Take it or leave it.

Friday, August 8, 2014


When was the last time you had a real good laugh? I don't mean a courtesy chuckle or girlish giggle, but a real hearty, down to the pit of your stomach, so uncontrollable that your sides ache and you can't breathe and may even lose bladder control kind of laugh. The one that devolves into a wheeze and before you know it all sound disappears, the tears are flowing, and you look like someone punched you in the private parts. You know, the kind of laugh you may only have a handful of times in a year, or a decade - maybe in a lifetime.

If it's been a while, you should. They say laughter is healing, although not much research has been done. What has been shown is that the chemicals your body releases when you laugh - pain-relieving endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, the euphoria-inducing epinephrine, sexy serotonin - are the same chemicals that flood your system when you eat chocolate, or when you have sex. Without the calories, or the mess.

What has always done it for me is a good movie, and some favs are The Big Lebowski, Dumb & Dumber, Vacation. Zach Galifianakis is funny (you should definitely check out episodes of his web series Between Two Ferns), and Kristen Wiig is a riot. I can watch Bridesmaids a thousand times and whatever mood I'm in I'll still find at least one scene that will leave me in stitches.

If you're not a flick chick (get it?), your mind can be the best video reel if what you need is a good wheeze. I've thought of situations in the past that make me roll with giddy laughter. I must admit I'm a sucker for unintentional humor, and some of my best laughs come at the expense of another, of the twisted I'm laughing at you, not with you variety. This has caused me no small amount of guilt and a few stifled chuckles, but it's well worth it, as I have been the source of unintentional humor myself, which I don't mind. Making a person laugh is hard work, even when you are trying to achieve that effect. If you can do it unintentionally, effortlessly (if by making a fool of yourself) maybe that's something to be proud about. There was the time when Maria Zuchasomethingorother passed gas in the middle of seventh grade home room, and my best friend Danny, seated next to me, put down his pen and just looked at me. That's it. We had to be sent to the principal's office we laughed so long and hard. And if you have a partner in comedy, what often happens is that your laughter works off each other, building to an ever higher pitch until it's as if you are being tickled inexorably with invisible hands.

My younger brother Justin was the perfect partner. We'd play this game in which we each tried to make the other laugh, just by saying nonsensical stuff. The only rule was that whatever we said couldn't be more than one sentence long. Justin's favorite weapon was, "The red dog died." It used to get me every time. Why? You had to be there.

Justin derived particular delight from making fun of our older brother, Jason. Not in front of him, for Jason was six years older and much stronger than Justin he had no qualms about using his brutish strength to pummel the little guy. Interestingly Justin deeply admired our older brother, but it still didn't stop him from deriving an endless source of cruel amusement from everything Jason said and did. The mullet hairstyle Jason sported way after it was no longer popular. The way Jason would say "choice" to anything he approved of. "Slewing brewskies" (a term Jason used and which I've to this day never heard anyone else say) was definitely choice. Or the time that one summer when Jason swore he could flip himself upside down on a boogie board in the pool and with his legs wrapped around the board and his body submerged, right himself using his arms only. We watched him flail and flail, his body thrashing about spastically as bubbles spewed from his flared nostrils until he finally gave up. I laughed so hard I pooped. Literally. Which of course I didn't hesitate to blame on Justin (who didn't seem to mind). Oh the fun of having a younger brother. Oh if only Justin were alive today to see our dear older brother Jason's new hairstyle, completely shaved but with long lambchop sideburns. I've never seen anyone else sport such a...um, unique "do." Which I suppose is Jason's point.

My mother once imitated Justin, and how he used to refer to a particular beverage that our family has for many years enjoyed as "horse piss." That's it. But she said it in Justin's baritone voice, with his mock sneer, and though I never heard my brother use the term, that simple, yet so vivid and incomparable term, just imagining it, I completely lost it, nearly fell over the ledge I'd been seated on to what would have been an early death thirty feet down below. But at least I'd have died happy, right?

The other day I was thinking of some of the things Justin and I used to laugh about. They just came to mind, apropos of nothing, while I was underwater swimming. Like how he used to imitate his girlfriend's mom when she'd come over. My mom, a capable cook, would offer Bella whatever she wanted for dinner, and she'd invariably say, "Pasta." That's it. That's what was so funny. That and how she said it (English was her second language), and how Justin imitated her saying it, with the lisp on the S, and the thin lips spreading into a sheepish grain. The boy nailed it. Nailed it! Hysterical. I guess you had to be there, as they say. Of course I laughed so hard in my recollection of Justin's inimitable ways of imitation, that I swallowed several huge gulps of water and nearly choked. What a way to almost go (again), right? And had you been there to see me go from calmly breast-stroking to suddenly cackling and then almost choking, you'd probably have found it amusing if not hysterical. Unintentional humor. Laughing at me, not with me. But in the end the result is the same: We'd both be having a good time.

I have a really good time with you and hope this made you laugh a little. If not, the video below may do the trick. Happy laughing!

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