Introduction  

The Funny Gene  

We have both spent a lifetime making people laugh. We have given hundreds of humorous talks, written one-liners for comedians, gags for cartoonists, text for greeting cards, magazine articles, and newspaper columns. We’ve even written for politicians. For writing about our quirky views of life we have both received certificates and awards. We never turn these awards down. We forward them to our high school teachers who told us we’d never amount to anything if we didn’t settle down and quit joking around.

 

Now that we’ve both hit middle age, many of our parts have indeed settled, and in a southward position too, but we haven’t as yet “settled down.” We have found that our humorous take on life has helped us to get through some difficult times, not by laughing at them. By laughing through them.

 

Laughter has saved our jobs, our marriages and kept us both relatively sane. It has unclogged our arteries and kept us uncommonly thin. ...Okay, our arteries aren’t totally unclogged, but so far the cookie dough ice cream lining our aortas hasn’t broken loose and caused any major damage. Laughter is our life. And it is the only thing left on earth that the government can’t tax (though we understand they are working on it).

 

As much as we both love to laugh, we must confess that there are times we have found ourselves in the “cold places” of life. Swamped by discouragement, trapped beneath our circumstances, robbed of laughter and joy. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. Although we believe that a sense of humor is a gift from God, too many of us seem content to surrender that gift to the joy thieves of life, or worse yet, leave the gift unwrapped, high on a shelf somewhere. Leaving it unwrapped is like going through brain surgery without anesthesia. You may be able to do it, but boy, is it gonna hurt!

 

God knew laughter would be important in life. That’s why the equipment was installed on the assembly line, but we sometimes choose to ignore it. The emergency brake release button is right there in plain sight, but we bump along neglecting to use it, wondering why we’re seeing all that smoke in the rearview mirror, forgetting that we have a built in release valve that we’re not taking advantage of. Surrendering our joy to bullies or joy thieves is equally self-defeating.

 

You may be surprised to discover that even comedians don’t always live a joy-filled life. As odd as that sounds, many will confess to the truth of that statement. They can stand before audiences of thousands, making them laugh, knowing all the while that their own funny bone is broken and should be in a cast. We both have friends in the comedy world whose lifelong struggle is restoring and maintaining their joy. Before his death, Rodney Dangerfield was asked by Time magazine, “Do you think being depressed is an occupational hazard for a comedian?” He answered, “That’s the way it is; what can I tell you? The better the comedian, the more depressed he is. When I was 15, I tried to escape being unhappy by writing jokes.”

 

To further prove our point, we could attempt to list all the comedians throughout history who were raised in dysfunctional homes, suffered major losses in life, and battled bouts of depression, but then we’d have to sell this book for $240 because of the page count!

 

In a recent email to Phil, a young father asked the question “Who stole my joy? Please tell me where to find it and how to bring it back.”  

 

It is a question both of us hear almost on a daily basis. Perhaps you’ve been asking it, too. Maybe the laughter that once echoed down the hallways of your home is gone. Perhaps the circumstances you are in right now—or have been in for years—have pinned you to the mat. You can’t see the sun that rises every morning, much less the fridge light bulb (even though it’s there, right behind the brownies). If that sounds like you, then we hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll be on the road to regaining your joy.

 

Are we saying that your circumstances will miraculously change if you add more humor to your life? No. If you release that emergency brake and laugh a little more, will your estranged spouse come home, will your doctor change that diagnosis that has you consumed with worry, will you have an unlimited supply of money, and will all your children make the dean’s list at Harvard? Maybe. Maybe not. Are we saying that the stories and the laughter in the coming pages will help you stress a little less over those areas of life that are beyond your control? We hope so. Can laughter be the lubricant you need when life gets too hard to maneuver through? Absolutely. Will your sense of humor make the pain a little easier to take? You bet. Will a few dozen hearty laughs per day burn up some unwanted calories? Without a doubt, and without even breaking a sweat! Laughter, the more we learn about it, the more we realize it’s nature’s wonder drug.

 

So if, like many of our comedian friends, you buried your funny bone years ago, we invite you to dig down through the pain and disappointment that have covered it all these years, and discover joy and hope once again. We’ll even show you some secrets for doing so. And if your sense of humor is in perfect working order and you just picked up this book because you’re on a laughter diet and would rather laugh than skip the carbs, we hope there’s plenty here for you too! Whatever brought you to these pages, we just want you to promise us one thing. If you like even some of what you read here, please feel free to send us a line. We’ll forward your note to our high school teachers. It’ll make them feel so much better for passing us. 

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