are under the rainbow umbrella feel like they’re not welcome in education,” Dombrowski says. “It’s just so hurtful to me because there are people in this world who are made to work with kids regardless of who you are.”

Not every teacher is a Mary Poppins type. Most make mistakes, they goof around, make jokes and find innovative ways to make kids want to come to school. Dombrowski says teaching is difficult and a “psychotic profession."

“If somebody is willing to dedicate their life to that sort of work we need to embrace all people who are willing to do that,” Dombrowski says. “People in the LGBTQIA+ community are often not given these opportunities and are ostracized to the point where they leave the profession.”

It’s a loss that can’t be afforded. According to a U.S. Department of Labor finding from November 2020, 8.8% of education jobs were lost last year partly due to the ongoing pandemic.

Dombrowski is performing at the Addison Improv Comedy Club on Oct. 14. Though he's taking time off from teaching this year to focus on his stand-up tour and podcast (and to avoid potentially bringing COVID to the classroom), his focus remains on the humanizing aspect of what it means to be a teacher.

The kids in his April Fools video were convinced they were internet celebrities and influencers, which, they totally are. But it was Dombrowski’s approach to social media, humor and candid conversation that got the attention of 30 million viewers.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Reyes is an arts and culture intern for the Dallas Observer. At his alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, Reyes was the life and entertainment editor for the student publication The Shorthorn. His passion for writing and reporting includes covering underrepresented communities in the arts.