Friday, June 12, 2009

Fractured funny bone

There's no Ann Landers to turn to anymore, so I'm writing to all of you today to help me solve a dilemma.

Reader, I need to figure out a new way of laughing.

It's not that cancer has caused me to go blind to things that I once found funny. "Get Fuzzy," MAD Magazine and Joe Biden all still strike me as hilarious and regularly trigger reactions on the humor spectrum that range from a robust titter to pee-in-my-pants convulsions.

But since cancer took up residence in my tongue I just can't bust out and laugh like I used to.

And it's gotten worse in recent days. My newly rigid jaw won't let me guffaw.

This week, while the rest of the world has been watching the Lakers, I've been catching up on DVDs. One night I watched a Sarah Silverman movie; the next I watched some old episodes of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" and on Thursday I watched Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories."

All of these shows were as funny as ever. Pre-cancer Paul would have laughed non-stop and have had to press rewind to catch all of the lines that my laughter drowned out.

But because my mouth doesn't open very wide I was virtually mute.

When my tongue and jaw recover from this malady, all of the laughter I've been suppressing all these months will rise up and produce a Vesuvius-size eruption.

Man, will that feel good. But in the meantime, I need to figure out a way to get some release.

Tomorrow I have a ticket to see comedienne Paula Poundstone at a club in Agoura Hills.

To me, Paula Poundstone is just about the funniest human being in history and when I see her live I like to get as close to the stage as possible.

Paula is known for picking out people in the audience to engage in conversation. It's a core element in her shtick. If I don't bust out laughing during Paula's performance she is bound to notice and bait me from the stage.

You can imagine how frustrated she would get when she realizes that I can't respond to her. It could not only capsize her act but the audience might turn against me. Paula Poundstone fans are very protective of their idol.

Here's another horrifying scenario: The numbness in the lower part of my face means sometimes I drool out of the corners of my mouth without even realizing it. If Paula catches a glimpse of me doing this, she very well could believe that I've had a stroke and stop her performance to call for an ambulance to get me to a hospital.

So I need to train myself to channel laughter into some other physical manifestation.

Should I flap my arms like a chicken? Slap my knees with the palms of my hands? Jab the ribs of the people sitting on either side of me with my elbows?

Or should I just bring a legal pad into the club on Saturday night and after each one of Paula's jokes scribble a score and hold it up for her to see, like a judge at a comedy Olympics?

Maybe I'll luck out tomorrow, and Paula will really suck.

But sooner or later, a guy's gotta laugh. One way or another, I just gotta get these laughs out of my system.

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