Laughter is a coping mechanism. It's also a precursor to a positive mind - and positivity is the strongest emotion us humans possess. Whether we laugh at others, at situations, or you just like to make others laugh, they're both remedial. It drives us to achieve great things, including (in my case) the will to fight cancer, and persevere with my ambitions and goals with writing.
Over the years I've taken pleasure in making people laugh. I've been called funny (in the 'ha ha ha' sense) and am known to be a bit of a practical joker, playing pranks on others for mine (and their) amusement (but mostly mine, lol). In my managerial roles, I'd turn up to meetings with the sole purpose of lightening it up, offering quips and making amusing observations, in the main to make it less boring, but taking pleasure from those who laughed with (or at?) me.
When I was fighting cancer, I used humour and comedy to deal with the pain and fear I suffered (that coping mechanism at play), as well as helping others around me who didn't fully understand, and who started to treat me differently, like I had leprosy or something. They felt uncomfortable. They soon came to realise I was the same person, spurred on by the fact that I could act normal by making them laugh. Believe it or not, but the subject of cancer is a gold mine for comedy.
A friend of mine visited me whilst I was undergoing treatment. I looked like hell, and felt it. It was just after Christmas, and my friend had over-indulged and was making some light conversation. Without thinking, she said: "I need to lose weight. I've put on nearly a stone!" My response, said seriously: "You know what's good for losing weight?" "No, what?" "Cancer... it's great, I've lost nearly two stone!" I said, cracking up. I have to say, it's all in the delivery... and you had to be there, but I did laugh. Cancer is still terribly taboo for many, but if you accept that 'shit happens' and get on with it the best you can, no matter what the prognosis, you can laugh at it just the same. Life, after all, is too short. Check out the films "50/50" and "Funny People", both very funny films dealing with the Big C subject with sensitivity and humour.
Some of the funniest people in the world use laughter as a means to cope with life. Robin Williams was a very funny person, a genius, and he took the greatest pleasure from amusing others around him. He hid his own personal troubles behind comedy. Many people who are outwardly funny, are suffering privately in silence. Depression, is the total opposite mood to that reflected in laughter. Unfortunately, laughter isn't always enough. But it's a good place to start.
Since as far back as I can remember... the late 1970s or early 1980s when I was just a boy in short trousers (or maybe I was just wearing pants - we were quite poor), comedy and laughter has played a significant part in my life. I've hungrily devoured almost every sitcom or comedy movie ever since, and love to sit in the audience of a stand-up act, being part of the live experience. And no matter how good, or bad, a comedy performance is, I can appreciate what drives it, what's at its core: making people laugh.
One of the top fifty things I'd like to do on my bucket list is to write a comedy show with one of my comedy heroes, Ben Elton. He's written some of the funniest TV programmes (in my humble opinion) of all time. The Young Ones, Blackadder (but not the first series... that was a bit lame), The Thin Blue Line. And his one foray into film, Maybe Baby (based on his novel Inconceivable) is an under-appreciated gem. Of course, chances of ever getting to meet Ben, let alone write with him, is a billion to one. There's better odds of Donald Trump becoming president... or the UK leaving the EU.... oh, wait.
But writing a comedy is in the forefront of my mind, and something I long to do. Since 2010, I've been scribbling ideas and keeping notes of funny situations, or things I've said, that could be considered 'funny'; I have a little book close to hand for such inspirations. There's an idea for a sitcom, or a film, in my head, which I've been developing for a couple of years. Once I've completed work on my current series of novels, I may sit down and attempt writing a pilot script or a screenplay (also on my bucket list!). Perhaps find a writing partner to roll ideas off. I've learnt the fundamentals of script writing, and I'd love to put what I know in to practice. But then I remember, I've got another novel in the pipeline after The Girl in the Mirror series has wrapped which I'd like to write also... so much I want to do, so little time...
Whether I do end up completing a comedy script, one thing is for certain, I will always want to laugh and try to make others smile.
Charlie Chaplin once said: "A day without laughter, is a day wasted." I think he was right.
Below, in no particular order, are my top ten sitcoms and comedy films, the ones I've gravitated to more than any others over the years. I'm sure there are loads more, but this isn't meant to be an all encompassing list, and there's more than enough laughs to be had. When I'm feeling down, I often revisit them for a quick chortle... they never fail to lift my mood.
Sit Coms Films
1. Blackadder II, III and Goes Forth 1. American Pie (1 to 4)
2. Only Fools and Horses 2. Shaun of the Dead
3. Friends 3. Trading Places
4. The Simpsons 4. Team America: World Police
5. Gavin and Stacey 5. Austin Powers (1, 2 and 3)
6. Bottom 6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
7. The Office 7. Dumb and Dumber
8. Men Behaving Badly 8. Groundhog Day
9. The Inbetweeners 9. Happy Gilmore
10. Little Britain 10. Ted & Ted 2