Finding Something to Laugh At
“A day without laughter is a day wasted…” Charlie Chaplain
As a graduate of the Lenny Bruce School of humor I have never found any lack of people or situations to laugh at during my stay on this planet. I have always reasoned that if Mel Brooks can make the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazis funny what isn’t fair game? So now when I find myself laughing less I must ask, “where the hell has humor gone?”
Of course I’m not advocating using humor to hurt people, and no one should be the butt of anyone’s jokes. There is no place for cruelty or meanness in humor and we all should respect the line and not cross over. Yet all people, all sexes and everyone that breathes on planet earth has some craziness in common and if we begin to exclude anyone from the party it would be akin to locking them out of the shared joke.
We all need to be let in and have an opportunity to laugh together. Laughter is a great bonding agent that unites and creates shared joy. Meanness destroys the very purpose of humor, which is to bring joy to everyone.
Yet according to some it seems I must now censor myself depending on who and what friends or family in whose company I find myself depending on their degree of something called “wokeness.” I fully understand and empathize with the pain of those who may be struggling in their life with a new and unforeseen circumstance. However, the greater the challenge, the more important it is to laugh and knock it down to size.
For example: A giant bully runs the playground with a tone of severity and evil that makes everyone that crosses his path quake with fear. One day a new student finds himself on the playground still a bit hesitant to step in and watches from the sidelines. While observing the dynamics of playground politics he notices the bully is constantly checking his cap to ensure its fit over his ears. The student becomes convinced he is hiding something. Seeing the
bully terrorize the other students for half the play period, he decides to be bold. Just as the bully leans over a small boy to grab his bat, the new kid jumps up and pulls the cap from the bully’s head.
The bully is stunned and unable to move as he realizes his hat is missing and his gigantic ears are exposed. Every student moves in closer for a better look as a loud roar of laughter engulfs the schoolyard as the bully’s huge, protruding ears are on display. He runs away horrified and diminished as finally the students are freed from their captor. Nothing and no one could have stopped him from asserting his wrongful power over them except one simple thing, laughter. Now begs the question, should the other students continue to taunt the bully over his ears? That would be a misuse of humor but hopefully the bully would learn his lesson and stop his evil ways. Okay, so maybe in a perfect world.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, the key to Jewish humor. Laughter is the best way to cut a bully down to size. It’s worked for centuries and always will. Yet now when we are all fighting to survive a world full of bullies we have cast our greatest weapon.
I can’t imagine anyone hasn’t heard a story from a comedian who says he recognized the power of funny when picked on as a kid he resorted to humor to avoid ridicule. They can’t beat you if they’re doubled up laughing at your jokes. If it ain’t broke etc…
So am I wrong in assuming that at a time in my life and so many of my friends’ lives when we desperately need laughter we are being shut down by those who have set themselves up as judges of what should be our funny?
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter simulates many organs and enhances the intake of air, releases endorphins, activates and relieves your stress response and soothes tension. This leads to lowered blood pressure and better circulation and beats the hell out of downing a handful of meds every day.
All Baby Boomers have suddenly found themselves in a battle with Father Time. And because we know in the end he will win, we fight valiantly each day to make life as easy and rewarding as possible. Many days we are accompanied by pain, fatigue, trying
to remember where we put our keys or what the hell we were calling a friend to tell them as we are plagued by senior moments. Where once we were excited to see a friend’s number pop up on our phone, now a small part of us wonders if they are calling with more bad news about someone who became sick or died.
We all know how it has become necessary to cheer ourselves up when life comes crashing around us and reminding us of our own mortality.
Yet the very coping mechanism that once served to relieve us in times of difficulty is being stripped away and has become a political tool for those that would tell us how to think, feel, act and what is or is not funny.
Dude Perfect is a group of guys on YouTube that my grandsons turned me onto. They exploit people’s stereotypes and their video about the pandemic quarantine points out so clearly how alike we all truly are. I can’t imagine anyone could watch that video, see them hoarding toilet paper and not be doubled up in laughter. The very fact that an old broad like myself and my young grandsons can both laugh at the same craziness proves the universality of Dude Perfect’s humor.
One thing I have never had any problem with is grasping what is humorous. The Lord may not have provided me with Heidi Klum’s looks or body, but he did give me an innate sense of funny. Yet despite the fact I believe certain jokes or comics are funny I understand fully that not everyone has the same sense of humor or point of reference. I think what bothers me most is the fact there are others that deign to tell me my sense of humor is inappropriate and judge what I should find funny.
Milton Berle dressed as a woman; funny, Nazis in black boots dancing and singing Springtime for Hitler; funny! Monty Python Life of Brian; funny!
Despite the fact we all may not share the same cultures or life experiences certain things affect humans in the same ways. Finding and sharing love, fear, death, getting old and mothers-in-laws all seem to be universal. The things we strive for and care about are
shared. Our families, our children and finding a place for ourselves on this crowded planet bonds us all.
Once it seemed no one was off limits. When Chevy Chase fell down every Saturday night to point out President Gerald Ford’s clumsiness I laughed, not because I disliked Ford, but because it was damn funny! In fact it made Gerald Ford more endearing. And unfortunately gave Chevy a bad back. Yes, it’s true sometimes we suffer for our art.
Now we have politicians that are ridiculous and hilarious and we dare not even point out how gigantic the caps are covering their ears. And the fact they actually take themselves seriously, well that’s enough comedy material for a lifetime. Congress…Blazing Saddles, it’s a toss up which is funnier.
I have written before about why so many have tried to understand the roots of Jewish humor and why we are a people that have so embraced the funny. It’s quite simple really, instead of accepting ourselves as victims we choose humor as the coping mechanism to lighten our circumstances. A close second is chocolate and that explains the Jewish food thing.
Laughter cuts the enemy down to size, allows us to laugh at that which scares us and unites us in the best of ways. It helps release the pain inside and exorcises our demons.
If you will notice, Fascist governments have no sense of humor and allow none in their victims. They know the benefits of a society that can share a laugh and the power it ignites. That is why it is so important to stop people from laughing together because it keeps them separate and easier to control.
If everyone can laugh at their leaders it unites them in a way that scares a totalitarian more than any weapon.
Of course too many today fail to understand the intense importance of accepting ourselves as human beings with flaws and failures and laughter’s immense power of healing. In a non-simplistic way to “laugh it off” and how humor helps do that. And if one chooses not to laugh, please don’t tell others they have no right to their chuckles. No one should castigate those who need a good Yuk to
get through the day and where to find one. In a free society we can all change the channel, so to speak.
I recently came cross Abbott and Costello on the old people’s network where they replay “retro” shows. They were doing their “Who’s on First?” routine. I sat in amazement as I laughed as hard as I had so many hundreds of times before. Funny is funny and we all need funny to get through life.
The French have a wise expression, (Yes, I know hard to believe right?) “Vive la Difference!” In other words embrace the differences in others and celebrate them.
We all don’t have to be the same, think the same and act the same. Robots and people under totalitarian regimes must do that. Case in point; Iran.
Being lucky enough to grow up in a free society I long ago discovered the best way to keep it free was to share a laugh. I’m white, but I’ll bet I laugh louder than anyone when Tyler Perry puts on that costume and turns into Madea. Not because of the character’s blackness, but because he’s satirizing all strong, not- taking-any-crap women in a brilliant and hilarious way. Madea is every woman.
When my husband and I were first married Cheech and Chong’s Firesign Theatre album had us rolling on the floor crying and laughing. Humor crosses all color and religious lines. Our struggles no matter how individual affect us all in the same ways. Laughter is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other as a species. Laughing feels good, it releases endorphins that raise us up and spark happiness while uniting us in powerful ways.
No audience laughing together can deny how it bonds us and paves the way for friendship and camaraderie. It amplifies our sameness and minimizes our differences. It is the great equalizer.
If we didn’t need a sense of humor, God wouldn’t have given us one.
Making someone laugh is giving a present, a gift that makes a moment happier and is a beautiful experience to share. It creates the positive energy we need to survive.
Growing old is not for sissies nor is growing up and we all benefit from laughter no matter the age, race, religion or sexual orientation. Inside we are all just people struggling to get through the craziness that is life on Planet Earth. And in case you haven’t noticed it’s getting pretty crazy out there. So call a friend and share a laugh. Then have a piece of chocolate cake, look in the mirror naked and laugh your ass off. Oh, if it were only that easy? Gee maybe it really is!
Veggie Chicken with Grapes and Wine
Four chicken thighs cut up
½ package of frozen veggie mix of corn carrots and peas
½ cup White wine
1 ½ cups of Red or green seedless grapes cut in half or whole if small.
2 cups of Yukon Gold potatoes cut up
Butter and oil for sautéing
2 cups whipping cream
Salt to taste
Saute cut up chicken thighs in mixture of butter and oil.
When almost done add potatoes, veggies and cream and continue cooking until veggies are done.
Add ½ cup of white wine (I use Sherry) and grapes then salt to taste.
Let cook until cream thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
May serve over rice or noodles or with a sheet of baked puff pastry over top