If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you. – George Bernard Shaw
Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine- Lord Byron
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints- Billy Joel
Trouble knocked at the door, but, hearing laughter, hurried away.- Benjamin Franklin
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.- EE Cummings
These are very serious times. There is no getting around it, the entire world is on edge and we are, all of us at great risk of contagion. Not all of us will get sick but enough of us will and to varying degrees more than a few of us will be taking our dirt naps sooner rather than later. We have all lost easy access to most of life’s pleasures. Maintaining our barest necessities has gone from the routine to the very calculated. We have had to modify our very greetings. A handshake, that most fundamental meeting of warm fleshy human touch has been replaced by cloth covered elbow bumping, or oriental style bowing. Even the modern and hip fist bump is now frowned upon. There is no hand sanitizer to be found anywhere. There is now an emerging black market for a product that even absent of a pandemic is helpful for keeping day to day infections at bay in something now as seemingly innocuous as flu season. Folks walk the streets wearing masks so often that this must be a strain on the central nervous system of any still functioning bank teller. Walking is still encouraged, so long as the less than lethal 6-foot distance is respected. Me thinks it may only be a matter of days before we encounter foot traffic officers with ticket books at the ready to enforce the unenforceable whilst writing tickets no one will be able to pay. But hey, at least it’s work, which is something to consider as unemployment claims rise. The legal limit for parking near a fire hydrant is 15 feet so perhaps the tickets are consigned to a later date. Everything is closed. We can’t go out to movies, or libraries or much of anything else. Now might be a good time however to visit Antarctica which I am told is so far the only continent not to be infected. From there you may be able to experience, up close and personal, the firsthand effects of climate change. Yes, this business is so serious that the stock market is crashing all around us. I fear for the loss of our economy and our jobs, our ability to socialize, our access to necessities, but what I fear more than the virus itself is the loss of our ability to laugh which could lead to the loss of our collective sanity. As terrifying, frustrating and painful as all this is, there is still, each day, lurking somewhere under the crud, the Purell and the wipes a small, delectable slice of funny just tangible enough to add a little sunshine to the cloudiest day. When we lose the funny we will have lost the war and there will be no vaccine for that.
The governor of the great state of New York, who I have never been the biggest fan of previously, has taken a page from the George Washington School of True Leadership during these unprecedented times. He has shown smarts, pragmatism, fortitude, and courage. Not only for calling out the federal government on its failures to protect Americans in these perilous times, but also for daring to show up on his brother Chris’s CNN program and risking the revelation that their father, also once the governor of the great state of New York had a less than admirable opinion of his athletic abilities, apparently opining that Andrew had “hands like bananas”. That had to hurt coming from little brother, but he put himself on the line so that we could all have a few good, necessary laughs. There have been insinuations ever since, that the Cuomo Brothers should make a regular thing of this. Tom and Dickie Smothers may have had the banjos and guitars, but this kind of fire? I think not. Still, I wonder which one mom did like the best. So, thank you Chris for taking your brother out behind the gym, to paraphrase the almost certain presumptive nominee of the democratic party, and thank you Governor for taking one for the team.
My best wish for all of you is that you don’t forget laughter. Honor humor wherever you detect the faintest scent of it. Even the worst, corniest stabs at it usually exude from a good place. At the very least attempt a chortle, which during the contagion of an infectious disease designed to wreak havoc on the respiratory system could be good for your lungs. Watch some old Mel Brooks movies. I don’t mean Mel Brooks is old, which he is, but I am referring to the movies. By the way, he and his son recently posted a hilarious yet informative video on the subject of self-containment. Also, by the way, pandemic or no pandemic, there are still certain activities that you should only engage in when you are self-contained. Hopefully with the windows closed. And the shades drawn.
Watch Blazing Saddles again, and please do not get too infected by politically correct outrage when Mongo punches that horse. You do know he didn’t really do that. Re-screen Young Frankenstein, if only to be reminded by the talented ( and much missed) Madeline Kahn what a real good orgasm should sound like. Watch almost anything with Richard Pryor, but particularly because we are living in such polarized times with or without COVID-19, pull up his job interview sketch with Chevy Chase from an early Saturday Night Live. Listen to George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television or his delightful take on baseball and football. Trust me this will be the closest you get to sports of any kind for a while. There’s always the young genius of Eddie Murphy or even his most recent hosting of the show that first brought him into our collective consciousness and to which we should be eternally grateful. Marx Brothers movies will never fail to delight and pay particular attention to some of what Groucho mutters in between the laughs. There’s always the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera. I know I am leaving out legions here, but you get the drift. Give your lungs a workout. In the end the whole damn thing is one big, fat, delightful joke and we shouldn’t want it any other way. But follow the protocols and … Say goodnight Gracie.