Monday, December 10, 2007


Laughter. I like funny things. The front page headline in this morning's Seattle PI was "Painful price to remodel still worth it." Last night when we went to bed, I was complaining about having to use the bathroom downstairs a million miles away from our bedroom. I want my house back to normal and this remodel thing is taking much longer and is much more expensive than we anticipated. Needless to say, when I retrieved the paper this morning and opened it up, the unexpected headline was yelling at me. I laughed. When Dave came into the kitchen for his coffee, I stuck the paper in his face and ordered him to read the headline out loud and repeat 10 times. He laughed and then I laughed even more. The gist of the article is that in the Seattle real estate market, kitchen and bathroom remodels and additions return 100% or more on the investment. I am cool with it all again.

Humor fascinates me. What is it that makes some people guffaw but not others? Why is it that some people are naturally funny? I believe that our ability to be funny or to appreciate humor is genetic. Our genes are responsible for a ton of odd stuff so why not a humor gene? For example, my husband's work involves studying a gene that broccoli turns on causing good disease fighting mechanisms. Laughter is probably the next gene over. After all, eating small shrub like crunchy trees is kinda funny.

My daughter never knew Dave's Mom, her grandmother. Ruth went into a nursing home when Kaley was a little girl. And yet, she has her grandmother's wry and dry sense of humor. Like her grandmother, Kaley's whole way of being even when she is upset makes me laugh. As a tiny girl, Kaley would get mad at us, look us right in the eye and say, "Are you guys NUTS?" It was a gift to us that though Alzheimer's ravaged Ruth's brain, she would say astoundingly funny things until the end. She would describe the Alzheimer's unit by saying something like, "Nah! I guess this place is ok but people around here can't remember a thing!"

My son on the other hand, has my Dad's sense of humor. My father died five years before he was even born but Lucas manages to make my Dad's comical statements. And he laughs at some of the same things my Dad would've laughed at. When Lucas was about two and beginning to recognize letters and numbers, he would point to the letter "P", repeat "Peee!" and then giggle and giggle. The giggling would get me going. There I would be in the grocery store with this giggling baby pointing at the letter P on everything he saw, and I'd be laughing hysterically. Yes, I am certain we all have a funny gene installed before we are born that manifests itself peculiarly to each of us.

What makes me laugh besides this morning's headline? Here is a list:

1. My husband. He makes the most ridiculous puns. The puns are usually stupid but his delivery is priceless.

2. My children. Both of my kids can say something to me on the phone not even intentionally funny, but it turns on my funny gene until tears come out of my eyes.

3. My dog. This morning, for example, I am reading the paper and drinking my coffee when I notice Apolo gently takes hold of the sleeve of my sweatshirt with his crooked front teeth and starts pulling and growling for no apparent reason. Of course, he is responding to the fact we left him for the weekend and he is letting me know.

4. That rock. Yes, the one in Joshua Tree National Park. I can be sitting in traffic and I will think about discovering the "oh my" rock and the look on Dave's face when he spotted it, and I start laughing all over again.

5. Group Health commercials. On our TV, Group Health does local ads that I love. The current one shows a man without his shirt in a bathroom looking in a mirror. He has push pins of all different colors (like you use on a bulletin board) pushed into his forehead, chest and shoulders. His wife walks by with the laundry basket and asks with that "my husband can be so stupid" tone, "What are you doing?"

He responds proudly, "I am giving myself acupuncture. It will add minutes to my life!"

She rolls her eyes and retorts, "Don't you know Group Health covers acupuncture?" Of course, he looks surprised. And then she walks off and advises, "And they also cover TETNUS SHOTS."

See? I am laughing as I write this. I have seen the commercial a hundred times and it cracks me up every time. I mean push pins all over himself.....

6. The movie "Arthur." Gosh! This movie is at least 25 years old but there is one scene where Dudley Moore's character is drunk and he walks into a room with a moose head on the wall. And then he slurs something like, "Can you tell me where the rest of that moose is?" Still gets me.

7. An old cartoon. On man, about 30 years ago I saw this cartoon I think in New Yorker Magazine. It showed a cheese grater in bed with a wedge of cheese. And the caption has the cheese saying, "That was grate!" My favorite cartoon of all time. It is stuck in my brain forever.

8. Another old cartoon. Gary Larsen had this cartoon entitled "Boneless chicken farm." It showed a farm with all of these droopy chickens all over place. Gets me going every time I see boneless chicken in the grocery store.

My children do not always appreciate what makes me laugh. They have heard the story about the cheese and the cheese grater and think it is just stupid. That's ok. We all have different genes. Nevertheless, no matter what strikes us funny, they say it is good for us to laugh. I guess it helps fight disease and depression. I bet I'm right. I bet the funny gene is right next to the broccoli turn on gene because both laughter and broccoli are good for us.