Last week I had the great pleasure of having an old friend stop by the gallery. I had not seen her in over 20 years. She was always one of those rare friends – if you have ever been lucky enough to have one, you will immediately know what I mean – with which I share an almost supernatural chemistry of laughter. A chemistry, I might add, that is more often than not COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE.
Seeing her made me think about laughter and what people find funny. And I have to admit upon self examination, that I must be a little warped in the sense of humor department.
I think of all the times I’ve had to walk out of church services and funerals. I think about all the evil stares I got on the subway in New York. When a little old lady lost her grip on the strap, fell to the floor, and slid halfway down the train, other passengers ran to her aid while I sat unable to move because I was doubled over in laughter. Oh the looks of disgust that were leveled at me that time. I even got nasty comments. But the more they commented and looked, the more I laughed. Am I evil for that? But hey – to this day I still think it was funny. It’s not like she broke her neck.
Often in movies I laugh when no one else is laughing and don’t laugh when everybody else does. What is that about? At 50 years old, are those South Park boys still supposed to crack me up? Is the movie The Exorcist meant to be funny? Am I the only one who laughs when Linda Blair pees on the floor?
Once when my mother was visiting, while she and I were standing in the kitchen, a glass shade from a hanging light fixture came loose and fell on her head, shattering into a million pieces. It actually made her cry – not the pain of the light fixture, but that instead of being concerned I got tickled and could not stop laughing. The more she cried, the more I wanted to laugh.
Where does humor come from? Why is it that for me – Laurel and Hardy: funny, Three Stooges: not – when for others it is just the opposite? What do Madeline Kahn, Carol Burnett, Cartman, and Zero Mostel all have in common that sends me into stitches?
Anyway, feel free to laugh at me if I slip on a banana peel. I’ll leave you with a scene from Strangers On A Train. Is it supposed to be as funny as I think it is?