I’m Just Saying: Laughter benefits

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 15, 2018

Flipping recently through an issue of the AARP Bulletin (I’m far too young to be receiving it, you know, I must have come across it in the waiting room at the dermatologist’s, who still insists I’m 10 years away from even considering Botox) my eyes (with no need for reading glasses either, mind you) fell upon one particular article: “Humor Therapy — Why Laughter Eases Dementia.”

Clearly brought to you by the Department of Duh…

Of course laughter eases dementia. Studies have found that after but one humor therapy session, the positive effects can last a week or more with patients.

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I saw it with my own eyes in regards to my mother, whose nature it was to be effusive and to laugh often. Towards the end of her life — when she knew me not as her daughter, but as a pleasant visitor who would load her into the Hyundai for “car picnics,” in which we would drive to a beautiful location, be it the shore of a local lake or alongside a river in the mountains — I would often repeat a silly little rhyme she had taught me as a child that, undoubtedly, she had picked up during her own English childhood:

“A nice cup of tea in the morning,

Starts the day off, you see,

And half past 11, my idea of heaven, is a nice cup of tea.

A nice cup of tea with my supper,

A nice cup of tea with my tea,

And when it’s time for bed, there’s a lot to be said,

For a nice…cup…of TEA!”

It was silly and endlessly repetitive, but whether it was the bouncing rhythm, or my absurd gestures and enthusiasm as I chanted it, my mother never failed to begin to repeat it, giggling, her hands clapping like a metronome with each line. It was the only memory left to her that she could recite other than The Lord’s Prayer.

Early in my stand-up career, I always felt as though I had gotten away with going through life without having a real job. No desk or cubical for me, no human resources attitude breathing down my neck, no mind numbing daily commute in traffic.

Nope, I swapped that daily grind for blearily dragging my luggage behind me for 6 a.m. flights from Los Angeles to…you name it. Essentially, every state, as well as half a dozen countries. Duking it out with drunks and inhaling enough second-hand Marlboro Lites to smoke a pig.

But! I have in my possession a letter left for me by a stranger after a show in Chicago who told me that night was the first time she’d laughed since her twin daughters had been stillborn 18 months prior.

And some of my dearest held memories include doing a show at a school for the deaf and figuring out the weird timing as not a ripple of laughter emerged from the audience until the translator signed out my punchlines. Then there was the performance for 2,500 naval recruits and officers from the back of a flatbed truck on the beach in Rota, Spain.

All those years were great, self-indulgent times, but as I grow older (yet still somehow manage to elude AARP publications) the real satisfaction for me is finding a way to help benefit worthy causes with performances.

And so, if you will, here comes the shameless plug. I am over the moon to be sharing the stage with my all-time favorite comedienne, Judy Tenuta, June 23, at Foundation Performing Arts Center in Spindale, North Carolina. As always, a percentage of the ticket sales will benefit a favorite charity, Mobile Meals.

It’s an enormous auditorium and I promised Judy, who’s flying in at 6 a.m. from Los Angeles, that we’d make her feel welcome, as well as force-feed her at The Beacon (that’s what she gets for looking so damnably gorgeous after all these years).

I hope you’ll come. If ever there has been a time that we all need to spend an evening out laughing our collective heads off, it’s now. There is something about that cycle of giving and receiving laughter, back and forth for a couple of hours, that is both cathartic and inspiring.

And afterwards, when it’s time for bed, there’s a lot to be said, for a nice… cup… of TEA!!