It started off with Joe Consiglio singing for himself while working at a summer camp and teaching himself to play an instrument. 

The teacher was looking for more material to learn, and when he didn't like a lot of what he was finding, he started to write his own songs.

From there, "Silly Joe" was born. 

Consiglio still teaches high school English, but in his free time travels around doing parties, school events and on Wednesday, made a stop at Bermudian Springs Elementary School. 

Armed with underwear on his head — a trademark you can thank his son for — Consiglio performs songs like "Everybody wants to pinch my cheeks," "Grow if you must," and of course, "The underwear song."

Levi Kuntz, 3, holds still as Silly Joe puts a superhero cape around him before the superhero song.
Levi Kuntz, 3, holds still as Silly Joe puts a superhero cape around him before the superhero song. (Clare Becker — The Evening Sun)

Q. What's your favorite thing about your job?

A. I love the honest interaction with kids. Sometimes kids need to let off steam. Sometimes they need to be validated. Sometimes they want to be challenged with irony and word play. Whatever it is they need, I try to offer it. I never plan out an entire show. I always leave most of it open to improvisation. My favorite part of most shows is the time before and after when I get to put down the guitar and really talk to them. The best thing about kids as an audience is that they tell you what they think. You can't fake it with them. 

Q. How do you come up with your funny songs? Do the topics come from real life?

A. The ideas come from many places but mostly from my family. For example, when my daughter was 3, she was having a bad day. I offered her a lot of things trying to cheer her up, but nothing worked. So I asked her what she wanted, and she said, "I wanna be grumpy." So I wrote her a song. The irony is that the song, "I Wanna Be Grumpy," cheered her up, and it cheers up a lot of kids who hear it. The song works because it acknowledges real feelings. It doesn't try to impose an adult expectation upon a child.

Nova Lee Ard, 6, fistbumps performer Joe Consiglio, aka Silly Joe, as she leaves the gym after his performance at Bermudian Springs Elementary.
Nova Lee Ard, 6, fistbumps performer Joe Consiglio, aka Silly Joe, as she leaves the gym after his performance at Bermudian Springs Elementary. (Clare Becker — The Evening Sun)

 

Other ideas come from funny events. One day my younger daughter put lipstick on the dog, and my wife shouted, "Margaret Lois!" I turned to my son and said, "You know you're in trouble when you hear your middle name," and the song was right there.

Q. How did you start wearing underwear on your head?

A. The world can blame my son for that. I asked him to help me fold laundry, and he told me it was boring. So I put boxer shorts on my head and asked him if he was still bored. He pointed to my head, and I said, "Don't look up top." Then he looked to the floor, and I said, "Don't look down there." He said, "Why not?" and I started shaking my tushie and said, "It's under here. It's underwear." The song took about three minutes to write. I played it the same day and got calls that night about it. What can I say? A hit is a hit. You can't plan them. They just happen.

Joe Consiglio, known as Silly Joe, reads a story to the audience during a performance at Bermudian Springs Elementary.
Joe Consiglio, known as Silly Joe, reads a story to the audience during a performance at Bermudian Springs Elementary. (Clare Becker — The Evening Sun)

Q. What do you think is the most important things kids get out of their visits with you?

A. It's hard for me to gauge what they get, but I know what I want them to get. I want them to feel like they are understood, that someone is listening to them and giving a voice to their experiences. I want them to laugh at the silly things that happen in childhood. And I want them to be free to act like kids.

Related

Learn more about Silly Joe, his songs and appearances at sillyjoe.net.