Tuesday December 4th, 2012 – Gurnee, IL
One of the few sounds I never get sick of hearing is laughter. I find it sweeter than any music -and I like music. But no song I’ve ever heard comes close to the melody of a solid laugh from an enthusiastic audience full of strangers. It has a cleansing effect right down to the core of the soul.
Even sweeter than that is the unbridled laughter of children. I first became addicted to hearing audiences laugh in grade school, and it hasn’t stopped. I have always had the ability to crack off a funny one liner or a smart ass comeback with little effort, and more often than not I’ll let it fly.
I used to get in all kinds of trouble for it in school, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Life was one big sitcom, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to get a laugh pass me by. It drove some of my teachers up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other wall but too bad. I was hooked.
It started with my grandfather. He was by far the funniest person I knew as a kid, and he loved to get laughs from anywhere and anyone he could. I happened to be an appreciative audience, so he’d put extra effort into making me laugh as often as he could. I will always love him for that.
Gramps wasn’t afraid to do it in public, and anyone walking the earth was a possible partner in his comedic endeavors from sales clerks to bus drivers to my friends. My grandmother could not stand it, and I guess that’s what made him want to do it more. I loved it, so he aimed it my way.
If nothing else, it taught me how to think out of the box. Gramps would be fearless when he’d jump into a character in a restaurant or a grocery store, and he’d often toss it to me to see if I had a comeback. Sometimes I would and sometimes I wouldn’t, but I learned to be ready at any time.
It also taught me to not worry if something didn’t work. Sometimes Gramps would take it a bit too far, and people would just stare at him. I think he had a little Andy Kaufman in him, as that’s when he’d do it more. He just wanted to have the spotlight, and embarrassment wasn’t an issue.
What made me think of all this today was having lunch at the Golden Corral in Gurnee, IL, one of my regular hangouts. I can get a good salad at a good price, and it’s buffet style so I can get as much as I want. It’s a sweet deal, and it usually comes with a floor show of oddballs to observe.
There happened to be a group of a dozen or so kids there today between the ages of maybe 4 to 7 – a perfect scenario for getting big laughs. There were a few adults with them, but they were in deep conversation at their end of the table. One of the kids sneezed and sprayed in my direction.
I exaggerated my reaction and covered my plate and that’s all that it took to get them started. It was show time after that. It was the right day and the right time, and I had them all in the palm of my hand the rest of the meal. I could do no wrong, and their laughter was deep, loud and sincere.
Gramps would have been proud of the way I worked those kids today. I didn’t let up. I had the whole table giggling incessantly, and I’m sure they talked about it in the car. These moments are what life is about. It was a table of kids at The Golden Corral, but I felt like a comedy superstar.