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Meandering: Laughter truly is the best medicine

| Friday, Feb. 3, 2012

I have the solution to world peace.

Lock all the leaders of the world's nations and religions into a large theater and make them watch Jerry Lewis movies until they are laughing hysterically, and then require them all to face one another.

If you share one of those laughs that brings tears to the eyes and uncontrollable body movements, you can't possibly plan anything nefarious against the person with whom you convulse.

Laughter is a great healer, and seemingly easier to produce than love, which is the greatest healer.

Laughter, however, cannot be planned. It is the best when it sneaks up on you. Perhaps the same can be said of love.

That is not to say you can't be driven to laugh hysterically if you go to a comedy club, watch comedians on TV or go to a comedy film.

It is just that the conditions have to be right.

There was once a comedian who appeared on TV and after he had brought forth a good laugh from his audience he would just stare at them for a few seconds of quiet after the laughter faded. And then, quite suddenly, open his eyes wide and shout, "Oh, yeah!" and the audience would erupt again in similar side-splitting laughter. He got two big laughs for the same joke, just by using the element of surprise - even if he did use the gimmick after several jokes.

When I went to see the 1967 film "The Graduate" I laughed uproariously because I had gone thinking it was a drama. Many films today are a little of both; I like that. They are more like life.

I mentioned at the start, Jerry Lewis films, and you might wonder how the element of surprise could be part of films in which you know are meant to stir laughs throughout.

I caught a few Lewis films that the Encore stations have been showing and I think I have the answer.

In my favorite, "The Bellboy (1960)," there is just one scene after another that goes beyond Jerry's facial contortions and well-choreographed bumbling.

The best scene in the film, I think, is when Lewis, as a hapless bellhop, is assigned to set up individual chairs in a huge auditorium of the hotel. The bell captain and another bellboy approach the doors of the room where earlier we saw Jerry slowly and laboriously setting up one chair after another. They hope to be amused by the character Stanley's impossible labors, but as they look in they are shocked to see every chair set up and Lewis merrily finishing up just minutes after taking on the job.

I can't do justice to the scene in words, but the effect is hilariously superb.

Laughter is not just important in entertainment designed to cheer us; it is vital in the home and the workplace (tell the boss that I said so — I mean the boss at work).

Television is full of products and discussions that purport to be able to help us with stress. Whatever the offering, laughter is quicker and more precise.

Of course, someone at work will always be a bit disdainful of laughter when he or she is stuck with a difficult task. We can't be disrespectful or unkind.

But, to be sure, the day will go a great deal faster and be less stressfully if laughter is part of it.

A good, well-timed joke that does not offend can lighten the load. Try this one of your colleagues; it's from an Irish comedian I like:

"Murphy finally got a job, working for the local power company on a crew installing utility poles.

"Each worker was assigned to go out on an afternoon and put in some poles, and at the end of the day, each was asked how many he was able to get in.

"Five said the first man. The boss congratulated him. Seven said the second man, and the boss was full of praise. Finally it was Murphy's turn, and he said he had installed one.

"One, said the boss. How in the world did it take you so long• Didn't you see what these other workers did?

"Sure I did, said Murphy, but did you see how far they left theirs sticking out of the ground?"

(Rim shot.)

OK, certainly we can't all be comics, but we can be attentive to the cause for laughter no matter what our walk of life.

My favorite high school teacher was a bit of a stand-up comedian, but I learned enormously from him in his lively classroom.

There just seems to be no need to move about in a sullen state. The world is a gloomy enough place at times, which kind of leads back to that world peace issue.

This time of year, especially, it seems we could all use a little more laughter. It is really a gift that can keep on giving, might if come back around to you.

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