Humor and Your Mental Health

I got the bad news the other day.

After noticing numbness in my left hand and stiffness when I turned my head to the right, I went to my doctor who ordered an MRI from the neck up.

“I’m going to give you something to stop the voices in your head from telling dumb blonde jokes.”

 

After the results came in, he sat me down with a serious look on his face.

“You,” he said with a maximum dose of medical gravitas, “have an abnormal brain.”

I was speechless for a moment. Then, after taking a deep breath, I spoke with difficulty, barely concealing my sense of rage at life’s unfairness.

“Doc,” I said, biting my lower lip, “my wife has been telling me that for thirty-eight years, and she doesn’t charge me a $20 co-pay.”

 

 

                    This is your brain.

 

It turns out that I have unusually large cavities in my skull. Why, you may ask?  Haven’t you been brushing and flossing your cerebrum and cerebellum? Not that kind of cavity, you dingbat–an empty space within a solid object. The skull has five large cavities, four of which–the paired nasal cavities and the paired orbits–open to the exterior like dryer vents. The fifth, the cranial cavity, houses the brain. This is the one that is apparently the problem for me.

Dryer vent clogged with lint. Like my brain.

 

Nature abhors a vacuum, according to either Greek philosopher Aristotle or Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees. Because I have such a large hole in head, nature–which is literally all around me, even when I don’t go outside–rushes to fill it with . . . stuff.  Such as Komodo dragons, a favorite theme of radio comedy team Bob and Ray.  (Yes — I am old enough to have listened to comedy on the radio.) Komodo dragons–also known as “monitors”–are the largest species of lizard; they hunt in groups and have been known to attack humans. In other words, comedy gold.

 

Bob, Ray, and Komodo Dragon.

 

Then there’s Osgood-Schlatter disease, a pediatric ailment that sounds terrible but is actually not that bad–just a “painful bump just below the knee that is worse with activity and better with rest.” I learned about it growing up when my friend Ronnie told the gang that he couldn’t play baseball one day because his Osgood-Schlatter disease had flared up.

“Gosh,” we said collectively (we weren’t allowed to curse yet). “That sounds terrible,” commiserating at the tragic hand that life had dealt him. “What’s it like?”

“My knee hurts.”

“What do you do when that happens?”

“I stay home and beat off.”

One’s sense of humor is as vital to the healthy functioning of the human mind as, well, something else that’s also pretty important. According to folk legend, once you cease to dream, you go mad. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, once you cease to laugh, you go to work at the IRS.

This is your brain while telling a joke about a priest, a rabbi, and a lady snake charmer.

 

An inability to control one’s sense of humor has not yet been classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a psychiatric disorder, but it seems to me that it’s only a matter of time. There is, for example, the seminal (please–no semen jokes) text on the subject: Involuntary Laughter and Inappropriate Hilarity by Mendez, Nakawatase and Brown. Think of how many intense business meetings are disrupted every day by recollections of stray phrases from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” episodes from the ’60’s.


     Bullwinkle J. Moose

 

FIRST REALLY INTENSE GUY: Acme Widget has hired Greenblatt, Schuster & Fox.

SECOND REALLY INTENSE GUY: Those guys are sharks–total a__-holes.

THIRD LESS INTENSE GUY: Seems to me that Acme has surrounded itself with a cordon of nefarious henchmen.

(. . .)

FRIG: What the hell does that mean?

TLIG: I’m not really sure . . . Bullwinkle J. Moose said it one time.

Why does he need an inflatable boogie board?

 

What causes a man, when he sees a mail-in offer on the back of a Rice Krispies box for a “Shrek” inflatable boogie board, to become lost in a fog for days, muttering to himself “Why does Shrek need an inflatable boogie board, and how can I work that into a piece of approximately 500 words that will be of no interest to any print or on-line publication that pays in actual legal tender, as opposed to crummy promotional points good at any major bookstore not currently in Chapter 11?”

Agnes Moorehead: Irrelevant, but is that so wrong?

 

I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I do have something to say to people on-line who have the courage to post content that they self-identify as humor, risking the sneers of drive-by flamers and other assorted wet blankets in the hope that someone somewhere will click on an advertisement, bringing them a check that will cost more to cash than the face amount:

You have abnormal brains.

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