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School Assembly Teaches Without Lecturing

Comedian uses humor and characters to teach students the perils of drinking and drugs.

Comedian and writer John Morello brought his one-man show "Dirt" to  Wednesday morning to show students how to avoid the dangers of alcohol and drugs without giving them a lecture.

About seven or eight years ago, Morello started his "Dirt" show as a side project. At the time, Morello was doing stand-up comedy.

After performing the show in a theatre in New York, a teacher in the crowd asked him to perform his routine at a high school. Though he was nervous, Morello agreed and it blossomed from there.

"I started working with kids," he said. “I wanted to make young people feel less alone."

He now does more than 100 shows a year, mostly in the Northeast. 

Morello, who has more than 15 years of stage experience, does not preach to the students, but uses comedy to get a message across to them.

"I am gonna tell you a story through characters," Morello tells the students.

One of Morello's characters is a depressed high school girl who has a bad night with drinking and is raped by an upperclassman. Morello also plays Jason, the town "stoner," and David, a student who has isolated himself from his family because of prescription drugs. The final character is an old man named Hank who has to deal with his grandson's addiction to drugs.

The school assembly, which was hosted by the , tackled topics like underage drinking, drug addiction, peer pressure and the portrayal of drugs and alcohol by television and the Internet. 

"He does not come here to lecture to you," said Principal Mario Almeida. "You are going to laugh your butt off."

Morello has been hit hard by tragedy. About 12 years ago, he lost one brother in a drunk-driving accident. Shortly after his brother's death, his other brother started using drugs and eventually became addicted to heroin.

Morello said he always thought there was a certain type of person who became addicted to drugs.

"I didn't know it would be the kid who slept in the bunk bed above me."

In 2003, his brother died of a drug overdose.

Advisor Lori Stanczyc said the show is a "not-so-in-the-face" approach to talking about drugs and alcohol.

"I think the kids appreciate that," she said.

For more information about John Morello and his show, visit his website.

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