Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 21, 2005

"A little song, a little dance"

I always tell my girls that when they get serious with a guy, they should look for someone who makes them laugh. I should know. Art makes me laugh every day. He seems to have an endless supply of funny stories, and he has a knack for making up lyrics for the many songs he has in his repertoire.

Art said a former student told him that his father gave him some similar advice on picking out a wife. He said not to pay much attention to looks and so many of those other things that are often thought of as being important, and choose someone you can laugh with. He added that after the years pass, most of those other things will fade, but you can still laugh together.

One time when we were visiting with Art's cousins in Wisconsin, he commented that after thinking about it, he wasn't sure why women ever married since the greater burden of taking care of the home and children seemed to fall on them. He concluded by saying the only reason he could come up with is that his gender seemed to be good at making women laugh.

All of the women present agreed.

So I guess it's Art's fault I have so many laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. If I have to have wrinkles, those are the kind I want.

Studies have shown that laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one's life. And it seems appropriate that the month which begins with April Fool's Day is National Humor Month, founded by best-selling humorist Larry Wilde in 1976. Wilde is the author of When You're Up to Your Eyeballs in Alligators, Humor: A Tool for Success in the Workplace and Laughter: Rx for Healing, Health and Happiness, among others.

Some of his tips for alleviating stress in the work place include keeping a book of jokes or cartoons handy, not taking ourselves too seriously and creating a funny file of childhood incidents, school situations and family events that we can look back on and laugh about.

Humor can get people through tough times too. At my first husband's funeral, his best friend commented how Jerome always kept the engine of his car in tip-top shape, but the interior was a disaster from coffee cups, newspapers and other stuff strewn about. Remembering that made us all laugh at a time when laughing wasn't easy.

When I was ill in 1997, Art's humor was one of the things that kept me going. He'd share with me what he calls the BJOTD - the bad joke of the day. It was what he considered to be the best humorous item he had received from fellow e-mail correspondents in the previous 24 hours. Some of the jokes were raunchy, some involved politics or the relationships between men and women or the old and young, and some were horrible puns. No topic was off limits.

While humor is a good antidote to illness, humor and illness have something in common - some things seem to be only funny to one person or a small number, while other things are like the common cold - everyone is susceptible.

For me, one of the funniest incidents occurred on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in an episode titled "Chuckles bites the dust." The show was centered on a TV newsroom and, in that particular episode, the man who had played Chuckles the clown had died.

At the funeral, everything was serious as was befitting the occasion until the minister spoke about how Chuckles would "pick himself up, dust himself off, and say 'I hurt my foo-foo.'"

He followed up by reciting Chuckles' favorite line, "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants."

The incongruity of the somber occasion mixed with those silly lines - a key element of humor - caused Mary and everyone else to break into uncontrollable laughter

In 1997, "TV Guide" selected that episode as the "best television episode of all time," citing how humor can be good medicine at a bad time.

So every now and then when I'm feeling a bit down, I think of "A little song, a little dance, a little Seltzer down your pants." How can I not smile?

Even helping me with therapy,
Art displayed his goofy sense of humor.

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