What Makes Me Laugh: Virginia Small

Basically I have a very unconventional sense of humor. When it comes to modern comedies I hate most of them. To me the vast majority of comedies consist of low-brow bathroom humor, lame gags, are stupid beyond belief, or just plain unfunny. I despise laugh tracks. TV sitcoms are not worth my time. Movies in theaters are not worth the money and not worth sitting still for, even when shown free on cable.

There are a few exceptions when it comes to touching my sense of humor. For the most part the only comedies I like are ones in which someone has died. Such movies would include Death Becomes Her (1992), Beetlejuice (1988), and Shaun of the Dead (2004). When it comes to TV I fully enjoyed Dead Like Me (2003 – 2004) and The Addams Family (1964 – 1966).

As far as directors go, anything by Mel Brooks passes my Laugh-O-Meter test. He makes me chuckle, but he does not compare to who I consider the kings of all time, Charlie Chaplain, and Buster Keaton. Harold Lloyd gets an honorable mention.

These actors managed to make an audience guffaw without catch phrases, sound effects, canned music, or a laugh track. By using impeccable timing, facial expressions, and body language they could tell a story and bring out emotions like no others. For me the fun was in the element of surprise. They could play the downtrodden little tramps, but if they were antagonized, would give as good as they got with a swift kick or smack to whoever hit first. They were tricksters; getting themselves into scrapes and finding their way out again.

They were athletes and mimes with perfect timing. Chaplain seemed a little more of a graceful dancer, and Keaton seemed more of a circus acrobat. Lloyd was a bit of a one trick pony, but he was still fun to watch. The art in these old movies was gentle but poignant. They were able to poke fun of what might be considered taboo topics like drunkenness, poverty, hunger, and even cocaine. Perhaps they could get away with this because they were telling an underlying message.

Whenever I feel the need to laugh out loud I don’t look to Jim Carry or (Gawd forbid) Andy Kaufman (gag). I look to the real comedians from the silent era. Nothing else compares.


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