Laughter is like perfume. You can’t pour it on somebody else without getting some of it on yourself.
We all know that, right, but?
But let’s not go there, else we might end up trying to answer the question: “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”
Laughter, surprisingly, has a but, too! Scientist Robert Provine, a man who studies laughter, says so. He reported a laughter outbreak in Tanganyika in 1962. Apparently a group of 12- to 18-year-old girls went into a fit of laughter, which rapidly rose to epidemic proportions.
According to Robert, “contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months.”
I’m sorry he didn’t tell us the joke which started the laughing epidemic, but it could have been the one about a fellow named Charley Weaver who was asked: “If you were going to make a parachute jump, you should be at least how high?”
Quick-witted Charley replied, “Three days of steady drinking should do it!”
No, I guess that one wouldn’t do it, but maybe the joke which set the Tanzanian girls to laughing was Nancy’s story.
Nancy’s goldfish had died, and she was out in the garden taking care of the matter when the man next door, a friendly fellow, saw her and asked, “What are you doing Nancy?”
“My goldfish died, and I’ve just buried him,” she answered angrily.
“That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish isn’t it?” he asked.
Nancy patted down the last shovel full of dirt with a heavy splat, and pronounced defiantly, “That’s because he’s inside your ruddy cat.”
Scientist Provine was precise with his laughter facts. He recites that Laugh Tracks, or canned laughter, was introduced on TV at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard time, September 9 1950 on the Hank McCune show, a comedy about “a likeable blunderer.”
But why, I ask a half century later, do television producers continue their blundering they began with Hank’s show — not Hank, the ruddy canned laughter?
Fifty years later they still consider audiences so dumb we don’t know when to laugh?
Though, I do forget, TV is often fairytale land, so I’ve entered a mythical place exposed by the two boys walking home from Sunday School, after listening to the preacher rant on about the devil.
“Jimmy,” asked John, “What to you think about this Satan stuff?”
John had it figured. “Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It’s probably just your Dad.”
I suppose it’s a given: These TV moguls are smarter than Jimmy and we the payee.
I mean when you consider the network programming we’re silly enough to pay for I can visualize the TV moguls playing canned laughter on the 29-speaker stereo system in their Rolls as they toast “the payees” with champagne and single malts on the way home, eh?
Now I’m not so presumptuous to compare anybody to the devil, but thinking about TV programming choices I couldn’t help remember Borlund’s Postulate — “All gall is divided into three parts: bladder, stones, and unmitigated.”
Anyway, the devil came up again when George went on about his uncle.
“Yep,” he pontificated, “my uncle was in church one day, one of those small Prairie churches, he was from the Prairies you know, and suddenly a thunderbolt came from on high, right through the roof of the church and when the smoke cleared the devil himself was standing where the pulpit had been.”
“Well sir, everyone in the congregation were outa there leaving Uncle Charlie sitting there all alone.”
Naturally the devil asked, “Why aren’t you running away like the rest of the congregation. Aren’t you afraid of me?”
“Nope, not a bit,” calmly replies Uncle Charlie.
“Why not?” demands the devil.
“Cause, I married your sister 10 years ago,” says Charlie.
I guess we’re stuck with simple thoughts like Walker’s Law. Associate with well-mannered persons and your manners will improve. Run with decent folk, and your own instincts will be decent. Keep the company of bums, and you’ll become a bum. Hang around with rich people, and you will end by picking up the cheque and dying broke.
And I suppose we should remember, he who laughs last, doesn’t catch on quickly, but according to doctors, he lasts!
A tip of the hat to all those special people who bring us true, spontaneous, uncanned laughter at home, in the work place, and everywhere else.
They’re special folk and oh, so vital to this crazy, mixed up, wonderful world, and for our good health.