Did you ever notice that when you whack your “funny bone” it isn’t all that funny? It’s the same with a sense of humor. What I may find hilarious you may dismiss as puerile, obvious or just stupid. What’s funny to some isn’t at all funny to others. I think it was Lou Costello (of the famous comedy team, Abbot and Costello) who said, “Comedy and tragedy are relative. If you fall down a manhole and break your arm, that’s comedy. If the same thing happens to ME, that’s tragedy.”
I grew up on a humor diet of the Little Rascals, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and my favorites, the Three Stooges. It was the humor of the times, and most of these talented folks started their professional lives on stage in vaudeville. They could sing, dance, play a few musical instruments and tell jokes non-stop. Physical comedy of that time included a lot of physical abuse. (Just Google up a few Three Stooges shorts and you’ll see what I mean.) It was humor of the ultimate non-PC type, and it was hilarious.
If you want to see me dissolve into a puddle of helpless laughter (which usually includes tears of joy from both ends), just show me poor old Margaret Dumont getting a pie in the face from Harpo Marx, or Laurel and Hardy unsuccessfully trying to move an expensive piano, or the Three Stooges “fixing” the plumbing. Certainly I get more cerebral humor; New Yorker cartoons, etc., but I am a product of the 50s and grew up in a time of low comedy we may never see again (thanks, PC movement!).
Ok, so what makes you laugh like a hyena or fall off the sofa in hysterics? I hope that you have a long list of things that tickle your funny bone. Life is way too short not to laugh a lot. Here are some humor highlights from my “personal best” list:
- Any episode of the Dick van Dyke Show
- Anyone slipping on a banana peel
- Anyone catching a pie in the face
- The Clowns’ Prayer: “A little song/A little dance/A little seltzer down your pants!”
- Selected bits from Firesign Theatre, especially “Shoes For Industry”
- Zippy the Pinhead from Zap Comics
- “The Soup Nazi” episode from “Seinfeld”
- Anything Nathan Lane says (the man could read the phone book out loud and be funny)
- Monty Python, notably the “Dead Parrot” sketch
- Soupy Sales
- Tim Conway and Harvey Corman on the Carol Burnett Show (especially the classic dental sketch)
- “Blazing Saddles”
- Saturday Night Live with the original cast
- Laugh In; especially Arte Johnson and Alan Sues
- Suzanne Sugarbaker (played by Delta Burke)in “Designing Women”
- the Super Bowl commercial a few years ago with cowboys herding cats
- “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
- Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
…and there is much more. Since I am older now (but not all that much wiser), I find more things to laugh about. Believe me, I am all too well aware of all the horrible, tragic, heartbreaking things going on today. It’s not that I ignore them–I just have to decide what if anything I can do about them.
When I can help alleviate pain or suffering, I do. When I can help lift someone up, I do. When I can be a positive force, I am. But when there is nothing I can do, I cannot waste my life and feelings on fear, anger or grief. I choose to look at the funny side because it is healing and positive. I choose laughter because it heals and it lifts the spirits. Not only that, but you never know who might be listening to your laughter and may be lifted up by it.
Live well, love hard and laugh a LOT.