Cry Me a River—the Resilient Power of Humor


Watching the news today. Joan River’s death is reported everywhere. Flowers and candles hide her star on


Hollywood’s famed sidewalk. Late night pundits, fellow comedians, and talk show hosts wax rhapsodic about her ability to poke sarcastic fun at herself as well as everyone else.


Can we talk? Mean humor is not my style. I agree with Jennifer Lawrence that it seems to give permission for nasty, bullying behavior. But I will also admit that humor seem to have been the prescription for getting her through really tough times: a self-induced serious rift with Johnny Carson, her husband’s suicide, the cancellation of her show, an empty calendar, and a strong desire NOT to return to the image of the skinny girl from Brooklyn. The more I read, the more I learn where she used humor—often self-deprecating—to offer another way of responding to situation. That is a superb resiliency skill. I’m reminded of my friend and colleague W. Mitchell. Mitchell had two doubly whammy accidents. One burned off most of his face and his fingers. His face had to be rebuilt into some semblance of normalcy. Serious burns. The second left him a paraplegic. Mitchell told me that when he was considering running for mayor of his city, his campaign slogan was “You don’t want just another pretty face.” But we don’t have to wait for tragedy to watch and use levity. Another colleague, Karyn Buxman, is a RN and neuro-humorist. OK—so the latter is a newly coined and maybe made-up word. But the research is solid. Laughter rewires the brain, creates endorphins, and offers a perspective on what is serious vs. what is merely annoying. Why not—at least for this weekend—get in touch with your humor. If you were a fan of Joan Rivers, consider it a eulogy. Which actually reminds me that when I asked an audience what sense is lost when one is struck by lightening—a smart guy hollered out, “The sense of humor”. Not a bad response. (The answering is hearing.) Watch for funny signs, antics of people on the street, double-meaning headlines. Like this one: “Marijuana Issue Sent to a Joint Commission.” Or one of my favorite from a Washington State restaurant, The Barking Frog. In its parking lot is this sign: Search for some of Joan Rivers’s classic lines: ”If God had wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put diamonds at my feet." "I must admit I am nervous about getting Alzheimer’s. Once it hits, I might tell my best joke and never know it."“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.” Enjoy the weekend. And laugh.

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