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2003-09-16 Sense of Humour

When Bob Hope died recently at the age of 100, the phrase "laughter is the best medicine" seemed to take on an even greater resonance.


Speaking immediately after his gentle passage to the after-life, his daughter Linda said he had had a healthy lifestyle, with regular walking and massage, as well as the love of family and friends, but that laughter had played an enormous part in his longevity.

Bob Hope loved an audience and was a master of the one-liner, and unlike many of todays funny men, his comic monologues did not rely on constant sexual innuendo and F-words to trigger a giggle. Whether or not we agree with the controversial Vietnam war, one has to admire the fact that Hope made it his mission to travel thousands of miles in order to make servicemen and women laugh, in an environment that, I think its safe to say would have otherwise struggled to induce a wry smile.

Bob Hopes father was an alcoholic, so was the laughter a way of covering up the inner pain? Ironically, some of the saddest people in show-business often seem to be comedians. In the past I have made reference to the lives of Les Dawson, Michael Barrymore, Kenneth Williams and others whose vocation was to make the public smile, but who revealed to the world their private inner pain and turmoil.

We all know people, like Robin Williams for example, who seem to be on happy pills and on a permanent mission to entertain. In many cases this is a façade, an act, and a dangerous act, as it merely camouflages the inevitable lows.A good sense of humour is one of the most attractive personality traits, and can be so infectious, if sometimes a little exhausting. Often when I am walking down a street, simply mulling things over, I find myself frowning. I consciously loosen those frown lines and turn it into a more open face, as we all know it takes more muscles (and lines) to produce a frown than it does to smile.

God knows, I cant afford the wrinkles. This smile radiates to others and can become infectious, just like a smile from a performer transmits to the audience. Ken Dodd refers to his chuckle muscle, and says that if its not used, a chuckle muscle will dry up and fall off. The superb and poignant film La Vita è bella (Life is beautiful) left me with an over-riding feeling that a sense of humour can get you through most things. Arguments can seem trivial, and strife can melt away.

Every relationship must have laughter in it as long as one laughs with and not at our partner. Parents ought to laugh with their children. Children ought to bring laughter into their parents lives, but often it is clear, for whatever reason, they dont! It is important to be able to laugh at ourselves too, though some of us need a little more practice at that , present company included.

The fairly recent move to introduce animals to childrens hospitals and old folks homes in order to bring smiles and laughter as an alternative medicine is to be supported wholeheartedly. Anyone who has ever had a dog in their lives will know that the dog has a fabulous sense of humour. The cats sense of humour is a little blacker, but just as smile-inducing. One thing I notice more and more as I travel is the differing sense of humour in every country.

What makes an Irish person laugh might not necessarily make a German or an English person even smile. Our Irish sense of humour is not always understood abroad and can leave folk dumbfounded, especially across the Atlantic. Ah I see youre a humourist was said to me by a confused New Yorker. OK, I see you are now making a joke, spouted a Hamburger (ie. a person from Hamburg) live on a German TV show.

However, the worldwide variations in senses of humour are irrelevant, just so long as we smile and laugh regularly. Whatever tickles your senses, as long as it is fairly pc and not going to offend anyone (please spare me from Bernard Manning!), whether it be custard pies, Benny Hill or Will and Grace, dont let that chuckle muscle dry up and fall off!

More Information about Bob Hope:

More Information about Bob Hope: