For the next two weekends each Saturday between 9 a.m. to noon, in conjunction with Route 66 Arts Alliance, I will be presenting a workshops for young people ages eight to 11 and 12 to 15 years old. To both groups my topic will be: “Comedy is Serious Business.” What I say to the younger group will be along the lines of, “Knock, knock” jokes with a cute song and a dance routine. It will end with my standard story of, “Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like!” And they will know at the end.
The older kids will have to sit through my idea of comedy which starts with, “Who’s on First?” and then wanders to real Vaudeville slapstick. After reading parts of three of my melodramas with jokes for all, thus, hopefully staying for the end song and dance, with appropriate hats and canes, I will have fulfilled a lifelong dream of making sure the joy of Vaudeville is never forgotten.
Of all times to need a good laugh, this counts as one of them. Why do we laugh? According to scientific research we laugh before we can talk. I believe that I had two sons that laughed as babies, and still do whenever I walk into a room. It begins, “Oh MOTHER!” and goes from there. All humans in all cultures laugh, and apes do too. Of course, they throw… poo at you. Tough crowd. There are differences in what we laugh at. I am always thrilled to see my Roaring Mouse because someday my editor is going to read it and boom. “Dead Mouse.” Shhh. Don’t upset her.
Scientists say laughter is a way to connect to people. I have seen babies with hysterical laughter, and it all starts with “Peek a Boo.” After our folks were too worn out with “Peek,” we began watching cartoons. And adults loved them too. “Steamboat Willie” was Disney’s first drop dead hit. First at movies and then with television people, it got a laugh. If there were not at least four animated cartoons before a movie, even “Gone with the Wind” or “Exodus” was given a big thumbs down of disappointment. Some classes in laughter speculate that we laugh now since we have come down from the trees where we used to groom one another. My little sister would have killed me if I had reached over to groom that huge mess of Texas hair she calls her own. I much preferred to take the time to kid her and duck as she tossed hair spray bottles at me. Clowning was the next best way to get a smile. Falling, ducking, doing that stupid I am a guy stuck in an invisible box… oh yeah, Mime. I really don’t get that, but if someone is trying to kill you tossing lit sticks of dynamite at you and still misses, “That is funny.” Go roadrunner and poor coyote.
But go back to before video. In Vaudeville, live acts on stage from the 1880s to the 1930s, was where lots of the pratfalls were discovered that we still have today. Why is it funny if everyone falls? I have no idea. Of course, I am mostly the one on the floor. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can increase your oxygen intake and it stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. It also creates endorphins, the feel-good drug that makes us happy and reduces pain. I laugh all the time, but my husband of 49 years is still a pain in my… ahem. Never mind.
Laughter increases cooperation among people. Google says the ancient Egyptians carved this joke in stone, “How do you entertain a bored Pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the Pharaoh to go fishing!” Pa Dum Tah.
They lived in the desert like we do, but we should end this with Old West humor. What do you call a frog who wants to be a cowboy? Hopalong Cassidy! What do you call a happy mouse cowboy? A jolly rancher! Roaring Mouse making a film called, “the Sun,” ‘cause it sets in the… West. Out.