Laughter is the best medicine

By Craig Nudelman

When I was still living in Jo’burg, my family and I used to read a daily column in The Star by James Clarke called ‘Stoep Talk’.

His humourous and witty writing had us in stiches and I was rather upset to ‘see’ him leave a few years ago. His play on words and general entertainment will always stick with me. However, we didn’t need Mr. Clarke’s column to keep us entertained. As a family, we often pun ourselves (and thank goodness this is a feature of my wife and her family as well). Sometimes these are met with a moan or a sigh, acknowledging the joke’s corniness. More often than not these are received with a laugh. For me, a joke is something I treasure. And according to research, it is also good for one’s health.

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, writing in the Huffington Post, says “A good laugh can be compared to a mild workout, as it exercises the muscles, gets the blood flowing, decreases blood pressure and stress hormones, improves sleep patterns and boosts the immune system.” Not only that, but research at Johns Hopkins University Medical School “showed that humour and laughter can also improve memory and mental performance.”
So now, for all of those who love puns, eggcorns and mondegreens, here are some that will hopefully make you laugh. If you didn’t already love them, perhaps now you will.

And for those who don’t, I apologise.

Puns (a play on words)
Don’t spell part backwards. It’s a trap.
Did you hear about the guy who got hit in the head with a can of soda? He was lucky it was a soft drink.
I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.
How did I escape Iraq? Iran.
I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.
I’m glad I know sign language, it’s pretty handy.
I was addicted to the hokey pokey… but thankfully, I turned myself around.

Eggcorns (a word/phrase for a word/words that sound similar):
‘It’s a doggie-dog world out there’.
‘No one talks to that guy. He’s a social leopard.’
‘I was really ill. I laid down on the living room floor and curled up in the feeble position.’
‘I really hope I get paid in the rears for all those shifts I did, I still haven’t got the money I’m owed.’
‘A friend of mine is Jewish. He is circus-sized.’
Mondegreens (Misheard song lyrics):
‘Dead ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind’ (The answer my friends, is blowin’ in the wind – Blowin’ in the wind, Bob Dylan)
‘The girl with colitis goes by’ (The girl with kaleidoscope eyes – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, The Beatles)
‘Sunday monkey won’t play piano song, play piano song’ (Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble; tres bien ensemble – Michelle, The Beatles)
‘Are you going to starve an old friend’ (Are you going to Scarborough Fair – Scarborough Fair, Simon and Garfunkel)

In our own Jewish genetic makeup, jokes have always been prioritised. Was this because of the hardships of our very existence as Jews? Are jokes a way of dealing with difficult circumstances? According to Jarrod Tanny, Jews have had a sense of humour dating back to the Tanach. An early example in the Torah is that of Yitzchak (Isaac) whose name has the same root as laugh (tzachak) – Abraham and Sarah were said to have laughed at the thought of having a child at such an old age. In the Talmud, in the tractate of Shabbat (119a), we see the Rabbis having a sense of humour. It says, “Caesar said to Joshua ben Hananiah “Why does the Sabbath dish have such a fragrant odor?” Joshua said “We have a certain spice called Shabbat (shevet – dill), that we put in it. “Let me have some”, he requested. Joshua replied, “For those who observe Shabbat, it works; for those who don’t, it doesn’t.”

And then we have jokes told by Jews throughout the ages. From the stories of Chelm to the jokes about Hymie and Abe, we have known all kinds of shmendriks, schlemiels, schlemazels and shm…’oes. Jews have almost become synonymous with humour, and the list of Jewish comedians shows how our collective identity has a comical edge to it.
We live in a time where there is an unprecedented amount of hate and anger. I hope that the jokes I tell my daughter (will these be ‘dad’ jokes?) will make her laugh and hopefully teach her not to take life so seriously. After all, isn’t that what humour does?
And so, to end, one of my all-time best jokes:

A Frenchman, a German, and a Jew walk into a bar. “I’m tired and thirsty,” says the Frenchman. “I must have wine.” “I’m tired and thirsty,” says the German. “I must have beer.” “I’m tired and thirsty,” says the Jew. “I must have diabetes.”.


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