Entertainer wows schoolchildren with ``Diaper Rash,'' other hits

December 16, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Nationally known children's entertainer Barry Louis Polisar has a special bond with children. He can talk like them and walk like them, and his songs, including the classic "Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose," send them into spasms of laughter.

To what does Mr. Polisar attribute his rapport with youngsters?

"Basic immaturity," he replied.

The singer-songwriter brought down the house at the Mount Airy Elementary School cafeteria yesterday, charming his young fans with songs, stories and poems that conjure up an irresistible world of childish anarchy.

His repertoire for yesterday's performances included "He Eats Asparagus; Why Can't You Be That Way," "Diaper Rash" and "I've Got a Dog and His Name is Cat."

Ten-year-old Willy Burroughs said of Mr. Polisar's concert: "I thought it was sort of educational."

Educational may not be the first word that comes to the minds of many adults when it comes to Mr. Polisar.

But the performer says his concerts are about more than making children squeal with delight over his musings on underwear, annoying siblings and bad table manners.

"I hope most of all they get a real sense of enjoyment and a sense that you can have fun at your job," said Mr. Polisar, 40.

"And on the educational side, I'd like to tell them that there are so many things in the world to use your imagination to write about and explore through music, songs and poems.

"My program says you can write about anything -- diaper rash, snakes, things from your imagination." Mr. Polisar said.

Teachers at Mount Airy Elementary had varying opinions of Mr. ** Polisar.

One, who asked not to be identified, said the performer's material conflicts with teachers' attempts to stress good manners.

But fourth-grade teacher Ann Marie Blonkowski said she likes Mr. Polisar's focus on writing and creativity.

"If it makes them [the students] happy. . . ," she said of his performances.

At yesterday's concert, Mr. Polisar explained to his audience that some of the creatures in one of his books, "Dinosaurs I Have Known," sprang from his imagination. There's Snifflesauraus, the dinosaur that became extinct because he had a bad head cold, and Rockodopolos Rex, also known as The King.

Real people, frequently relatives, also provide Mr. Polisar with ideas for songs and stories. For example, relatives were the inspiration for the tunes "Never Cook Your Sister In A Frying Pan" and "My Brother Thinks He's a Banana."

Mr. Polisar said he began to write when he was in the second grade. His first story was "The Ten-O-Clock Alarm Clock That Would Not Stop."

"The art of being a writer," Mr. Polisar told the children, "is to take an ordinary idea and make it fun, more universal, more interesting."

To illustrate his point, Mr. Polisar described how his wife recently gave him an idea for a new song when she told him that the slugs were eating everything in the garden.

"Next thing I knew, I picked up my guitar and started working on a song about slugs," he said.

He's still working on it, but he treated the Mount Airy students to a preview of "Slugs": "I like broccoli, I love Swiss chard, I love all the flowers in the yard."

Mr. Polisar also shared with the audience his observations about some of life's more mundane subjects.

On underwear: "It's everywhere, but mostly underneath."

On diaper rash: "It'll get you if you don't watch out/It'll sneak up on your rear, or somewhere thereabouts."

Mr. Polisar, who lives in Silver Spring with his wife and 7-year-old twins, has been performing for children for 20 years.

He has appeared on Sesame Street, at the Kennedy Center, at the Smithsonian Institution and at the White House, and has recorded albums and published children's books. He performs all over the United States and in Europe.

His latest project is a children's television show called "Field Trip," in which Mr. Polisar takes a group of children on outings to interesting places, including backstage at the ballet and the National Air and Space Museum.

Produced by WJLA in Washington, the program will air on Saturday mornings beginning in January. Mr. Polisar said he hopes "Field Trip" will be syndicated nationally next year.

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