I was making a supermarket list the other day. It had the usual items: eggs, milk, cereal and yogurt. Then it occurred to me that we could use a box of low-fat, high-fiber humor.
Yes, I know Nestlé, Keebler and Procter & Gamble don’t make boxes of such guffaw and giggle-inducing goods. Sure, they have cute animals who endorse their products, offering us a pleasant image while we shovel the latest sugar-filled calorie bomb into our mouths, feeding addictions that satisfy our taste buds even if they push out our stomachs.
But what we need these days, particularly as we confront our differences regularly, is a shared laugh.
Americans may be innovators, we may have significant military might and we may be a beacon of democracy, most of the time, but we also have a long and comforting history of humor.
Back when my father was terminally ill many years ago, I recall sitting with him in a living room with dark wallpaper, watching “The Court Jester” with Danny Kaye. As Kaye was struggling to remember where the pellet with the poison was, my father broke into a smile, laughing through a scene he’d watched dozens of times.
Laughter, as the saying goes, is the best medicine. After all, actor Tom Hanks was in the TV show “Bosom Buddies” and the game show “Make Me Laugh.” He took serious roles later and has become the go-to guy for dramas like “Bridge of Spies,” but he attracted attention in his early years by dressing as a woman to live in a cheaper apartment building. He was even the star of the forgettable comedy “Bachelor Party.”
Sure, these days “Saturday Night Live” is making some people laugh. Even White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appreciated Melissa McCarthy’s anger-ridden impersonation of him.
Now, President Trump doesn’t seem to be doing much laughing.
I suppose it’s tough to laugh on Twitter, unless you’re fond of the LOL or that emoji with the hands on the face. How much coverage would a presidential tweet about an intentional act from Kellyanne Conway get?
Remember back in the 1980s when, in the midst of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan would assure us that we could sleep well at night because he clearly did. If he wasn’t especially worried, and he wasn’t looking harried the way his predecessor did, surely we could sleep well? After all, resting and relaxing were a part of life, even during the Cold War. He smiled, he waved and he had everything under control, offering an easy laugh during tough times.
Trump has reason to smile. No matter what The New York Times, CNN or other news organizations he hates write about him, the stock market loves his laissez-faire policies toward business and regulations.
But Trump doesn’t seem pleased or to be riding a wave of good feelings and good humor. He needs to laugh with us as much as we need to laugh with each other. Of course, he needs to do his job, take his responsibilities seriously and do what he can to deliver on his promises. After all, even the world-is-coming-to-an-end New York Times would have to write about more jobs and greater prosperity for America.
Maybe, along the way, though, we could all use a good group giggle. The TV programmers understood the value of a guffaw long ago. They put talk show hosts on late at night because that’s when we need to chuckle the most, before we go to bed. Seinfeld, the cast of “Friends,” and many of our former acquaintances from sitcoms offer a comforting shield against the worries, anxieties and frowns that pester us during the day.