Do I look upset to you? Very, very upset?
Or did you say to yourself (correctly) that, no, Emilie is channeling Lewis Black for a good laugh. Because that’s what I’m doing, and a pretty good job of it, too.
On Saturday Proman and I did what we’ve promised ourselves we would do for a year. We dropped everything–including my book in progress–and went to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY, just down the road from Chautauqua.
We’d been well programmed to go. This summer the Comedy Center sent vans to the Chautauqua grounds offering free rides, plus they collaborated on a glorious week of comedy on the grounds with comedians like Lewis Black himself and Maria Bamberg, plus afternoon lectures on the theme: What’s So Funny About Religion. (A lot, as it turns out.)
I knew we were in for a good time when I was asked to create my comedy profile by clicking on a screen filled with comedians, TV shows and movies. I was smiling by the time I finished. So many good laughs in my life.
I can’t begin to describe how wonderful this place is. We saw hologram stand-up routines, used our newly created wristbands to help the multiple exhibits choose what to show us, learned about comics from the past and new ones we’d never seen. We made memes for funny pictures, used rubber props to find out how comedians have used them through out history. We could film ourselves doing stand up (too shy, but fun to watch others) and visit the Blue Room in the basement–I’ll let you figure out what’s there.
As someone who actually did her master’s thesis on the American family as portrayed in comic strips, I loved every single comic strip moment, too.
No surprise that one of my favorite exhibits showed film clips of famous comedians talking about how they write comedy. Duh. Want me to give you some hints? One comedian (Jeff Foxworthy maybe?) always comes up with his best material in the shower so he keeps paper and pen in the bathroom. Another writes jokes on 3″x5″ cards. Another works and reworks jokes until they’re perfect, while a colleague says he invents most of his material when he’s already on stage.
Everything I heard was familiar. Novelists work in all the same ways. I’m probably in the 3″x5″ class while a friend of mine, who wouldn’t be caught dead with an outline, makes her books up as she goes along.
I’ve told you this before, but I grew up with a mother whose sense of humor (which tended toward puns) got her through a difficult life. Whenever she made a pun, if I didn’t laugh immediately, she would say “You have no sense of humor.” And honestly, I’m sorry to say I grew up believing that was true.
Aside here: Please be aware that whatever you tell your children/grandchildren/neighborhood hoodlums will be planted permanently in their little brains. Think about it.
When my first editor talked about my sense of humor, I almost stopped her and asked her to repeat that, because, well, you know, this was a revelation. She had no idea how life-changing that was.
I came out of the National Comedy Center with a brand new understanding and appreciation of the role comedy plays in our lives.
Among other things when you laugh, according to the Mayo Clinic, in the short term you stimulate many organs (let’s not get too specific here), activate your stress response and soothe tension. In the long term you can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve your mood.
So laugh like your life depends on it. I know I came out of the Comedy Center determined to laugh more and worry less. The first thing we did that night was Google Netflix standup comedy, and now we’re working our way through hours of laughter. If you can’t get to the Comedy Center right away, turn on your TV. Or hey, laugh at the comic strips or… read a good book.
You won’t be sorry. You’ll be laughing too hard.