Armed with their trusty whistle and shorts, gymnastics teachers on television are at the forefront of physical education. Though they don’t usually get the same kind of critical acclaim that coaches like Ted Lasso (Ted Lasso) and Eric Taylor (Friday night lights), gymnastics teachers and the actors who play them are a proven source of comedy.
Many of these fictional gym teachers rely on disciplinary stereotypes and gleefully torture their students with rope climbs and turns around the pitch. The most outstanding examples, however, reveal a more complex and emotional depth while retaining an exaggerated outward tyranny.
Kenny Powers – East and Down
Former professional athletes often hold public school jobs in the television world, dating back at least to Ken Howard’s role as Reeves coach in the white shadow. However, perhaps the strangest example is when professional baseball pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) is hired as an elementary school gymnastics teacher in the first season of East and down.
Kenny is one of the most irreverent and hatefully funny characters ever created. While a man with such childish and narcissistic characteristics should never be left in charge of children, he uses his semi-celebrity status to keep his job before giving it up for another baseball hit. It’s for the best because when he’s on the mound, Kenny Powers is one of the best baseball players in television history.
Graham Lubbock – Growing Pains / Just Us Ten
In seasons 2 and 3 of the popular 80s sitcom Growing pains, comedian Bill Kirchenbauer played short-tempered gym teacher Graham Lubbock, before earning his own spin-off series. In Just the ten of usCoach Lubbock moves to California with his family to take a job at a boys-only Catholic academy.
The spinoff gave coach Lubbock the opportunity to grow beyond his role as a gym teacher, as the show focused heavily on his family life as a loving husband and exasperated father of 8 children. Most of Lubbock’s captivating comic energy is spent in a feud with his four teenage daughters, including eldest daughter Marie, played by legendary scream queen Heather Langenkamp.
Mr. Heyman – Seinfeld
George Constanza is reunited with her high school gymnastics teacher, Mr. Heyman (Biff Yeager), who lives on the street in the third season of The Seinfeld episode “The Library”. Viewers learn through a series of flashbacks that Heyman abused George in high school by calling him “I can’t stand you” and encouraging his classmates to give him wedges.
Heyman rightfully loses his job when George sues him for abusive behavior and although Heyman only makes a few brief appearances, George’s reference to the teacher’s “baked bean teeth” is hard to forget. “The Library” also features Lt. Joe Bookman (Philip Baker Hall), one of the best characters to appear in a single episode of Seinfeld.
Cherri Wolf – Strangers with Candy
In the twisted world of Foreigners with sweets, adults are certainly no more mature than children who are awake. While gym trainer Cherri Wolf (Sarah Thyre) tries her best to be a role model for struggling Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris), she has questionable ethics in the name of competition.
Like so many educators, Coach Wolf was underpaid for his job and took a side job at a pizza place (which ultimately led to a memorable relationship with the pizza chef in his class). When the school was demolished in the series finale, Wolf took a job at Sticky Bunnery that replaced his class as it offered better pay.
Coach Steve – Big Mouth
Arguably the most endearing gym teacher in TV history is Comedy Comedy Comedy Trainer Steve. Big mouth.
Coach Steve is voiced by series creator Nick Kroll and is arguably the funniest character on the Netflix series. His jokes are unexpected and usually give an idea of his bizarre life. During the series, viewers learn that Coach Steve’s father was buried in a pet cemetery, he claims to work at the Patrick Ewing Brewing Company and was born with four eyes.
Chelsea / Fuller-Frasier coach
When Frasier Crane starts dating Chelsea gym teacher (Jeanne Tripplehorn) in season 10 fraser episode “Trophy Girlfriend” seems the perfect match for the romantically ineffective psychiatrist. However, when he sees her scolding a student in class, she brings back painful memories of her childhood physical education teacher, Coach Fuller, and Frasier begins to see her newfound love in a different way.
For the remainder of the episode, Frasier can only see Chelsea as manager Fuller, hilariously played by Bob Hoskins biting his cigar. The visual gag is played with a shimmering effect as the grumpy gym teacher tickles Frasier in bed and reads him poetry in a bubble bath while he dons his gym clothes. It’s one of the funniest examples of another Frasier love story gone wrong.
Mark Cooper – Dating Mr. Cooper
Go out with Mr. Cooper is another great example of a professional athlete taking a job as a gym teacher at a public school. Mark Curry plays Mark Cooper, a former professional basketball player who works as a substitute teacher and later physical education coach at Oakbridge High School in his hometown of Oakland, California.
Curry brought his lighthearted comic character to the character, which was a fun break from traditional no-nonsense TV gym teachers. The series was a staple of ABC’s popular TGIF family programming block in the mid-1990s and in the second episode of the show, Mr. Cooper is an alternate teacher of Sold out Michelle Tanner (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) in a classic TV crossover.
Buzzcut Trainer – Beavis and Butthead
Beavis and Butthead I’m every teacher’s worst nightmare. Their educators were beaten, hospitalized, arrested and fired as they attempted to teach the two worst Highland High School students. The teacher they anger the most is the angry coach Buzzcut, voiced by Mike Judge.
As the name suggests, Buzzcut is a US Marine veteran and fought in Vietnam as part of the 1st Infantry Division (making him one of many interesting characters who served in the Vietnam War). He has the teaching style of a drill sergeant with uncontrollable anger. This anger is usually aimed at Beavis and Butthead, whom he abuses both verbally and physically with great comic effect.
Ben Fredricks – Freaks and Geeks
Better known as Biff Tannen in Back to the Future trilogy, actor Thomas F. Wilson takes on a friendlier role as gymnastics teacher Ben Fredricks in the short-lived cult series freaks and misfits. At first glance, Coach Fredricks appears to be a stereotypical stupid athlete with a penchant for dodgeball, but as the series progresses it turns out that he is a much more complex character.
Though slow to recognize the needs of his less athletic students, Ben Fredricks continually demonstrates a willingness to change his teaching style to provide a more equitable learning environment for William McKinley High School children. Viewers also see him as a caring father figure later in the series when he starts dating Bill’s (Martin Starr) mother.
Coach Cutlip – The wonderful years
Coach Cutlip is the classic example of a fictional gymnastics teacher with his brusque demeanor and masochistic approach to education. Since its first appearance on the Wonder years in 1988, Cutlip served as a prototype for the physical educators who harassed children on television for decades to come. His cold appearance, however, hides a man who is in dire need of acceptance.
When Kevin discovers that Coach Cutlip works as Santa Claus in a department store in “A Very Cutlip Christmas”, viewers realize how lonely the man is when he reveals he is wearing the suit because “kids love it when they are Santa Claus. “. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments in the 6-season series. Robert Picardo was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the misunderstood gymnastics teacher before achieving intergalactic fame as a doctor of Star Trek: The Traveler.
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