The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
I don’t particularly like the month of May*. Sorry all you lovely Taurus and Gemini birthday-celebrating folk — it’s not you, it’s me. For as April draws to an end, I start thinking about the 31 days ahead. Counting down to the two little dates in this month of May that bring a tear, and a few more, to my eyes.
Date One: The second Sunday in May aka Mother’s Day
Date Two: The twenty-ninth aka the anniversary of my mum’s death.
On these days I try to remember the sound of my mum’s laughter. Eight years on and it’s getting a little harder. Not the memories of her laughing, but of her particular chuckle. The way she would throw back her head and heartily cackle, sometimes until she even surprised herself with a snort of laughter, and a little giggle.
Raised in London on a diet of English comedy from the films of the Ealing Studios, Spike Milligan and The Goon Show, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Tony Hancock, Margaret Rutherford and Alistair Sim, my mum loved to laugh. And she also loved a good cup of tea. At the rate she drank her cuppa, we always thought it’d be better if she just hooked herself up to a tea-filled IV.
One memory I have is standing in my parents kitchen, making what I was sure was probably mum’s gazillionth cup of tea for that day (and billionth one made by me). This was before the chemotherapy regime altered her taste buds and being able to brew her a cup of tea became a rarity. Our conversation about the day turned to some work situation that had really irked me. But rather than indulge my ranting, mum somehow made me see the funny side to the situation. We ended up making each other laugh so much that my stomach hurt, and I gasped for breath while my mum roared with laughter, tears rolling down her reddened face.
Cathartic, candid, curative. Laughter as the best medicine. Just not enough to overcome the cancer.
Comedy can be transformative and therapeutic, break down barriers, poke fun at institutions, highlight injustices and cement relationships. Edgy, dark and bitingly funny. But sometimes it can be used to be cruel, insulting and humiliating —in all those terrible ways our society hurts by using words that end with -ism. I was thinking about this recently, after reading this great piece from Jezebel, where comedian Lindy West writes of sexism in ‘An Open Letter to White Male Comedians’. In her letter, Lindy lays out her experience of being a woman in comedy. It makes interesting reading as she outlines the myriad of problems women face in (and as a result of) the comedy scene, neatly encapsulates what the counter criticisms will be to her open letter, and generates some fierce debate in the comments section.
Comedy should be inclusive for all as sharing a laugh always helps put things into perspective. So as this month of May draws to an end, I want to celebrate laughing. These are some of the things** that make me laugh. Maybe they do (or will) the same for you?
Tele like The Goodies, Seinfeld, The Big Gig, Peep Show, Alan Partridge, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, We Can Be Heroes, Marion and Geoff, The Thick of It, The Colbert Report, The Office, Black Adder, Arrested Development, Community, Nighty Night, Spaced.
Fillums like Some like it Hot, This is Spinal Tap, The Castle, The Princess Bride, The Ladykillers, Zoolander, The Blues Brothers, Rushmore, Kenny, Bridesmaids, Midnight Run, Muriel’s Wedding.
Books like A Confederacy of Dunces, Clive James’s Unreliable Memoirs, Wodehouse, Bridget Jones Diary, Notes from a Small Island, Bossypants, Me Talk Pretty One Day, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Podcasts like I Love Green Guide Letters, TOFOP, Professor Blastoff and Comedy Bang Bang.
*NOTE: Although this month makes me melancholy, its days also mark some significant events— May Day, National Sorry Day, World Press Freedom Day, RSPCA Million Paws Walk, World Turtle Day, and of course, the geekiest holiday of the year, May the Fourth.
**In the interests of you dear readers, this (could have been endless) list is reduced down to a few of my favourite funny things. But your recommendations warmly welcomed.