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What’s so funny? Serious thoughts about humor

| December 6, 2020 12:00 AM

“Laughter is the best medicine,” the age-old saying goes. In that case, get me a prescription so I can overdose.

Those wise words have been around since the 1300s when Henri de Mondeville, a surgeon of his time, uttered the sentiment as he used humor in his post-operative therapy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m dying for a few good laughs these days. Not just a mere chuckle, but a good old-fashioned belly laugh, the kind that leaves you giggling long afterward.

Social media, of course, is an easy source of humor. I scrolled through Facebook the other day and saw a meme, announcing that this year’s Christmas poinsettias have arrived, and it showed a picture of the people-eating otherworldly plant from the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” “Feed me, Seymour!” That elicited a chuckle from me.

I also recently came across a YouTube video of one of Johnny Carson’s funniest skits, the “Copper Clapper Caper,” in which Dragnet’s Jack Webb takes a crime report from Carson about his stolen copper clappers. If you were a Carson fan like me, google that sketch and be prepared to laugh out loud.

It got me thinking about the brilliant comedians of my day, and how humor has changed through the decades. I adored TV comedy shows such as “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Laugh-In,” “The Red Skelton Show” and Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” And I can’t forget “I Love Lucy.” Who doesn’t still remember her antics on the chocolate line at a factory, or stomping grapes? Today, though, I’m not sure those shows would have the same appeal for younger audiences. It’s all part of the evolution of what tickles our funny bone.

Going back even further, “The Three Stooges” never appealed to me, even as a kid, though my two oldest brothers thought the goofy trio was hilarious. I also don’t like comedy shows that roast someone; I just don’t think it’s all that funny making fun of other people in that way; sometimes they’re just a little too snarky for me.

Lately, I’ve had my fill of late-night shows because they’ve all turned so political. It just doesn’t take any creativity or effort to bash political leaders. There has to be more to laugh about out there other than politics.

I recently watched a Netflix special about Betty White, who is still entertaining folks. At 98, her career has spanned over 80 years and she’s been in the business of entertaining longer than anyone else in the TV industry. Her comedic timing and ability to entertain is extraordinary, and I venture to guess all the laughter in her life has contributed to her longevity.

Betty is not only beloved by my generation but also millennials who now can’t get enough of her in “The Golden Girls” reruns.

I hope the art of joke telling never loses its appeal, especially at times like these. Whatever shape comedy takes, let’s hope it still gives us plenty to laugh about.

Famous people have been talking about the importance of laughter seemingly forever, so I’ll leave you with another gem of a quote from Mark Twain: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.