Bernard Mendelman: COVID-19 is no laughing matter…but

Comedian Sugar Sammy started performing new stuff in a number of secret locations but closed down because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

As I write this at the beginning of 2022, Quebec has reported the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic There is nothing funny about COVID-19, but with what we have been going through — dealing with overwhelming fear, anxiety, loneliness, and grief on a daily basis — we need something to lighten the stress load we’re all experiencing. Humour and some laughter could be just what the doctor ordered.

If it were up to me, every hospital and nursing home would have “Humour Rooms,” equipped with TVs and DVDs with comical videos for viewing. Instead of dreary soap operas, tasteless reality shows, and gloomy daily newscasts, residents will be watching Mel Brook movies, Seinfeld reruns, episodes of The Big Bang Theory and The Comedy Channel. In addition, there should be weekly visits from clowns, plus attendants supplying baskets filled with hilarious items for patients to horse around with.

A good joke can do more than just tickle your funny bone. Studies have shown that humour and laughter can improve your physical and mental health. A chuckle takes your mind away from your cares. For me, using humour is a healthy way to cope with a tough situation, easing my worries, and allowing me to move on with my life. I place a high value on a sense of humour. It makes it easier for me to relate to others and it increases my appreciation of community and belonging. I notice that people with a sense of humour tend to be less stressed out, anxious, and depressed.

When I laugh there’s a temporary increase in my heart rate and blood pressure that delivers oxygen and nutrients to my entire body. Laughter also relaxes tense muscles in my face, shoulders, and torso. Laughter encourages my body to produce new immune cells faster. A boosted immune system fights off many illnesses. Watching a hilarious film or television program makes it easier for me to deal with pain. When I laugh, my brain releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

By laughing at life’s little annoyances, it means the weight of the world hasn’t overcome you. A 94-year-old told me that the only thing he ever abused in his lifetime was laughing too much. An 89-year-old said, “Laughter is now my new exercise. It’s like jogging inside my body.”

In the 1960s, Norman Cousins, the prominent author, professor, and world peace advocate was diagnosed with a life-threatening and extremely painful autoimmune disease. Cousins, in his attempt to combat his illness, particularly the pain that he suffered constantly, developed a recovery program incorporating mega doses of Vitamin C, along with lots of daily laughter that included watching films by The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. Cousins claimed that a 10-minute belly laugh gave him two hours of painless sleep. He lived years longer than his doctors predicted.

Comedian Sugar Sammy, who has been performing in Paris, is now back in Montreal. In December he started performing new stuff in a number of secret locations — all sold out but now closed because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Segal Centre is also closed down. From January 22-30 they were supposed to present a production of YidLife Crisis. After years of making me laugh on the internet, Chaimie and Leizer were coming live with their signature thought-provoking shtick and kibitzing. I was looking forward to Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion’s comedy routines, but I guess this will now be in abeyance until things get back to normal.

Hopefully, things will improve by March 18 when Evenko will present an evening with Sebastian Maniscalco at the Bell Centre. One of today’s premier standup comedians, we need more people like Maniscalco who is forever able to seize the moment, never failing to speak his mind, and always telling it like it is. This is one man who isn’t afraid to put it all out there with his comedic point of view.

Comedian Bill Maher’s scheduled appearance for August 30, 2020, at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier was cancelled and then rescheduled for August 14, 2021. It will now take place on June 19, 2022. Hopefully by that date COVID-19 will be long past.

Until then we have little choice than to grin and bear it.

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