“If there is one thing that I can teach you,” my father used to say “it’s that you gotta remember to laugh every day.” Research has shown the health benefits of laughter ranging from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings to increasing one’s threshold for pain. Having a sense of humor about life’s difficulties can provide a way to bond with others, look at things in a different way, normalize your experience, and keep things from appearing too overwhelming or scary. Properly developed, a good sense of humor can also keep relationships strong.
I try to find levity in the day-to-day by gravitating towards individuals who have a sense of humor, movies that are light, and activities that put a smile on my face. One of my dear friends, Maureen Langan (ML), is a master at the craft. She is one of the most fearlessly funny comics working today. Her honesty, high energy, and ability to rant on life’s absurdities make her a standout at clubs and theaters across the country. Here’s what makes this feisty female chuckle:
AM: When was the last time you laughed out loud?
ML: Last week, a little kid was walking through a street fair in CA on his father’s back while making bubble sounds with his mouth, oblivious to all those around him. Another kid, a little boy about 3 or 4, was on the street corner in New York City and looked up at his mother and said, “I like to move it move it,” and started shaking his hips. Kids crack me up because there’s a real innocence and lack of self-consciousness in what they do.
Dark humor? My niece goes to Catholic school. She was in pre-school and was learning about Jesus and the crucifixation. At her house one night she is laid out on the floor with her arms stretched out. We asked her what she was doing and she said, “I’m playing dead Jesus.” It was not rude or sacrilegious. Kids don’t understand death at that age, so she was working with what she knew.
I was in San Francisco this week and a comic named Tom Simmons did a bit about pop-tarts.com. How one can go to the pop-tart website and find out more about the world of pop-tarts. This just set him off and I couldn’t stop laughing.
AM: What kinds of situationss make you laugh?
ML: In addition to kids, I like candid-camera kind of humor. Not punked or mean-spirited, but unsuspecting humor. Like when Johnny Carson had animals on his show and you never knew what would happen. That cracked me up until I cried. Looking at the old Candid Camera still makes me laugh uncontrollably. In terms of stand-up I love emotionally-driving comics, comics who can’t take it anymore, who tell you what drives them crazy and you can see it on stage (i.e., pop-tarts). It’s such a great way to express and transform anger and rage.
AM: How do you keep from taking yourself too seriously?
ML: I take myself way too seriously sometimes! That’s why I turn those issues that upset me into comedy and humor. I’ve been told by club owners that I’m not young enough to work their clubs (I have it on tape!), so I can let it weigh me down, which I do for awhile, and then that anger finds its way down the comedy path. It just does. So now I have a joke (many about a woman in her 40’s), but one that came specifically from this is: “I feel like Canada. I have so much to offer, but no ones cares.”
I was in Canada and met many talented, cool people who we never hear about in the US and it reminded me of me in this crazy business. I have much to offer, but no one cares. Of course many do care, but it’s specifically in response to the anger I feel toward those who don’t get it.
AM: Which activities bring you the most joy?
ML: I like physical activities — running, walking, biking, hiking, and tennis — anything that lessens my desire to wipe out a village. Tennis is great for getting out aggression and rage in a legal way! You release anger, you learn a skill, and I’m cracking up laughing on the court constantly. I miss a ball, I make up a nonsensical curse word. I hit the ball well and I put my arms in the air in victory like I’m Venus Williams. It’s craaazy. But I love it. I like kayaking and horseback riding — activities I don’t often do (because I live in mid-town Manhattan). And bowling, bowling is ridiculous fun. And Scrabble, because as much as I studied English and love words, all that ever comes to me are three-letter words when I’m playing. Wow!
AM: What is the single greatest piece of advice you’ve received in relation to being true to yourself?
ML: “…I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy…” This quote in its entirety is on my desk. It harkens back to my Catholic school days and it comes from Saint Theresa, the flower saint. Although I begged to leave Catholic school and did at the age of 10, I always had a fondness for St. Theresa, and chose her for my confirmation name. When I was in first grade I loved reading her biographies. So it’s interesting that as an adult she holds a special place in my psyche and heart. As a comic, and in life, people get crazy when it comes to what others have and what they don’t. I’m not competitive with others, but I am very much so with myself. I don’t want to be you, but am I being the best me that I can be?