It began in childhood with the Red Skelton Show. Every Wednesday night it a was a refuge for me. And refuge was a critical idea for me. I was a child hiding a terrible secret from the entire world. At times I hated myself. Twice as a teen I came very close to choosing suicide over life. The person I most needed to hide from was myself. And humor helped. Red Skelton’s gentle humor helped me to not only escape from myself for a while, it taught me to laugh at my own foibles and not take things quite so seriously.
In my college years I discovered humor in written form. Mark Twain swiftly earned my utter devotion as I read not only Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but Roughing It, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Mysterious Stranger, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain. You know, there are a large number of things in Mark Twain’s humorous books that make you cry, that make you angry, and make you think deep thoughts. I basically discovered that humor is a way that smart people choose to think of things which helps to keep you sane and basically un-suicided.
It is obvious that some people become very skilled at humor because they have used it all their lives to fight the darkness . Robin Williams is only few years older than I am. In many ways his life has paralleled my own (obviously minus the wealth and fame in my case… but what would’ve happened if Robin had become a school teacher?) I have depended on Robin Williams’ movies to keep me going, giving me insights in how to talk to kids, how to be a parent, and how to empathize with others. Of course, I haven’t yet taken some of his movie advice. I never put on a mask and a dress to deceive my own children. But only time will tell.
I obsess about humor and how you create it. I gorge on things like the works of Dave Barry. Do you know who he is? Florida newspaper columnist who writes books about everyday life and the fools who live it? I have to do a post on Dave Barry, because he makes me laugh so hard that milk shoots out of my nose, sometimes when I am not even drinking milk… believe me, I don’t know how that works either.
I love to laugh. It makes the world right again. I have laughed an awful lot for almost an entire lifetime now. I treasure all the funny people I have known. And I need to continue to try to make people laugh up until the very end. Because the world is too often not a funny place. It can be full of badness and sadness and suffering. And as Mark Twain so aptly pointed out, “Against the assault of laughter… nothing can stand.”