Monday, March 31, 2014

Have a laugh and live

I'm a funny guy. I know this because I have empirical evidence that shows that what I say makes people laugh. I don't know exactly what it is that makes people laugh, but I enjoy the feeling I get when they do laugh.

I can remember the zingers I made when I was in kindergarten. Yes, kindergarten. I was at an open house with my mom, talking with my teacher and I remember saying funny stuff even then.

As I grew up in school, I found that humor saved me time and again. It didn't save me from being teased relentlessly every day, but it did give me some relief from the stress of having to face kids who insisted on teasing me. This experience taught me to make sure that my humor is never personal. My humor is pretty benign, innocuous, aimed for the circumstances and not the person stuck in a moment.

Through working construction, many office jobs and finally, in IT, I found humor indispensable. My timing was good, too. I never got fired for making a casual joke during a heated moment or crisis at work. I was even able to bring my humor to a farewell speech I gave to the retirement community I used to work at.

Throughout my life, I have found people who were receptive to my humor and laughed at my jokes. They inspired me to be funny. They gave me reason to celebrate that small bit of chaos in the brain that arises from humor. They inspired me to choose my words carefully for a laugh.

Back then, at the retirement home, I actually had bad days. You know, days where no matter what happened, I could not be happy or even grateful for what I had that day? Yeah, those days. I often had a cloud over me, following me around. But even on my darkest days, I could not resist the opportunity to make a joke for a few laughs. I kid you not.

I remember being so miserable one day that I made a decision for the day that I was going to keep quiet most the day. I wasn't going to talk to anyone unless absolutely necessary. And I sure as hell wasn't going to say anything funny. No, these people that I served didn't deserve that. No soup for you!

But then I encountered my cheerfully giddy friend at work, Laura, as she worked the reception desk. I have shared many fine moments of laughter with her. Except on this particular day, I had already made a decision not to say anything funny. Somehow she said something that totally set me up for a zinger, a funny quip, and she was laughing for almost a minute. I stood there, reveling in the glow of her laughter. For a moment, the cloud was gone. Then I forgot about it for awhile, only to remembered it again when I saw my supervisor.

I look for cultural cues for humor. Recently, there was a story about a Girl Scout who sold 117 boxes of cookies outside of a cannabis store in Colorado. I had already found a great line to go with it, thanks to the comedy of George Carlin. I noted that and put it in the back of my mind. A few weeks or so later, I'm at Harmon's on Redwood. Just inside the entrance, there was a girl and a man selling Girl Scout cookies.

I engage the man in conversation and bring up the story about the Girl Scout cookie sales in Colorado. He recalls it and seems engaged. I say, "I can just imagine how the conversation between a customer and the Girl Scout might turn on a simple question, 'Dude, where are the Mallomars?'" I got a hearty laugh and enjoyed myself to boot.

I used to do standup comedy, too. If you have a few minutes, you can see me here, having  great time on stage, entertaining the audience. I would love to do more, but there are only so many hours in a day, am I'm spending one of them writing this article now. I love being funny and that will never change. It's just too fun to give up.

I have a simple principle that I follow in my relationships. If you laugh at my jokes, you get to stay in my life. If you make me laugh, I will find every reasonable means to keep you around. But if you can't laugh, I'm sorry, I can't help you.

Remember those old people I used to work with in the retirement home? They taught me that when you're 82 and your body is slowly going to pieces, you need to have a sense of humor. I will never forget that, and hope that you won't either.
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