Does everything have to be funny? It’s surprising how often, taking a call at Samaritans and discussing something bleak and sad, that both the caller and I laugh at something. I always believe everything I read on the internet and I’m sure a website called “naturalhomecure” is absolutely true in every respect so when I read the following, I tend to think that laughter is good for us all.
“When you laugh the T-cells production by thymus gland is stimulated which in turn helps secretion of hormones like Beta-Endorphins, which increases the immune of the body. Research shows that laughing increased immune power and enhanced destroying of cancer-causing cells. Although this is in the research stage may be laughter may be the medicine to cure cancer.”
In addition to this biological explanation, the website goes on to explain that laughter relieves depression, helps us sleep better, reduces blood pressure and helps ward off heart attacks. In addition to this slightly dubious website, Wikipedia lists several similar benefits.
My TV comedy tastes are a bit a stuck in the past – to be compared with someone whose musical tastes haven’t progressed beyond The Beatles, Elton John and Queen. Give me an old classic any day. I laughed very loudly at the Christmas 1974 episode of “Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads” which involved Rodney Bewes losing an earring. I can also quote you huge amounts of dialogue from “Life Of Brian”.
I find that I can’t watch many modern comedy programmes but an exception is “Sex Education”. The first episode of Series 2 involves a 16 year old boy masturbating in his car waiting for his Mum to complete her shopping.
Roo and I laughed hysterically at a moment in this week’s Only Connect when a team had to guess the connection between four songs. They correctly identified the connection to be “joy” after only three songs and when asked to predict what the fourth song might have been, the team captain unhesitatingly mentioned a song by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band as if everyone would have this song at the forefront of their mind. Surely this would be the likely choice of the question setters. Who doesn’t know every song by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band?
Rachel Riley is a TV presenter on “Countdown” who obtained a Maths degree from Oxford. She is maybe not the most likely person to appear in the lyrics of a song by a New Jersey born independent songwriter but there she is in the second song on this album, “Ghosthunting”. “I thought I saw a ghost. It looked like Pavarotti and moved like a caterpillar and smiled like Rachel Riley and when I told my mum what I saw, she said it probably was the cat”. In this song, he takes a call from his sister whilst drinking a tropical smoothie at the Arndale Centre in Manchester. She tells him that his father had died so now he never wants to smell mango again. Is this bleak humour, black humour or just a bit tasteless?
There’s a not terribly convincing emulation of a stand up comedy routine at the start of “Ghosthunting” where a hysterical crowd reacts to the following monologue. “For the whole first half of this record, I thought I had a really bad disease. It turns out I’m just mentally ill. I called an attorney to get my affairs in order and everything. He said, ‘You know I’m a personal injury lawyer, right?’ He asked me, ‘Have you fallen?’ I said, ‘Boy have I ever. Hallucinating that my dead father is in my bedroom? Does that count as fallen?’” Humour or pathos? Should we laugh or express pity? Does it matter?
“Cemetery Lifestyle” makes extensive use of a Theremin which always gets a thumbs up from me. (As Half Man Half Biscuit sung, “I think I’d better let him in/ He’s got a Theremin“.) It’s clearly a song that was borne out of a bad personal place. However, he dresses this up by singing about waking up in a Nando’s car park dressed in a banana suit which would be okay except he doesn’t own a banana suit. Is this funny or just a bit irritating? Have I ever been able to tell the difference? Why did my Mum always accuse me of taking a joke too far?
Brian Christinzio has used the name BC Camplight (or sometimes B.C. Camplight) for the release of five albums over the past fifteen years. He was born in New Jersey, moved to Philadelphia where he played with The War On Drugs and moved to Manchester (U.K.) in 2012 after struggling with mental health issues, drugs, and alcohol. When he suffered a leg injury, he asked the Home Office to extend his visa who refused and deported him. Back in the USA, he discovered that he was entitled to an Italian passport (through his grandparents) and relocated to Manchester.
“Arm Around Your Sadness” describes a day full of ennui which involves taking delivery of a vegetable peeler, lying to a chemist that, as an American, he doesn’t need a prescription to get drugs and looking forward to watching Judge Jury crush a small boy on daytime TV.
“Back To Work” starts with him watching “Die Hard 2” for the 38th time, describes a conversation between him, the Devil and the Devil’s wife who is called Denise. Towards the end of the song, his mother is suggesting that he’s too old now to consider killing himself. That’s not funny. Or is it?
Using humour to cope with the bad things in life is admirable. Or is it? Is laughing in the face of adversity simply hiding your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the depth of your own feelings? Discuss. Oh, and mine’s a pint of “Substantial Meal” please.