Laughter helps one lead a fruitful life

Laughter helps one lead a fruitful life
Back when I was on the mashed potato circuit, the title of my talk was "A Sense of Humor: Your Most Valuable Untaxed Asset."

That was true then, and it's just as valid today – unless Congress, in its wisdom, passes a tax on that, too.

Sir Max Beerbohm – who died in 1956 – put it best when he wrote:

" …when you come to think of it, that of all the countless folk who have lived before our time on this planet, not one is known in history or in legend as having died of laughter."

I'm making that the theme of this column, and I'm borrowing from oft-quoted writers to prove my point.

For instance, the Irish poet – James Butler Yeats – has said:

"We must laugh and we must sing, (for) we are blest by everything."

And Thomas Carlyle, who wrote in the 1800s, penned:

"No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad."

That's what Jay Leno, David Letterman and comedians everywhere depend on. I did, too, when I was speech-making.

When a joke bombs, you might think Carlyle was wrong � that the audience was "irreclaimably bad." But the truth of the matter was that the gag was lousy.

But I digress.

Jonathon Swift – who scribbled "fingers were made before forks" some 300 years ago – was also a devotee of humor when he titillated his readers with "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." Or the verse:

So, naturalists observe,

a flea

Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller still to bite 'em,

And so proceed

ad infinitum.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge got in the act, too, by writing: "No mind is thoroughly organized that is deficient in a sense of humor."

Even William Shakespeare – who wasn't very funny – said: "Laugh yourself into stitches" in one of his plays.

So, you see, knee-slappers have been around for a long, long time. The current crop of comics have just built on the past, although their bon mots usually have a current slant.

But humorists like Mark Twain have a staying power all their own. His "Golf is a good walk spoiled" is as apropros today as it was when he wrote it � and he's been dead for almost a hundred years.

I'll never forgive him, though, for saying that "There is no humor in heaven." Shucks, with all the jokes about Saint Peter and the Pearly Gates, you can bet the Cherubim and Seraphim chuckled a lot.

If not, is there some other place where they got laughter?

Even the Bible – in Ecclesiastes – says that "To every thing there is a season…and a time to laugh." I'll take that as gospel.

However, I liked what Lord Byron wrote back in the early 1800s:

"Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter.

Sermon and soda water the day after."

©2006 Robert F. Karolevitz

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