Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. —Victor Hugo
Okay, I agree with that. I love to laugh. No joke is too stupid, no pun too dumb.
But after more than two hours of listening to the Laughing Man behind me at a community theater Thursday night, nothing seemed all that funny. Certainly not my headache.
At first, I'll admit, his laugh made me laugh. It rumbled up from his toes, through his gut and poured into the theater air as if he wore a microphone.
The thespians working through Sin, Sex and the CIA at Richey Suncoast Theatre interacted well and got off some good lines, but nothing that would make the average person bend over at the belly and blurt out such noise. At first I thought he must be a plant, an audience trick similar to what you see on Saturday Night Live.
Maybe he was faking it, I thought. Nobody can laugh that much, that loud.
Nope, tears rolled down his cheeks. His sides hurt.
At intermission, several people around me sat stunned as the Laughing Man strolled to the lobby. Is he for real, they asked. Can we move?
Some theater regulars didn't seem as affected. The guy just has a huge funny bone, they said. He comes to several plays and it's always the same.
It seemed like we had caught a break when he didn't return right away for Act II. But a few minutes into the dialogue, he walked down the aisle in the dark — you guessed it, laughing all the way.
Aiiiiiyyyyyyyeeeeee, hooooooooooooboy, hahahahahahahahohohoho!
The actors seemed to thrive on his reactions. They had been rehearsing for weeks with no audience reaction, so you can imagine the thrill of hearing such a robust response to even the lamest of jokes or slapstick. Even as my head began to throb, I tried to understand. Once, many years ago at Disney World, my dad got so tickled in the Country Bear Jamboree that people laughed harder at him than at the singing robots on stage.
But the Laughing Man took it to a new level. And when the play mercifully ended, he got up from his chair, wiped his eyes and gave the event a hearty thumbs up.
Glad he had a good time.
It's always difficult to know how to handle something like this. I mean, it sounds stupid to turn around during a comedy and ask a guy to stop laughing. Honestly, I didn't know laughter could be so annoying.
Some years ago, I had season tickets to Broadway plays at the River Ridge performing arts center. Two dear old ladies sat behind us for every play. One was blind. The other gave her a running commentary to everything on stage.
I just bit my lip and slunk into my chair.
The Richey Suncoast Theatre is a local treasure, and I certainly would not want to leave you with the impression that I think otherwise.
But I'm hoping the Laughing Man will read this and tone it down the next time he's at a show.