Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Power of Humor

Today my guest is Debra Doggett, who's going to be talking about why she wants to be a standup comic in her next life, and why a sense of humor is vital. Welcome, Debra

In my next life I plan to be a standup comic. It's got to be the toughest job in the world. You stand there on an empty stage, looking out at a roomful of people who paid too much money for the seats they occupy and who are staring back at you as if to say so you think you're funny? I dare you to make me laugh. What an incredible amount of courage it takes to even open your mouth in that situation.

I've been a coward this lifetime, sitting all by myself at my laptop, trying to make the voices in my head come through as people everyone will want to read about. I've tried for sexy, mysterious, dangerous and so hot they sizzle but nothing is as hard as funny. That must be why we value it so much, why it contains so much power.

Humor makes bad days good, B-movies worth sitting through, and turns bad memories into life lessons (now there's a euphemism for you!). Learning how to laugh at problems has kept many a parent from killing their offspring. It's sustained many a marriage and the lack of laughter has killed off many more relationships. It's no fun when you can't have fun anymore. And a person who finds nothing funny about the world just isn't looking hard enough. Or they aren't paying enough attention to those around them. Action heroes have funny sidekicks for a reason. We can only watch so many buildings being blown up or cars being tossed in the air to land on top of each other. Somewhere among all the explosions, fistfights and gunplay, there has to be someone to laugh at. Someone who sees the humor in the madness.

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Now, you're probably reading this right after putting down the daily newspaper or turning off CNN and thinking about how nothing that's happening these days seems funny. Unemployment? Not so much. Layoffs, shutdowns, meltdowns? Not a barrel of laughs. But humor is more than laughter. Humor is an attitude. It's a way of seeing the world and handling all the scary stuff life seems to be made of. And looking on the funny side is free. You can do it anywhere, anytime. I've even seen funerals end on a funny note as people remember the good times.

Humor laughs in the face of bad times. It makes a mockery of those who want only the serious, only the sober. And it has power. The power to make even tyrants sit up and take notice. I found a perfect example of this a couple of years ago when I traveled through Poland. Poland is a country with a history that's enough to make anyone cry. They've been overthrown, undermined, divided, partitioned and generally kicked around for more of their history than most of us can imagine. And they faced the truly big bullies, the ones who made their lives hell on earth. But in a town called Breslau, I found a true example of the power of humor in the face of tyranny.

During the Soviet occupation of Poland, a group of locals found a way to say in your face, Comrade! without getting themselves dragged off in the night, never to be seen again. They did it with gnomes. And big orange hats. Who would have thought of that? They went around town wearing big orange hats, making people laugh.

And they put the gnomes all around town - on windowsills, hanging on lampposts, anywhere you'd least expect it. The sight of them does something to you. You're walking along and you see this happy little face staring out at you from the corner of a building or from an upper window and you just start to grin. It's infectious and it's powerful. And guess what? Communism is gone from Poland. The gnomes won. Isn't that the way the world should be?

Debra Doggett writes paranormal romance (for the fun part) and somewhat somber stage plays, just to keep herself from getting too much humor in her life. To find out what she's up to, check out her website at www.debradoggett.com.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great point. I think if we can keep a humorous mindset, or see the funny side of a challenge, it makes our lives much easier...and probably healthier, too.

Oh, memories! Thanks Lorraine. Yes, I well remember Christmas catalogs from the 1970s...Sears and JC Penney. My sister and I would go through and circle things that looked good to us. And you could use the catalogs as a booster seat at the dinner table or as a doorstop! :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Elena said...

Thank you, I am delighted to find someone else who sees the healing, even politically, of humor. My grandmother was a union organizer and at times had to stand up to large men, frequently armed. I saw her use humor to defuse dangerous situations. A lesson that stood me well when once confronted with an armed and very confused man. I got him laughing and was able to get him to give me his weapon.

Debra Doggett said...

Exactly, Elizabeth. Forget the apple a day stuff and just make sure you get in a laugh a day!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks to Debra for reminding us of the power of humor. I can't imagine a world without laughter. From a very early age, my dad found the funny side to just about anything.

Meanwhile, I'm still in Quebec City. It's raining this morning, so I hope to get some writing in. It's supposed to clear this afternoon.

Maryann Miller said...

What a wonderful post. I used humor a LOT while raising my kids, and Debra is right, it can really diffuse a tense situation.
And I loved the little history about Poland. I did not know about the gnomes. What a neat thing the people did to maintain their sanity in such a difficult time.

Anonymous said...

Debra, I totally agree with you, and I think this is what draws us to so many stories - for instance, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. It's the humor that we find IN SPITE OF . . . that is often the most moving.

Maybe you don't have to be a stand-up comedian. You're probably making plenty of people laugh from your keyboard. : )

Debra Doggett said...

I hope I keep folks laughing. It's so easy to get focused on the hard part of life. Laughter is a real treasure, especially when it seems there is nothing to laugh about. So Terry, are you vacationing in Quebec City? It's a wonderful place. I got the chance to spend about four days there a while back and the people are great and so is the scenery.