Nothing is quite as individual as one's sense of humor. What you find hilarious may go right over my head. What knocks me out may leave you scratching your head. In my case, this happens quite often, as my sense of humor tends to be on the quirky side. My family shares my idea of what is funny in the main, although there are some differences of opinion even there. For instance, I cracked up over David Sedaris' book, "I Speak Pretty One Day." I thought the first chapter, especially, was one of the funniest things I had ever read. By contrast, another book of his called "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" did not appeal to me, but Erika found it hysterically funny.
My mother, a conservative, right-thinking Christian woman, often got the giggles. I remember one instance when we were Christmas- shopping at a local store and she caught the eye of the establishment's Rent-a-Santa. She absolutely collapsed. Don't ask me why. Something about the sheepish expression peering out from behind his scraggly Santa Claus beard, I think. She sometimes got the giggles in church. My sister, Iris, was similarly afflicted. I used to hear stories of how she would be sent away from the dinner table to compose herself. Of course, the minute she got back she would break up again. I do not understand gigglers, but, man, what they do sure is contagious! It takes only one giggler in a room to set everyone in the place staggering around hanging onto one another for support.
Erik and I did not share the same sense of humor, although we had many good laughs together. He thought Jerry Lewis was fall-down funny. I thought Jerry Lewis was a buffoon. He loved Bob Hope. I thought Bob Hope was a bore. My opinion was not held by many people, as both Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope were run-away stars in the comedy field. It was just that I could not relate to their brand of humor. Each to his own, as they say!
Our family contains many truly witty folks. The O'Rourke branch has a quick quip for almost every occasion. My Coughlin son-in-law often makes me laugh with his cogent comments. My grandmother and aunts were triple-quick on the up-take. My kids have kept me laughing all their lives with their off-the-wall remarks and goofy antics.
In his book "Anatomy of an Illness", Norman Cousins describes how watching Marx Brothers movies helped him recover from a life-threatening illness. Dr. Cousins says, "Laughter may or may not activate the endorphins and enhance respiration, as some medical researchers contend. What seems clear, however, is that laughter is an antidote to apprehension and panic." Indeed. Everybody knows that a heart-felt laugh is life-affirming and can make your view of the world do a complete flip.
Much of today's humor does not amuse me. There is an edginess to it that takes away the pure joy of a good laugh. I miss the old comedy shows of the 50's, 60's and 70's. ( Lucy, Jackie Gleason, Imogene Coca, Jonathan Winters, come to mind. Dick Cavett, the Smothers Brothers, Jose Jimenez, Dick VanDyke, Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Ernie Kovacs, gosh, I could go on and on.) Some others, not so much. But they were all funny without being hurtful or ugly. You were left with a good feeling after these shows, a tendency to chuckle.
I love a good dirty joke. I enjoy non-PC jokes, blond jokes. But they have to be funny and they have to be amiable and not hurtful or vicious. Humor should not be used as a weapon but as a healing, happy, wonderful gift.
Hey, did you hear the one about......?