Recently the entertainment industry lost a legend in television comedy, Gary Marshall, who gave us hours of laughs with “Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy,” and many other shows. I often wonder how someone can be so innately funny and creative and how that helps them cope with life’s down sides.
In plain black and white, a “sense of humor” is nothing more than one’s ability to perceive and appreciate humor. Some aspects of humor, however, don’t resonate with everyone. While a spit-take, for example, might be hilarious to one person, another (some would say with a more ‘refined’ sense of humor) individual would find it vulgar. As with beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder.
To me, mimes and clowns aren’t funny at all. Actually, I find both kind of creepy. But then, I have one of those senses of humor that is all over the place. I’m never certain what’s going to tickle my funny bone.
My friend Jim Karns can make me laugh just by walking into a room, a fact I hope he’s never taken negatively. Jim and I started working together on stage in the late 1990s and he joined my family variety show, The Brothers & Co., in 2004. It’s part of our shared role to create comedy routines for the show, but they generally originate from an accidental punch line or a word that cracked us up.
We’ve known each other for more than two decades and we’re very different people. But our sense of humor aligns us to a level of craziness sometimes only we understand. Sometimes, all it takes is a word or phrase to set us off. Case in point – the casaba melon.
What’s so funny about a casaba melon? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one. All I know is that one evening at a rehearsal, one of us responded to a random question by saying, “… because casaba melons are out of season,” and that was it. Our sides were splitting the rest of the evening.
No, it’s not that funny by itself. But, to us, it was hysterical. Sometimes it hits so hard, I can’t breathe or, no kidding, I actually fall out of my chair laughing.
Not everyone loses it that way and I have only one theory as to why it happens to us in that fashion. William Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage and, clearly, life is a mixture of tragedy and comedy, as life is imitated in art.
We all experience our share of tragedy. For Jim and I, we share the common experiences of the long term caring for and loss of our mothers to early disease, painful divorce, and similar job stresses.
To us however, and the rest of my Brothers & Co. family, I think, humor relieves that stress in a positive way that benefits more than just us. Our audiences benefit from what comes out of it and finds its way into our show.
We are not drinkers or gamblers, nor do we spend money on elaborate vacations to unwind from life’s stressors. Instead, a laugh is our elixir, our tonic and our escape. When my brother became ill a year ago, and the outlook was grim, we laughed our way through it, regardless of what the result was going to be.
Thankfully, he recovered, and is, for the most part, his smiling self again. This is in no small part thanks to our resistance to the darkness that could have taken over our hearts and minds without our sense of humor.
All of this begs the question: does a strong and natural sense of humor also imply an unusually high level of optimism? I’m not psychologist but I’d have to guess there is something to that suggestion. I’m not always optimistic, but it’s tough to get me to buy into the negative.
Even though most people overestimate their sense of humor, who cares? Isn’t that up to you? If you think you’re funny, the only time it matters whether anyone else does is if you’re planning to become a comedian. Otherwise, laugh at whatever you want. But watch out for those casaba melons.
Gery L. Deer is an independent casaba melon thrower. Deer In Headlines is usually full of it, so why are you reading this? More at www.deerinheadlines.com