The Joker

“Who has come here today to laugh?” said The Joker. Everybody who could raised a hand. “Who has come here today to drink?” Hands went up again. “And to feast?” Hands up. “And to die?” Hands shot up, accompanied by cheers.

The Red Barn was packed as it was every week with an older audience. The high ticket price did not deter them. What else would they do with their money anyway – get squeezed for more taxes, or leave it for their children to waste on foolish things? It was time for the show, and people were laughing already, a visual expression of their joy.

The Joker was pleased at another good crowd. A hundred people times a hundred bucks each, that’s ten grand. After insurance and legal costs, he would clear almost half of that. More importantly though, The Joker was a twelfth-generation healer with a divine gift to share for which there was a six-month waiting list. They were sitting down wanting laughter, sharing laughter, living laughter, and maybe dying laughter.

“How many times does a baby laugh?” he asked the audience. He picked on people as their hands went up. “Fifty… Hundred… Seventy… Hundred and fifty… Ten? What kind of miserable mother are you?… Ninety… One? Ok, you mean one long laugh? Boy it must be fun at your place! Actually the answer is three hundred. A baby laughs three hundred times each day. What about adults?” Again he picked hands. “Fifty? Is your answer always fifty? Ok, how many extra-marital affairs have you had? What about extra-marital, sado-masochistic affairs? Bi-sexual, extra-marital, sado-masochistic affairs? Meet me later!… Hundred… Thirty… Two hundred… Zero? Are you a police officer?… Forty? Close. The answer is thirty. So adults laugh ten times less often than babies. Why is that?”

He picked on hands. “Work… Tax… Mortgage… Marriage? Well certainly if I was married to you… Children… TV? Surely Teletubbies isn’t that much funnier than Family Guy? Simpsons? Ok, maybe… Yes, all of these are true, but let’s take a deeper look. May I have some volunteers?” Half the audience’s hands went up. The Joker invited five of them onstage. They hobbled up, some with canes.

“We’ll start with laughter psychology. Madam, what’s your name? Helen? Ok, Helen, I’m going to tell you a joke. A patient says, ‘Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bum.’ The doctor says, ‘I’ve got some cream for that.’” Helen chuckled, and much of the crowd laughed. “Not a great joke, just an average joke. But your laugh was a signal of acceptance and positive interaction. It shows we’re all friends here.”

“Sir, your name? Robert? May I call you Bob? Bob, are you ticklish? Not much? May I reach into your armpits? It’s a habit of mine. I do it all the time. Ooh! So you are ticklish after all! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Shall I stop now? Shall I? Shall I?” The Joker finally stopped. “So this was a little different. Tickling creates neurological stimulation, causing inward feelings of joy. Thank you, Bob. By the way, do you use antiperspirant? You should do. Do you have a towel at least? No? Never mind. Thank you.”

The Joker asked the next volunteer his name. “Jamie? Wonderful. Now sit down here. Can we dim the lights please? A little more, perfect.” The Joker switched on a desk lamp, and held his wrists together but with palms apart. The theme from Jaws played suddenly. His fingertips created the vicious silhouette of a sharp fanged mouth, opening wider as it approached Jamie’s head, about to consume it. Suddenly the music stopped, the lights came on, and the fanged mouth disappeared. Jamie burst into a high-pitched breathy laugh. The Joker continued the tune, “Daa-Na! Daa-Na! Daa-Na! Daa-Na! Now Jamie, why were you laughing? That’s right, because you were scared and then felt relief. That’s what Freud said. Laughter is a coping mechanism for when we are angry, scared, or sad. It releases tension.”

He turned to the next volunteer. “You are… Janet? So Janet, why did you laugh too? You were not the one about to be consumed by a Giant White Shark? That’s right, you also felt relief. But Morreall said that it’s even more than that. Laughter has biological origins – it’s a shared expression of danger passing. Jamie is safe, and we all are safe. Hoorah!”

The Joker turned to the fifth volunteer. “Now Sandra, please take the hot seat. Lights down again please. Perfect.” He again made the jawed silhouette, but his time there was a sudden scream. Sandra jolted and then laughed. “Sorry for the shock,” he said. “I just needed your reaction. So what did that sound like? Someone screaming? Who? That’s right Sandra, it sounded like yourself. It was your own scream. Nietzsche said that laughter was our response to existential loneliness and despair, a recognition of our mortality. A joke creates a cognitive puzzle which we see solved, and realize that it isn’t dangerous at all and laugh with relief. Some people have fits of laughter, and periods of excessive elation – known as sham mirth. But these are the result of psychological or neurological conditions.”

The Joker told many more jokes and provided insights into laughter. He elevated the audience’s mood and relieved their tension. He created intimacy and connection, his playful communication bringing them all together. The final part of the evening approached. He said, “Please call out why you wish to die.” Hands went up. “Depression… Divorce… Bankruptcy… Alzheimer’s… Parkinson’s… Bowel cancer… Heart disease… Multiple Sclerosis… Cerebral Palsy… ok, a good selection. You are very brave people, taking charge of your own lives. I’m going to make one of you very happy.”

Using his ancestors’ secrets The Joker now crafted an incomprehensible joke. The only person who understood it was a man with Huntington’s Disease whose suffering had become unbearable. He recognized the truth of The Joke of Life and died right there laughing.


One Response to “The Joker”

  1. Jeremy Yew Says:

    Reblogged this on Yewnique? and commented:
    Really interesting story about why we laugh…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: