Wednesday 20 February 2019

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you

Young Offenders
Young Offenders

John Masterson

As a teenager I always looked forward to the Reader's Digest arriving. The articles gave an Irish teenager, whose parents had never been out of the country, a window to a wider world. The Digest has a reputation for spreading conservative views and being very anti-communist but that all passed over me. There was enough injustice in boarding school to keep me angry. I still think that if you aren't a bit of a communist as a teenager your moral compass needs attention. The sections I liked best, and read over and over again, were "Humour in Uniform" and "Laughter: The Best Medicine". I would read them out at the breakfast table and bore everyone to death.

My father had a great gift for making people laugh. It probably kept him sane. That and the very good marriage that he had with my mother. Dad gave me every opportunity. The more he saw me having a good life, the more he saw that his father had not done the same for him. He had wanted to go to college and would have been the first in the family to do it. He wanted to study law and had a good mind for it. His father told him that he wasn't paying for it and to just go out and get a job. Jobs were not plentiful and when he got one in an insurance company he held on to it for the next 40 years. I don't know when he started hating it, but in any case with young children he was stuck. But I do think that the fun he got from making people laugh was one of the things that made it bearable. He wasn't a comedian, didn't really tell jokes, but he had a quick wit, was clever with words, wrote and sang parodies, had a sufficiently quirky view of the universe and good timing with a remark. I grew up with laughter.

Carlow Mental Health give out stickers with slogans every year and one I have stuck on the bathroom mirror reads "Laugh out Loud Every Day". It works. I get out of the shower and it still makes me smile at least. And I have just had a week where there was a lot of laughing. There is something about that moment when a good storyteller leads a few people by the nose and then delivers the punchline. That simultaneous guffaw goes through every muscle in the body and reaches the parts that other experiences don't reach. The amusement to be gained by spending time with some mischievous adults who are able to tell a good story and have never lost their childish side is hard to beat in a world where life has become all too serious. Laugh and the world laughs with you is very true.

Thankfully I have retained the ability to be reduced to helpless laughter. It doesn't matter if I have seen Mrs Brown's Boys 20 times, I still fall around the place. Or if I have a bad day I reach for my Curb Your Enthusiasm box set and put my hands over my eyes as Larry David blunders into yet another misunderstanding. And then there is the magnificent The Young Offenders, my favourite film in years. I haven't watched the TV series yet. I am saving it up. I am told it will be worth it and won't spoil the film.

Sunday Independent

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