My Career in Laughter

November 6, 2012
By

I had big plans. Somehow I didn’t get around to doing anything about them. I put them off, or maybe I was afraid to follow through on them. OK, all of the above. I was over 50 by the time I had formulated these ideas. My inner naysayer whimpered, “Why bother?”

And I had thought of myself as an out-of the box thinker. Hah! I know fifty-somethings who didn’t see age as an impediment. My sister-in-law Susan parachuted out of an airplane after 50. My friend Marty challenged an entrenched incumbent in a run for Congress, and when that didn’t work out he ran for state senate. Another friend, undefeated by early widowhood and breast cancer, started flying lessons. And then there’s Monica, walking buddy, effervescent mother of two and Martha Stewart wannabe, who participated in her first mini-triathalon.

With the kids on their way out of the nest, I had two plans I especially wanted to implement.

One was to create something from my fascination with the intersection of humor and religion. You see, I don’t just love a good joke, I’m the class clown who never grew up. I have to make people laugh. And I find a lot of things funny that others don’t, which gives me extra laughing opportunities. Also, I’m fairly immersed in my Judaism and something of a student of religion. Thus the two spheres collide in my psyche. Years ago I started a collection of Moses cartoons. Every year I put them up on the dining room wall during our Passover seders for our guests to enjoy. Over the years my collection blossomed into a rather large array of jokes, cartoons and parodies about many religions — all in fun and all in good taste. Every Passover I hold an open house, taping cartoons all over our walls–and down the hallway at this point — for the enjoyment of our friends. Every year I laugh watching them laugh. My curiosity extended to reading and researching the humor/religion connection as well as the health benefits of humor. At some point it occurred to me to take this avocation and create something unique.

I also wanted to formalize a tutoring career out of my writing and editing experience, skills honed from helping friends’ kids with their writing and my work as a volunteer reading/writing tutor at a private school.

Eventually both plans came to fruition.

I organized my collection into multiple scrapbooks by subject. I read and researched in greater depth and pulled my thoughts together on paper, well, on the computer. A technophobe, I had the aforementioned multi-talented Monica help me put together a PowerPoint presentation. It all came together in a talk, “Joking and Rejoicing,” which I gave before 80 people at my synagogue. I’m now getting set to deliver several versions of the talk, “Religious Humor: The Historical and the Hysterical,” to other area organizations. I’m also working part-time at a learning center tutoring students of varying ages in writing, reading and study skills. What finally got me there? As with most big changes, it was a number of things coming together.

One thing was a used book I stumbled upon at a high school book sale. The title screamed to me at the top of its lungs: It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now: How to Create Your Second Life at Any Age by Barbara Sher.* “…there’s somebody inside you who hasn’t happened yet, whose been waiting to come on the scene and create a new life. One that was never possible until now….” Maybe I was just ready to hear this author’s message. “…everything you need for a superb second life lies in the direction time is carrying you…Everything that was valuable about you when you were young is waiting inside you, intact and shining like a new set of tools, ready to use whenever you like…”

Sher helped me to stop thinking of all the times I hadn’t acted on my plans as wasted and of myself as a coward. It also helped to witness friends and relatives of that certain age doing spectacular things. It helped to feel validated that a particular interest (obsession? quirk?) of mine could engage others and best of all make them laugh.

A first over 50 isn’t necessarily a case of “teaching old dogs new tricks.” It can be the realization that age is immaterial. And you can even invent your own tricks.

*Dell Publishing, 1999.

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