Monday, 7 December 2009

Light up your life with laughter

You’ll notice a fair amount of humour in this blog site, most of it borrowed, all duly attributed, my own very little, if any. It will pop up when you least expect it, between serious posts, in the sidebars, on film posters, and covers of books and comics. It will make you smile, even laugh out loud, and hopefully light up your day.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a sense of humour (trust me we all do), you can still be spirited enough to enjoy a good laugh, and infect others with it. It is arguably the most soothing therapy for a troubled mind, body and soul. Medical practitioners swear by it. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide.” And look what he achieved.

Likewise, if I had no sense of humour, I wouldn’t be writing this. If you had no sense of humour, you would still be reading it!

In the last century our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents lived through tumultuous times, through World War I, deadly disease, the Great Depression, colonialism, the Holocaust, World War II, famine…dark periods in their lives when a sense of humour must have been their one saving grace.

In this century we are living in equally troubled times, in the throes of a near World War III—terrorism, ethnic conflicts, water wars, disease, recession, depression, climate change, corrupt rulers, apathy, poverty...dark periods in our lives when a sense of humour is still our one saving grace.

I consider steady humour and steadfast faith to be the two solid rocks of life. You need the first to poke fun at yourself and the world; you need the second to stop God from poking fun at you.

If you’re an Indian and living in India, you need more than plain humour, you also need stupid tolerance, to see you through just about everything. Still, we are better off than poor folks in war-torn Sudan and Congo where life has become a joke. Nobody’s laughing.

Asking people to smile or laugh in the midst of severe adversity is being downright rude and insensitive not to mention offensive. Under most circumstances, though, we can make a habit out of practicing humour and rendering life, both yours and mine, a lot more worthwhile.

I am not going to give you tips you don’t already know—the laws of humour and laughter are really quite simple. Each of us have our own "laughter is the best medicine" credo.

At home, my wife and kids and I watch American and British sitcoms during “happy hours” on most weekdays. Laugh-a-minute sitcoms like My Wife and Kids, Mind Your Language, Caroline in the City, Everybody Loves Raymond, Becker, Just Shoot Me, Two and a Half Men, and even Friends are fun to watch. Singly or collectively, they help you to unwind.

A few days ago, we picked up a DVD of the hilarious old British sitcom Are You Being Served? [see picture on right] broadcast on Doordarshan, the government-run television network, in the 1980s. My 12-year old son who had never heard of the Britcom enjoyed it as well. BBC Entertainment has brought back Fawlty Towers starring a young John Cleese. Hopefully, To the Manor Born, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Yes Minister are on their way back too.

In the half-hour of sitcom-induced bliss, we laugh a lot and have a good time.

Likewise, watching comedy films, notably Buster Keaton, Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges and Tom & Jerry, is a splendid way to ease tension and eject “dirt” out of our toxic-filled systems. It’s always handy to have a stack of these funnies at home so you can reach out for them anytime you like and bust all the stress you want.

Here's a little piece of advice: always pick comedy over horror. There's plenty of the latter going around in the world.

The same goes for books, comics and conversations…anything that makes you laugh and never want to stop laughing.
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Caption for Laurel & Hardy photo: Edgar Kennedy (right) is not amused at Laurel and Hardy's antics in the 1928 Hal Roach classic Leave 'Em Laughing.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Funny lines from funny movies...

Groucho & Chico Marx in Monkey Business (1931)
Groucho: ...Columbus was sailing along on his vessel...
Chico: On his what?
Groucho: Not on his what, on his vessel. Don't you know what "vessel" is?
Chico: Sure, I can vessel (starts whistling).

Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers (1932)
I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived.

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in Their First Mistake (1932)
Ollie: Why did you strike that match for?
Stan: I wanted to see if the light switch was off.
Ollie: That's a good idea.

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in Helpmates (1932)            
Ollie: Get this house cleaned up! Do you know that my wife will be home at noon!
Stan: Say, what do you think I am? Cinderella? If I had any sense I'd walk out on you.
Ollie: Well it's a good thing you haven't any sense!
Stan: It certainly is!

Groucho Marx in A Day at the Races (1937)
Man: Are you a man or a mouse?
Groucho: Put a piece of cheese on the floor and you'll find out.

Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple (1968)
Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon): Funny, I haven't thought of women in weeks.
Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau): I fail to see the humour.

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Adrian Cronauer: I can't even make fun of Richard Nixon, and there's a man who's screaming out to be made fun of.

Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Mrs. Doubtfire: My first day as a woman and I am already having hot flushes.

Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
If I'm not back in five minutes...wait longer!

Ray Romano in Ice Age (2002)
Manfred, the mammoth [to Sid, the sloth]: If you find a mate in life, you should be loyal. In your case, grateful.

Manfred [referring to Sid]: I'm still trying to get rid of the last thing I saved.

Manfred [to Sid]: Let's get something straight, ok? There's no "we". There never was a "we". In fact, without "me", there wouldn't even be a "you"!

Ray Romano & John Leguizamo in Ice Age (2002)
Manfred: Hey, he's wearing one of those baby thingies.
Sid: So?
Manfred: So, if he poops, where does it go?
Sid: (pause) Humans are disgusting.

Manfred: Check for poop.
Sid: Why am I the poop-checker?
Manfred: Because returning the runt was your idea, because you're small and insignificant, and because I'll pummel you if you don't.
Sid: (pause) Why else?
Manfred: NOW, Sid!

...And funny sitcoms too

Rowan Atkinson in Rowan Atkinson Live (TV, 1992)
As the Devil welcoming people to Hell: The French, are you here? If you'd just like to come down here with the Germans, I'm sure you'll have plenty to talk about.

Atheists? Over here please. You must be feeling a right bunch of nitwits.

Now, murderers. Murderers, over here please. Thank you. Looters and pillagers, over here. Thieves, if you could join them. And lawyers, you're in that lot.

Male adulterers, if you could just form a line in front of that small guillotine in the corner there. Fornicators, if you could step forward. My God, there are a lot of you!

And finally, Christians. Christians? Ah yes, I'm sorry. I'm afraid the Jews were right.

Okay, are there any questions? Yes? No, I'm afraid we don't have any toilets. If you had read your Bible, you might have seen it was damnation without relief!

Ray Romano & Patricia Heaton in Everybody Loves Raymond (TV, 1996-2005)
Ray Barone: You're already planning the wedding?
Debra Barone: I've been planning it since I was 12.
Ray Barone: But you didn't meet me until you were 22.
Debra Barone: Well, you're the last piece of the puzzle.

Debra Barone: I never thought I'd miss our little apartment.
Ray Barone: C'mon, that apartment was tiny and cramped and noisy.
Debra Barone: Yeah, your parents would only visit once every other month.
Ray Barone: I loved that place.
Debra Barone: Yeah, I know.

Ray Barone (after hurting his back): I guess I am going to be out of commission for a while.
Debra Barone: I wouldn't worry—it's not like Van Gogh has lost his paint brush.


The scene from Notting Hill (1999) where Hugh Grant tells Julia Roberts: "I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name."

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Creativity in the classroom

A sudden spark of creativity prompted my son, Thayn P. Trikannad, all of 12 years and in 8th grade in St. Dominic Savio High School, Bombay, India, to write the following ode to his sports day. He won his teacher's appreciation.

My Sports Day

My sports day was great
It's hard to say
But I'll express it this way
We had lots of games
And loads of fun
So many names
To make us run
I love sports day
Just can't wait
Until next year
When they open the gate!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Take a bow, Asterix & Tintin!

So Asterix turned 50 last week. So what? We all do except for one small detail—Asterix is immortal. And he doesn't even need the magic potion equivalent of the nectar of the gods. Goscinny and Uderzo's brave Gallic warrior will live long after we are gone.

So will Tintin—the indefatigable Belgian reporter created by Georges ‘Hergé’ Remi—who turned 80 in January this year.

You are never too old for some things in life, such as comics, Enid Blyton and jigsaw puzzles, and I am grateful that I can still read and savour, as many times as I want, the adventures of two of the greatest characters in the history of comic books. Snapping at their heels, playfully, are the endearing “husband-and-wife” pair of Tom & Jerry. There, I have said it.
Be it Asterix and Tintin or Phantom and Mandrake, why do fans react to comic book milestones in an almost identical fashion? Mention comics and the first thing they do is jump into the time capsule and blast off into the past, usually to a fount of childhood memories, and recollect the many hours spent reading a wide assortment of comics. You will see a kinda dopey look on their faces as they reminisce. It doesn’t go away soon.

I know it sounds crazy, but the other thing I noticed about Asterix-Tintin fans is that they talk about them as if they are sole heirs to, and the only ones who read, them. Listen to me.

You saw it happen when Asterix turned 50, when out-of-print Indrajal comics were suddenly back in demand, when the controversial Tintin in the Congo was released in 2005 or when Lee Falk, creator of Phantom and Mandrake, died in 1999.

I suppose it’s because we associate comics with the carefree joys of childhood, a period filled with innocence, laughter and magic realism; and my guess is that we refuse to grow up so that we can dive between the pages of our prized comics, with their colourful characters and speech bubbles, and lose ourselves anytime we want—our own private little haven.

We fans are crazy!

I have my share of dopey-eyed reminiscences too. I first met Asterix and Tintin, and their pals Obelix and Dogmatix and Snowy, Capt. Haddock and Prof. Calculus, when I was eight years old. My father brought them home from the circulating library and they haven’t left since. I remember he would sit cross-legged and hunched up on his bed, place the comics on the pillow, and read them. Every now and then I would hear sporadic bursts of laughter from his room. In fact, he used to laugh so loudly, that the bed would shake and move with him, as if the room was struck by a mild tremor.

In the years since then, I was introduced to a galaxy of heroes and superheroes from the infectious world of comics.

Instead of pontificating over Asterix and Tintin—like there is something about the comic duo that hasn’t been said already—I would like to share a few things about why these comics are hugely successful. Nothing new there either but I got to fill up my next speech balloon. So here goes…

Let’s put the fantastic art and storyboard aside. I seriously doubt whether Asterix or Tintin would have been as funny and captivating if they didn’t have a buddy (or buddies).

For instance, imagine Asterix without his boar-gorging, menhir-delivery, Roman-bashing friend Obelix. Alone, the Gallic warrior is never really as funny as he is with Obelix. On the other hand, left to himself, Obelix can be a riot.

In fact, several of Asterix's neighbours in the village of indomitable Gauls, most notably, Unhygienix, the fishmonger, and Fulliautomatix, the smith, who are always fighting; chief Vitalstatistix who is frequently ‘let down’ by his shield-bearers; Cacofonix the bard who loves singing while everyone else thinks he is unspeakable; and Geriatrix the oldest inhabitant who, when excited, brings his wooden stick down on Fulliautomatix’s foot—are often funnier.

Mercifully, Asterix and Obelix have been together in all 34 books including the latest Asterix and Obelix's Birthday: The Golden Book which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the yellow-mustachioed Gaul.

Ditto for Tintin, whose solo acts in comics like The Black Island, The Broken Ear and Tintin in America, are no patch on other titles where he is paired with Haddock, the bearded, drink-loving, foul-mouthed captain with a heart, and Calculus, the brilliant but hard-of-hearing, little-to-the-left pendulum-swinging scientist.

Now read the above three titles and then read Tintin in Tibet, Red Rackham's Treasure and the two-part Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon and you’ll see what I mean.

Most rib-tickling “couples” in comics and movies are seldom funny on their own. Their magic appeal lies in being together and doing their stuff together. Thus, you can’t think of Laurel without Hardy, Tom without Jerry, Mutt without Jeff, Bud Spencer without Terrence Hill, Calvin without Hobbes, Hägar without Lucky Eddie, Sadsack without the Sarge, Thomson without Thompson, Dennis without Mr Wilson or Lucky Luke without Jolly Jumper…and vice-versa.

Finally, the question on everyone’s lips: who do you like more—Asterix or Tintin? Ouch!

Recommended articles: Mr Walker's last mile by Vir Sanghvi at www.rediff.com/news/1999/mar/29vir.htm and Forget the critics, my vote goes to Tintin by Vir Sanghvi at www.livemint.com/2008/01/24235725/Forget-the-critics-my-vote-go.html