Among the many wonderful things about the Sunday newspaper, other than the expanded sections, are the color comics. It’s nice to know when you want a chuckle, no matter what’s going on in the world, the comics are always there to cheer you up. This makes me reflect on the power of humor in life.
Growing up in a large family, it was difficult to get what every child wants: attention. But I soon found out that one of the ways I could get my time-starved parents’ attention was to make them laugh. It was an epiphany: In humor and laughter, there is gratification and amazing power.
I also discovered back in school that strangers could quickly become friends through humor. After all, school could be so long and tedious at times, who wouldn’t want a laugh along the way? When classmates discovered you had the ability to make them laugh, you were looked upon as someone different. But different in a good way.
In elementary school, Cindy – the love of my life who sat next to me in class – was one of my biggest fans, and my goal was to make her laugh. Whenever I got her to throw her head back and laugh that musical little laugh of hers, I was adrenalized for days. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment making Cindy, and others, laugh.
Throughout my school days, I deliberately tracked down those students who were well-known for their zaniness and wit. I not only wanted to be bewitched by their comedic abilities, but also to learn from them. How did they do it? Was it their tone? Their timing? Their willingness to make complete fools out of themselves?
All my life I have been enchanted by comedy, by the offbeat and sometimes bizarre comedic offerings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Frank Zappa, Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, not to mention the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers.
Best of all, there are impressions. Impressions are an express train to grabbing people’s attention. Having tried my hand at stand-up comedy, I’ve noticed that audiences are delighted when you can do a spot-on imitation of actors, politicians or cartoon characters. Some of my favorites are the characters from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” C’mon, you know them: Rudolph, Santa, Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and all those forlorn misfit toys.
Recently, a friend I went to middle school with passed away. I clipped his obituary and one line leaped out at me: “He enjoyed making others laugh.” I read that line repeatedly and the more I read it, the more I liked it. Some might ask: You call that an accomplishment? You call that an achievement? To which I answer: Absolutely! I can think of no greater gift to bring to this stressed-out world than humor, levity and laughter. Big laughs and major yucks, the more the merrier.
Of all the glorious gifts we have been given, humor ranks up near the top of the list, along with health and love. So, here’s my vigorous nod to all the comics and comedians out there: the pranksters and jokesters, the avatars of the absurd – the ones who have the ability to break through the tragedies and tedium of life. Who have that magical ability to make us laugh so hard, we’re doubled over, holding our stomachs, and gasping for breath.
Yes, when all is said and done, I can think of no finer tribute than this: He was very funny – nyuk, nyuk, nyuk – and he made us laugh.
Kevin J. McCue lives in Amherst.