The recent suicide of Robin Williams reminded me that we are losing our clowns. They are so important, because scientists tell us that for optimal health we need to have at least one good laugh a day.
A friend of ours attended school with Williams, so I told him I thought he had a pretty good chance of seeing his ghost. His ghost won’t speak to him, but he will let him know who he is by what he does.
It turns out that laughter is more important even than good diet and exercise, although these things are obviously important. Laughter is ‘catching,’ just like a sneeze or a yawn.
This is why we so often tell each other funny stories in social situations. We like to laugh and to spread laughter.
We just came back from having dinner with friends, and we spent the whole time laughing and sharing the ridiculous things that have happened to us. This is especially easy with Whitley, who is always getting himself into funny situations. He recounted some of the childhood pranks he played on authority figures, and he was a past master at that!
Stop and notice: when you’re with old friends, how often you reminisce about funny things that have happened, clownish things. When you do this, you’re really making fun of yourself, which might be one reason why it’so healthy.
Behind every clown, there’s a sad person. Studies have shown that almost every good comedian has a tragedy in his or her life. This is almost a truism. Funny people are often sad.
But they try and overcome it by drowning it out with laughter, and we often do the same thing. We all benefit from the laughter, but rarely see the sadness behind it. By laughing away their sadness, they laugh ours away too. But nothing lasts—or laughs—forever, and time finally runs out for us all.
If my friend sees Robin Williams’ ghost, what will he see? Someone in a jester’s costume with bells on his hat? A dark figure disappearing into a greater night? Somebody exploding with the zany joy that Robin Williams so excelled at creating? I can’t wait to find out.
What happened? Nothing! My friend did not see Robin’s ghost. He knew Robin in school, and said that, while he could clown even then, he was really more interested in talking philosophy. He remembers him as having a very deep mind. This is a reminder to me that clowns are so often deeply sad, which they try to ameliorate with laughter.