RGR laughs are good medicine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

My friends will tell you that it doesn’t take much to amuse me, and I’ll laugh at funny stories on the second, third and successive retellings.

Many is the time that Mary Helen has cut her eyes at me as I goaded her husband, John, or our friend Herston into one of their classic stories, mostly about people who have worked for them.

I never tire of hearing about the time Frank Lee, delivering flowers from the florist to the funeral home, got spooked and threw the arrangement into the casket. That cost Herston a new dress for the deceased.

Then there’s the one about Bev’s education.

“You know I only went to school for three days,” Bev once told John. “But I got a brother that ain’t got no education.”

“Who are you, his straight man?” Mary Helen’s asked me dozens of times as I coaxed one or the other of them into retelling my favorites. Obviously, she’s heard the stories more times than I.

Laughing is one of the best things about the Andalusia Junior Woman’s Club’s annual Red Garter Review. As I listened to the jokes in dress rehearsal Thursday night, I found myself literally laughing out loud.

In this year’s show, as in previous ones, I am amazed and amused by how much of the material originated from stories first written in this newspaper. How could anyone ever joke about levitating cats if Stephanie Nelson hadn’t sat through the trial in which the story was offered as a defense?

The media sometimes gets a bad rap and a reputation of reporting only negative things. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is the mantra of many. Indeed, study after study shows that people are more apt to put quarters in a machine to read bad news than good.

But we work hard to ensure that we also include good news, uplifting stories, and funny ones, too. And if that gives would-be comedians material to work with, all the better.

In more than two decades in this business, my all-time favorite newspaper story was about Novalee Brown, who was forever bringing a large or unusual vegetable from his garden to be featured in the newspaper. We thought we’d go interview him and perhaps stem the flow of photographs. Asked the secret for his large tomatoes, he was quick to share.

“When it doesn’t rain and I have to water ‘em, I go out there and bang on some pots and pans,” he said. “That way, they think they’re getting real rain.”

Whether we are sharing stories of fake rain, levitating cats, ridiculous politicians, or even quoting the people making fun or us at Red Garter, it makes us happy when we make you laugh.

Laughter is, after all, the best medicine.