Becky says things about … laughing

Since the news broke last Monday about the smackingly sudden exit of our short, furry and funny friend Mr Williams, the Internet has been transformed into a veritable psychology journal, brimming with probing analyses of depression, suicide, alcoholism, hope, lack of hope, life and death. Darling Listener, I don’t want to add to the already lengthy index of opinions on the meaning of life; and besides, who am I to comment on the bleak, crushing force of depression when the saddest moment of my day was realising I left my lunch at home?

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So, most splendid listeners, let us focus on the bright side of life; let us look at what Mr Williams made us do when he put on a rubber mask and shouted ‘HELP IS ON THE WAY, DEAR!’ or when he told Rufio he was a paramecium brain:

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O Listener, I just love laughing. I love every kind of laugh: the painful, uncontrolled giggle that invariably results in an undignified piggish snort; the silent, head-shaking nose-laugh when someone tells you a joke that is wrong on every inconceivable level and you know you are going straight to hell for finding mirth in it; the unexpected, explosive laugh that may well result in an unexpected, explosive emission from your lower regions that you definitely didn’t intend and which you hurriedly try to cover up by making your laughter acutely disproportionate to the thing that made you laugh in the first place.

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Just today I have experienced that joyful, convulsed state that is brought on by perhaps one of the most delicious laughs of all: the ‘finding-something-vaguely-amusing-at-work-and-trying-not-to-laugh-because-the-office-is-quiet-and-people-are-working-which-makes-it-a-thousand-times-funnier-and-eventually-you-are-choking-on-your-own-fist-and-tears-and-sliding-wetly-around-in-your-chair-like-a-floppy-otter’ laugh. Can I remember what made me laugh? Can I bobbins. The laugh made me laugh. The same naughty and forbidden laugh we all experienced a dozen times a day at school when we passed a note that said ‘Mrs Lamos has a hairy back’ during silent reading time.

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Laughter is in everything: that well-timed belch in the middle of a meeting; the little trip up a kerb that you have to turn into a run; the accidental sign-off ‘Love Becky xxx’ in an email to an extremely important and solemn chief-executive; the tail-end of a conversation overheard in the street.

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But we all know that there is no greater joy, no laugh more acute, than the laugh expelled at the misfortune of others. O, Listener, how many ribs have I bruised guffawing at the suffering of my friends! When my chum slipped over on the wet deck of the Statan Island Ferry, going from a perfectly stationary position next to me –

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– to this position –

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– in less than a second and for apparently no reason, I laughed so much that a concerned German had to walk the entire length of the ferry to help her up.

The story of another buddy, a normally dignified yet cumbersome sort of fellow who, whilst stomping home with a bag of fish and chips, fell over his front gate and was deposited in a flower bed, will cause me to erupt in a splatter of glee every time I think about it. My father running into the patio doors, my best friend tripping down her stairs and landing in a heap at the bottom; my sister – crouching and mid-wee – falling backwards down a grass verge into nettles after panicking when I told her there was someone coming (there wasn’t); my boss pretending to use his office chair as a wheelchair and promptly wheeling himself out of it; my pal drunkenly stumbling through a park at night and failing to notice the large pond in the middle of it – all these things make me ecstatically happy.

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Sadistic, you say? Nay, Listener – tis not sadism. Tis merely a keen appreciation of slapstick comedy. We all laugh when Oliver Hardy is bashed in the face with a solid wooden plank, or when Stan Laurel is run over by a trolley bus – why shouldn’t we laugh at our friends and family members doing stupid things?

Life throws up many surprises. Some, like a leaky roof or syphilis, aren’t particularly pleasing – but others, like discovering the wit of our fellow humans, are magical. The world is full of funny people. You, my most dear Listeners, are hysterical. There is barely a liquid I haven’t dribbled painfully through my nose whilst reading some of your blogs or your comments to my posts. And, whilst some of those liquids were especially painful, I loved every second.

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We are all used to comedians showing off their best jokes and their most sparkling wit – but it is the ordinary Colin on the street that makes me laugh the most. Overhearing a grumpy exchange between two old blokes in a pub can brighten my day tenfold.

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What’s better than trudging through your daily commute with a thousand other sorry souls, every single one of you despising the human race and everything it stands for, and then having your train driver come over the speaker and say ‘Good morning everyone – as you can see, we’re going nowhere fast. I wish I could tell you why we’re stuck here, but I can’t, so instead I’m going to tell you that today happens to the be the 30th anniversay of the release of Wham’s astounding hit single ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’… and if someone could please wake me up before we go go, that’d be very much appreciated.’

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I made myself laugh yesterday when I went to get in my mother’s car, which I begged her to let me use while she’s on holiday, and to which she eventually agreed against all her better judgement – and I discovered its battery was flat. Dead as a squashed badger. I left the lights on. Is this a royal pain in the arse, and one that will potentially cause me stress and grief and a ‘Rebecca, you can’t be trusted with anything’ comment? Undoubtedly. But I have to laugh. Particularly because I have no intention of telling my mother, and she will only find out by reading this blog post from her hotel in Greece.

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Listener, there is sadness and sorrow and despair in the world. We know this. Anyone more than five years older than us delights in telling us this every single day. But there is also laughter. And Mr Williams may or may not have contributed to some of the laughs in your lives, but he has been the cause of a billion smiles over the world, and I’ve certainly enjoyed mine. Wherever he is, I hope he’s trying on his old Mrs Doubtfire costume, parading in front of a mirror, and chuckling.

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Charlie Chaplin said ‘A day without laughter is a day wasted’. And, whilst it is undoubtedly easier to laugh on some days than others, this isn’t a bad mantra to live by.