Laughing out loud
By Jim Poling Sr.
Published Dec. 24, 2018
It is indeed a wonderful life, especially when we begin laughing at ourselves.
Laughter is a magic elixir that improves our lives. It is a bonding agent that calms conflict and helps us get along with each other. We need more of it in an increasingly troubled and angry world.
Judging by some recent television viewing, we are getting more if it.
For example, NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) is giving us strong doses of laughter by poking fun at the train wreck of American politics. A train wreck that is causing hardship and division around the world.
SNL’s recent parody of the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life is an example of how laughing at ourselves better equips us to face the madness surrounding us.
A little memory jog: In the movie, George Bailey, played by actor James Stewart, is overwhelmed by problems and decides to jump off a bridge and end his life. A wingless angel named Clarence appears and shows him what George’s town would have looked like without all his work over the years.
The SNL version has Donald Trump, overwhelmed by problems, wishing he had never become president. Enter Clarence the angel who shows Trump what life would be like if he had not become president.
Melania is divorced and speaks clearly and without an accent. “They said being around you was hurting my language skills,” she tells Trump.
Mike Pence is a DJ at a White House Christmas party, happy and thankful that he did not have to sit in meetings as vice-president and look stone-faced bored and stupid.
Near the end of the 1946 movie the little daughter of George Bailey tells her dad that whenever a bell rings, an angel has received its wings.
In the SNL version, Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s mouthpieces, says to her boss: “Every time a bell rings, somebody you know quits, or goes to jail.”
Canadian television also has us laughing at ourselves with the popular CBC show Still Standing. It is a hybrid comedy-reality series in which Newfoundland comedian Jonny Harris visits small Canadian towns that have gone through hard times.
Harris, also seen in the Murdoch Mysteries TV series, gives stand-up comedy shows in front of locals who have stuck it out in their towns, getting them to laugh at themselves. Along with the stand-up routine are video clips of Harris doing stuff with some of the residents.
For instance in a recent show from Wells, B.C. (population 245) Harris takes a side-by-side four-wheeler pedal bike ride along a snowy street with resident writer-actor-director James Douglas. Douglas is the filmmaker behind The Doctor’s Case, an award-winning movie based on a Stephen King short story.
During the ride Harris and his TV audience learn about the town’s founder, Fred Wells, who discovered gold there. Wells was a mining boom town during the 1930s but as mining waned so did the town. Then in the 1970s hippies moved in, buying vacant houses and properties and established an arts community.
The town now is a mix of artists and miners, a dichotomy that Harris explores along with its stories and aspirations, weaving in jokes about the town and its people.
The towns Harris visits all have something sad in their past. A fishery collapsed and young people moved away. A logging operation closed, cancelling most of the town’s jobs.
Still Standing recognizes the melancholy produced by past events but finds humour that helps the residents laugh, or at least smile, at themselves. It also recognizes their resilience in staying on and working at building a strong community spirit.
It is a show that makes you feel good despite difficulties and reinforces the age-old message that good people overcome bad things when they laugh and work together.
Here’s how one person on Twitter described a Still Standing episode: “I needed that. The world (and my Twitter feed) has been so UGH. @jollyharris and @StillStandingTV gives hope, spreads light & humor and shows us the best of people.”
We all need more of this. Hopefully we will see more of it as we enter 2019, which some folks say will bring continuing social, economic, political and climate upheaval.