When we were young we’d joke about my dad’s laugh, how it turned his face a deep red almost purple. His eyes would shut. He’d lose control of his breath and make this airy sound that was unusual enough for a couple of teenage sons and myself to try to imitate. He’d always come back from it with tears in the corners of his eyes.
I can’t remember what kinds of things would set it off, but I remember it happening unusually often. My dad is a humor kind of guy. I don’t mean he appreciates it. I mean he lives in it. He rapid fires jokes, and sometimes rapid fires the same joke until he gets the reaction he wants. His comedy philosophy is one I’ve adopted: make as many jokes as possible, appreciate the ones that play well, and forget the ones that don’t (but first try them out on a fresher audience).
I was always the worst at impersonating the laugh. I don’t have the natural red tint to my skin that my dad has. I could never get the sound quite right, and it hurt my throat to try.
Last night I was trying to think of a story to tell on my dad’s 64th birthday. I wanted to write something here about how great my dad is, how he’s the first man I loved and my biggest cheerleader. I told Russ I was looking for inspiration and he pointed out something I’d never realized.
“You get your huge smile from him.”
I thought about what makes me laugh. There is, quite literally no rhyme or reason to it. Silly videos of animals in clothes, other people’s jokes, my own jokes, unintentionally hilarious slapstick falls, even a funny typo can set me off in a way that is entirely unwarranted. Anyone who’s spent more than an hour around me has seen me laugh, and seen me laugh hard. It starts with a chuckle, snowballs into silent hunched over laughter. My eyes squeeze closed, my shoulders shake and I can’t get a single word out of my mouth. Russ tells me it’s his favorite thing in the world… hard to believe, but I’ll take it.
If I had to, I’d bet my dad was the first person to ever make me laugh. And I know for a fact he’s the one who taught me to laugh at myself first, and to appreciate my own jokes – because a person’s got to appreciate her own humor if she expects anyone else to.
Of all the things I’ve hoped to inherit in my life, my dad’s take on what is funny is tops.
I’ve been a goofball, a class clown, a terrible story teller thanks to the interruption of my own laughter. I’ve been called out for my sarcasm, then adjusted my words to be less biting. I’ve broken a rib while laughing. I’ve laughed with others and at myself. My humor has evolved, and not always been the most appropriate reaction, but I’ve not ever been accused of not appreciating the lighter side of life.
I wasn’t the best at impersonating my dad’s uncontrollable laughter, and I never will be because, you know what,it’s too darn hard to do a good impersonation when your own eyes are squeezed tightly closed, your breath is short, and there are tears rolling down your cheeks.