Sarcasm rolls off his tongue as if it’s second nature, followed by a deep chuckle that is met with the sound of laughter and wide-eyed amusement on the faces of 20 seated before him.
History is not usually associated with humor, but associate professor of history Brian Walsh knows how to put the two together.
Walsh brings a sense of levity to the classroom, intertwining comedic lines and course material with an off-the-cuff, improvisational style that keeps students engaged.
Walsh left his hometown in New Jersey to attend American University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. After five years, in 1999, he moved back home to New Jersey for grad school at Monmouth University, where he majored in history.
Walsh had the opportunity to dip his toe into a diverse pool of job opportunities with trial and error, but as an educator, he is open with his students about his past failures.
“You want to open up the world to students and show that there are many options in life. There are many roads you can take and it’s always good to just seek out these roads and these opportunities,” Walsh said. “Life is a complex and full of failure and trial, but you have to take it all together.”
One job venture came a year after returning to New Jersey, when he worked at People Magazine in ad sales for about five months.
“I was just no good at it and I had no interest in it,” Walsh said. “There was just no future for me there. I was so culturally tone deaf to a lot of what people magazine covered. There’d be like these fashion gurus walking through the office. Some guy I remember was Steven Cojocaru, I never heard of him, but he walked through the office and a lot of people would like whisper ‘Steven Cojocaru.’”
Walsh said the same night he was fired from People, a friend told him about a job opening at a newspaper.
Walsh worked on the News Transcript Newspaper for six months while finishing grad school.
“I was a newspaper reporter, which was an incredible job,” Walsh said. “The pay is s—, but trust me, it was the best.”
In 2001, Walsh drove cross country and moved out to Los Angeles for a comedy gig, he was a co-host and writer for a Comedy Central show called “Midnight with Chris Wylde Starring Chris Wylde.” The 30-minute show featured comedy sketches and celebrity guests.
“[Chris] is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met and he’s also just like a true hustler in terms of the entertainment business. That’s something I really couldn’t do,” Walsh said.“I couldn’t hustle in Hollywood, but I can hustle here.”
Walsh joked about Dick Cheney’s heart condition and said it most likely caused the ratings to plummet. The show ultimately was canceled.
“Nothing develops a thick skin like America firing you. I worked for People Magazine and they fired me back in like 2000. And that sucked, but when America gives you a collective thumbs down, that was pretty brutal,” Walsh said.
In June of 2003, Walsh was the head writer on a gameshow named “Taboo.”
“We filmed like 40 episodes in two weeks. We did like two or three episodes a day, and it was insane,” Walsh said. “I mean, it’s all this prep work, but when you finally do it, it’s just like boom. Then it’s over.”
After the game show wrapped, Walsh worked for Marvel Comics.
He wrote five books for Marvel, one of which was a special series called “Spiderman, this Tangled Web, issue 22.”
“It got great reviews. So based on the strength of that, they gave me more work, and that’s when the wheels fell off,” Walsh said.
After the Spiderman series came to an end in March of 2003, Walsh said he worked on a series that featured three witches and Dr. Strange. However, they had only two issues before it was evidently canceled.
After navigating to the path of teaching, Walsh was hired full time at Pierce College in 2008.
Walsh recalls the moment he felt like he was on the right path.
“I think it was the first class in the first lecture and it was when I started talking and students were just writing down what I was saying. I was like, ‘What the hell are they doing?’ Because I’m always talking about history with my friends and they don’t write anything down. They just seem bored,” Walsh said.
History Department Chair James McKeever said Walsh gives his all into Pierce.
“He brings a keen analytical perspective, which is really important and has a lot of knowledge about history itself. He also brings humor to the classroom and I think it lightens it up and makes it more enjoyable for students,” Mckeever said.
Jennifer Fuentes, a history major, said Walsh’s humor helps pique the interest in the classroom.
“He tries to connect things to modern day situations, so the content is more relatable. And it’s easier to grasp the concepts,” Fuentes said. “He adds a lot of comedy, which is refreshing because it makes it stick more.”
Aside from teaching history, he is also a grievance representative for the Faculty Guild, and he plans on running for chapter chair president for the union.
“The way I see the union and my role in it, is that teachers are the craftsman. When you think about different types of labor we’re craft workers, we’re not industrial workers. This is not a factory. This is a workshop,” he said.
McKeever said he has been instrumental in changing and shaping the campus into what it is now.
“Brian brings a lot of leadership to this campus. He has been at the forefront of this change, from an old guard of faculty that we all have a lot of respect for, to this younger and newer faculty,” McKeever said.
Walsh said his dream job is at Pierce.
“I once read about this a thing called imposter syndrome, and it’s very strong. It’s kind of uncomfortable to talk about, but it happens when you’re happy and you feel like you don’t deserve it,” Walsh said. “There are people who didn’t get the job that are also brilliant, and you’re thinking like, ‘Oh my god, I think someone made a mistake,’ but you really don’t have the luxury of marinating in that sentiment.”
Walsh said all of his past jobs guided him to where he is now.
“I learned from all of them, the good and the bad. So I don’t think I would’ve changed a whole hell of a lot. Everything’s for a reason or purpose,” Walsh said.