Make ‘Em Laugh by
(319 Stories)

Prompted By Comic Relief

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Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that having a good sense of humor is an essential trait. Several years ago I copied down this quote which I recently found in the notes section of my phone: “Those who lack humor are without judgement and should be trusted with nothing.” Clive James said, “A sense of humor is just common sense.”

A good laugh is the source of great relief. It can break through awkward moments, lighten discomfort, signal sheer delight.

In first year acting class (my sophomore year), we learned to laugh and cry on cue. It was just a matter of changing breathing patterns (of course, actually feeling the emotions of the scene, or using “Method” acting techniques and drawing on memories from one’s life experience could be more valid, but the other technique worked well too). Then we were told to find a scene partner, go up on stage and, well…just laugh!

Pam and I bought “Mad” magazines, sat next to each other on stage and read them. Soon we laughed our heads off. My roommate Nettsie and close friend Michael were up next. They sat close like two conspirators, heads together whispering, pointing at me sitting out in the audience, and they giggled away.

After, I asked what about me had caused so much hilarity. They said they were pointing at my chest and Michael said, “Look, Betsy’s left boob fell off!”

Nettsie and Michael in “Gondoliers”, 1972

Oh my…improv, I guess. Whatever…

For some, the slapstick of The Three Stooges does it every time. The morning of our wedding, Dan and his brother watched cartoons in their hotel room. I gather it lightened the tension. Slapstick doesn’t do it for me.

I have a witty friend, with a twinkle in his eye, who can crack me up like no one else. He astonishes me with the quickness of his mind and can make me laugh just by calling me, hanging up and calling me again. Peels of laughter. The weight of the world falls away. It does feel good to laugh.

Early Woody Allen movies were hilarious and we looked forward to them (before he was “cancelled” for being a creep and became persona non grata). Looking back, those early/best works were “Play it Again, Sam”, “Sleeper,” “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask”, and of course, “Annie Hall”. We howled with laughter the first time we saw “Annie Hall”, saw it again, and laughed at everything we missed the first time, because we had been laughing so hard we missed so much. The third time we realized how truly bittersweet it was. Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny; we saw the nuance of the story, not just the punchlines and it took its place in the annals of one of the classics (and won the Oscar for Best Picture; well, la-di-da).

I enjoy watching “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”. While he often tackles difficult, political topics, which are not funny, he can puncture them in a way that relieves my stress and sometimes brings the situation into high relief for the insanity that abounds. Other times, he just has fun. He has one on-going segment with his field producer and the producer’s mother, who is not sophisticated, but game. They put her in absurd situations and the results are laugh-out-loud hilarious. One such segment aired a few weeks ago. Not only did I howl, I told my family about it on Thanksgiving, found it on YouTube and we all screamed with laughter again.

Several times over the years, Colbert had wondered if sex parties were real. He has never been invited to one, though he’d been in show business for years, so he doubted they were a thing. Well, after the last public complaint, he said the invitations had poured in, and he sent his producer, Jake, and Jake’s mother, Bootsie, out to investigate. But Jake had told his mother that they were meeting Nobel laureate, and man she had formerly interviewed: Paul Krugman. They were supposed to have dinner with him. Bootsie had really enjoyed the former segment. She found that Krugman didn’t talk down to her, was a gentleman and she had a bit of a crush on him, so she was really excited. Her assignment now (she thought) was to ask him about the debt ceiling. However, they actually went to a sex party. The results were beyond hilarious.

These are a few moments that have captured my fancy or tickled my funny bone and allowed me some comic relief.





Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    This is just a great anthology on the prompt, Betsy. I particularly appreciate that you have included the Clive James quote, which I was searching for but did not come up with.

    Conversely, what I have come up with on my own is that picture of Alfred E. Neuman, which I also have on my desktop and keep thinking about attaching to my Zoom account as my “default” portrait. But then I remember that, besides all the Zooms I have with my friends and my class reunion committee buddies I have a few serious board meeting Zooms, and I doubt whether, for example, my town’s Energy and Sustainability Committee would find the image as funny as I do — especially as our meetings are “open,” and viewable by all town residents.

    Incidentally, like you, I really do not “get” slapstick humor. As my brother, who also agrees, has noted, “You can appreciate the choreography of it without enjoying it.” Amen.

    Now I have to check out the Colbert video, which does, in fact, sound hilarious. Thanks for the tip!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I can see why you may not want to always appear have Alfred E. Newman as your Zoom screen, John…funny though that may be. There are moments when it just would not be appropriate. Good to learn that we are comrades in lack of loving slapstick.

      Enjoy the Colbert clip. Had me rolling in the aisles.

  2. Great story Betsy, and as always your recall of events is amazing!

    The how-to-laugh lesson in your drama class was intriguing! And Mad Magazine was certainly part of all our Boomer lives!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Like you, I don’t get slapstick or the Three Stooges (my brothers loved them) but love Stephen Colbert’s sense of humor. And I agree that some people are innately funny for reasons I can’t put into words. We definitely need to find more ways to laugh these days!

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    I am in awe of actors who can laugh or cry on demand—just change the breathing pattern? Who knew? I think the only way anyone survived the previous administration was through SNL and Colbert. May we never have to do that again!

  5. Suzy says:

    I too loved Mad Magazine, and wrote an entire story about it, as you know, but I don’t remember it being the type of humor that caused me to laugh my head off. Maybe I’ll have to dig in to my collection again and see how it hits me now.

    I’m right with you on slapstick (thumbs down) and Colbert (thumbs up). Watching Colbert during the last administration probably helped save my sanity. And I love your final photo, of you laughing in the water! Made me want to laugh back!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I think Pam and I used Mad Magazine as a jumping off point to get us in a silly mood.

      Colbert definitely helped save my sanity during the last administration!

      You can laugh all you want at me laughing, Suzy. That was the point.

  6. Marian says:

    Cool recap, Betsy, and like you, I don’t care for slapstick that much, although some of the choreography in old Laurel and Hardy skits is really amazing. I’ve written about Mad magazine and how all my family loved it, except for my aunt, who would scowl. Everybody’s sense of humor is unique, I guess. Looking forward to the Colbert clip

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    Oh, “Annie Hall…” So much heartbreak among the laughs. The contrast between the two lobster scenes; genius.

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