Comic Relief

Clip Art Panda

My great-aunt Beulah and I were searching for ripe tomatoes in her garden when she said, “It’s a good funeral when you laugh as much as you cry.” She then spotted a tomato slug and squished it beneath her galoshes while I pondered her perplexing observation.

Seven years later in high school during a discussion of Romeo and Juliet, my English teacher said Shakespeare used puns, witty dialogue and funny characters to weave scenes of comic relief into his tragedies to give his audiences a break from feuds, betrayals, suicides and murders most foul. Mr. Sabatini then paused so we could reflect on his brilliance and ran his chalk-coated fingers through his abundant black hair, a habit we noticed.

“Wow, I thought, “William Shakespeare and Skunk Sabatini are no smarter than Aunt Beulah.”

Research has since confirmed the social blessings of laughter: when something tickles us and we tee-hee together, tensions lessen. Whether disagreeing with a loved one, entering a roomful of strangers or enduring a blind date; we feel more connected to those who share our laughter.

To get a teaching credential in Nevada, I had to be tested for TB at a public health office, which was not a happy place. Some folks were there at the behest of others; a few had worrisome symptoms; some needed a shot or two or three; and others nervously awaited test results. I sat in crowded waiting room filled with anxiety, impatience and sodden tissues.

Suddenly the door flew open and a disheveled young man, who looked a bit berserk, strode to the front desk. “Hey, I need to see a sex doctor,” he announced in his outdoor voice.

“We don’t have a doctor today. Just nurses.”

“Well, I gotta see a doc. Tiny bastards are crawling around like crazy. Down there. I think they’re probably crabs from this girl I met.”

“You can’t see a doctor until Monday. If you’d like to see a nurse today, take a seat and do this paperwork — well, actually, it might be better if you stand.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Monday? It’s the weekend. The little suckers will ruin my social life. I’m going to the emergency room.”

The door slammed behind him, and spontaneous laughter exploded around the room. Even the receptionist lost her professional composure and succumbed to the merriment. “Did you hear that? Can you believe it?” we gasped.

In those shared moments of hilarity, we became friends. We continued to chat easily and shared a last chuckle when someone left: “Goodbye, have a good weekend, enjoy your social life,” we said to folks we’d studiously ignored earlier.

As Bram Stoker wrote in Dracula, “It is a strange world, a sad world, a world full of miseries, and woes, and troubles. And yet when King Laugh come, he make them all dance to the tune he play. Bleeding hearts, and dry bones of the churchyard, and tears that burn as they fall, all dance together to the laughter that he make…”

We can laugh as well as we ever did, laugh fully and joyously until the day we die; and when we do, tears will be balanced by laughter at our funerals.

65 thoughts on “Comic Relief

  1. There’s a restaurant on the beach in San Diego, “The Crab Shack.” One night my friend and I walked past it and noticed a poor homeless guy scratching his crotch under the sign. 😀 I think laughter keeps us sane and I pretty much have no barriers when it comes to what I think it’s funny — just can’t laugh at crippled people and potty humor is, to me, childish and predictable — otherwise, bring it on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My mom would have agreed with you, Martha, she often said laughter kept her sane while she raised seven children. I would have guessed you were open to all types of humor, with the two exceptions you mentioned. Do you remember the Little Moron jokes? Even as a child I didn’t care for them because I thought it was mean to make fun of morons. However, later in life, I had no problem laughing at dumb blonde jokes. What does that say about me?

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post, Janet. I was just talking to another blogger about the importance of being able to laugh. A few weeks ago, at my mom’s funeral, there was laughter in between sad comments. The minister of the church she belonged to for over 80 years, told stories from the pulpit the day before, and his son (also an ordained minister) helped us laugh a bit when he told us about his first time preaching in front of my mom and the other older women (who run that church). If people don’t laugh at my funeral, I’m not paying for the beer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I LOVED this!!! It is true ~ Laughter is the best medicine!! I have experienced this several times in my life!! I’ve always said that I want to be like Grandma Harris when I’m older ~ laughing at everything and nothing!!! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you, Kathleen. She was quite the character, wasn’t she? When I heard her laugh, I had to join in, even when I wasn’t sure what she was laughing about. Promise you’ll do the same for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thanks Janet another great story and fun and laughter are such an important piece of life. My little dog is providing that for me as she gets up to mischief all the time in between growling at her I am laughing.


  5. I love this post. It was perfectly timed, coming after the tribute to you mother. Here’s why.
    My mom insists there be no wake or funeral, so when she died in March, we honored her request. Instead, my siblings, nieces and sister in law got together for pizza, wine, and funny memories of our mother and our time together. It was exactly what we needed.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I understand completely. People don’t understand how I can laugh at the abuse situations in my childhood. I’ve dealt with the pain, but some of them are “so out” there that laughter bubbles up. What people don’t understand is how much laughter helps to heal wounds. Obviously, you do. Both my husband and I enjoyed this post. He mentioned what a good writer you are, and I thought I’d pass that along, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think most of us see the truth in the need for comic relief in our busy lives; but there are those days when I seem to lose sight of my laugh for a bit. Thank you for finding my blog and commenting. I’ll visit your soon.


  7. Well, Janet, the moments I’ve laughed the hardest have been with you… you remember how the people around us in Coos Bay were laughing because we couldn’t stop laughing?
    I can appreciate your shared laughter at the clinic. Two of my favorite lifetime moments were when something absurd was happening and I caught the eye of a stranger who was also laughing. Both times we spoke different languages but smiled at each other … sharing the moment.


    • I do remember, Mary; I also remember that same sort of laughter in the airport returning from seeing Ernie in San Francisco. I also remember what triggered it, but I don’t want to admit it in front of my readers. I, too have shared a moment of amusement with a stranger who spoke another language, but had forgotten. Thank you for reminding me.


  8. The strangest things happen in public health clinics, don’t they?

    In reference to Mercy’s comment, above, I’ve heard it said that laughter is the universal language. So true, and something the world could use more of right now.

    Maybe we’ll search for a good comedy on Netflix tonight!


    • Yes, they do, Rita; and I’ve seen it more than once. Also wish agree that universal laughter is more important than ever right now. I once read a study that found people who were sad for a variety of reasons felt better after watching thirty-minutes of Red Skelton’s TV show. So go for that Netflix comedy.


  9. I sincerely pray he didn’t pass on “the little bastards” to any other unsuspecting person in his social arena! Too funny! My humor (and the Princess’s) are s l o w l y finding themselves back to where they belong. Thanks for the funny reminder. Hope u and Joel r well! ❤ Hugs, Lucie


  10. I grew up Catholic. And as much as we cry at funerals, we laugh at the after-party. I’ve always thought it a sign of life and bravery. I hope my friends have a ball at my funeral:).


  11. Good day, Janet,sorry I am late. Indeed, at my work we oft get a lot of rickety uncles seeking libido herbs- my favorite we had to bring a chair, so he could explain his need to “slow down his wife in the bedroom”. I have to laugh, it is secondary to breathing, and this was a classic post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. During my early teens, dad produced stacks of Readers Digest magazines and we would devour the ‘Laughter is the best Medicine’ page, so I’ve always believed that to be true. You know, that young man’s actions sounds like the sort of thing an Aussie larrikin would do for a bet! Laughter is best shared.


  13. Hi Aunt Beulah
    I sure hope that guy found a ‘sex doctor’ who managed to get rid of those ‘ little bastards ‘ in his never never region for him..that’s just so funny that story, laughed out loud!!!!!!
    Eulogies are most often opened with sad words, but they quickly become ‘comic relief ‘ as you say Aunt Beulah. Eulogies are often some of the funniest stories you will ever hear, what’s more there is a connection with everyone listening to them.
    We all find ourselves stuck in a moment where all it takes is a guy with a suspected case of ‘ crabs ‘ to waltz in and turn an arkward situation into hoots and chortles, that one tops it for me Aunt Beulah..Tooooooo!!!!!! Funny bahahahaha!!!
    Love your stories so much
    Love you always and send big ol’ hugs across the miles
    Annie in Australia 🏝🌞🌊💕💕💕💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think of you often and fondly dear Annie, and hope you are healthy and happy. So-o-o-o-o-o good to hear from you! I knew you would like this story. In fact, i thought of you when I published it. If you had been there with me, we would have fallen down laughing and rolled on the floor in a fit of giggles. None of the others in the room, though they laughed, seemed ready to indulge in such antics, so I controlled myself. How I wish you’d been there!
      Oodles of love, Janet


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