"The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow."-Mark Twain
I love to laugh. I believe that as the Reader's Digest column proclaims Laughter IS the Best Medicine. It is a fact that laughing releases endorphins into brain that stimulate the central nervous system and produce a high much like that of mood enhancing drugs. It's true, I kid you not. Laughing is great! It is fun! Who doesn't like to laugh? One of the most guilty pleasures in life is uncontrollable laughter in a setting where it is not expected, nor appreciated (i.e. a classroom, Sunday church, and dare I even say it? A funeral! Don't blame me, blame The Barenaked Ladies!) Sure there are people who are rarely seen laughing, but deep down they love to do it. We all do it. I just did and I'm ready to do it again!
I love listening to comedians, especially good comedians. More times than not, if you were to do an depth investigation into the lives of most comedians you would find some hardship, or hard luck story. You see these people, when confronted with tough times, turn to laughter. Hey, it's cheaper than paying for therapy and the return is instantaneous. If you make someone laugh the feeling is fantastic, and if you don't you know right of way that you need work.
I don't consider myself anywhere near the level of your average comedian, though I do love making people laugh. To me it is a drug. If I can make a group of people bust a gut, the feeling that comes over me is almost euphoric. I find it challenging to make a group of people laugh. Sometimes I am successful, and other times I am not (more than I am willing to admit).
Getting back to laughing over the pain. The late great Rodney Dangerfield had bouts of depression that he dealt with his whole life. He was constantly feeling like a failure. He built his entire routine, "I Tell You I Don't Get No Respect" around it. He even talked about it in his act. He would talk about waking up every morning face to face with the heaviness of depression that haunted him. Yet he did it by laughing at it. "Hi Heaviness" was one of his bits and man if it wasn't funny! It would end with him saying that all he wanted in life was, "just one of these" and he would hold up his hand making the A-OK gesture. It was very funny and bit sad. It always got laughs, but some of them were uncomfortable laughs. People who come to see a comedian want funny not reality. Make me laugh but don't make me cry. The truth is that one often follows the other and one makes the other seem more intense. Why else would Drama be pictured as two masks, one laughing one crying?
The poet Ella Wheeler Cox said it best:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone,
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Weep and you do weep alone. It seems that very few, and I mean very few, people will pay any attention to you when life has gotten you down. That's the way it goes. People just don't want to be bothered. We greet each other with a "Hey how you doin'?" or "Hi how are you?" but we really don't want to be bothered with the response, do we? Let's be honest about it. If you think that I am nuts, the next time you hear one of these greetings, or a reasonable facsimile, answer it in truth. "Horrible!", or "I could be better and here's why...". Then watch the reaction that you get from the other person. It probably won't be one of caring or concern. We don't want to know. We just want to be perceived as someone who gives a damn, even when we really don't.
I think that a funny way to subtlety protest anyone who asks without caring (and you can tell who these people are) for an honest-to-God response would be, in tribute to Rodney, give them just one of these, and then flash them the A-OK sign. If nothing else you can chuckle to yourself, and it's more polite than flashing the middle finger. Did I just say that? I guess I did.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to get ready for work and there are a few bits that I need to rehearse. Gotta make 'em laugh!
Now go do something productive!