Take Three Stooges and call me in the morning…

There was a story going around a few years back about someone who was dying of an incurable disease and given little to no chance for survival. Instead of getting high on prescription morphine or Demerol and living his last few months in a medicated fog, this person decided to fight with the best medicine of all—laughter. (Although when you’re trying to push a kidney stone the size of a raisin out of your penis, there’s nothing better than a big hypodermic needle full of Demerol to take your mind off your problems.) The story claims that after weeks of watching tapes of the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers, the dude’s cancer went into remission and he’s alive and well and selling homeowners insurance in Tulsa.

I don’t know if the story of this cure is true, but I do know that certain activities like intensive exercise, exposure to sunlight, and even petting a kitten or a puppy can trigger the body to act in a certain way. It causes the blood to flow more rapidly throughout the body, and it even releases certain elements like endorphins, oxymorons, and midoclorians into the bloodstream.

I don’t know the physiological effects, but after a hearty extended laugh I feel really good. (Unless it’s one of those cases where you find yourself laughing so hard that you don’t think you could stop. You just keep laughing harder and harder until you think you’re going to pop a blood vessel in your brain.)

One day, if I ever come down with a nasty case of toenail fungus or get a really bad canker sore on my lip, I’ll sit down and watch a few hours of the Benny Hill Show and see what happens.

Of course if I ever diagnosed with something really, really horrible, like the brittle bone disease that Samuel L. Jackson’s character had in the movie Unbreakable, or some form of cancer, I would immediately pull out he big guns in my home treatment arsenal.

My treatment would involve repeated viewings of the Will Ferrell film ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy’. In fact, I’d probably have it looped and playing on at least one television set around the clock. I’m not here to say that Anchorman is a perfect film. It’s not. It has one major flaw; it’s too short by nine or ten hours.

Will Ferrell is a young man and I’m sure he’s going to make a bunch more movies before he retires, but as of this writing Anchorman is the jewel in his crown. His performance is letter perfect. The writing and direction are both top-notch, provided by long time Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay. (I haven’t seen it yet, but rumor has it that McKay punched up some of Ferrell’s scenes and dialogue in Bewitched.)

The supporting cast draws from the stable of today’s funniest actors and comedians. Many of them have starred in or been featured in other films that would be in my ‘cured by comedy’ festival. They include: Steve Carell, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black. Paul Rudd and Christine Applegate are not two people who I would have necessarily cast in a comedy of this type, but they both knock it out of the park, along with the rest of the cast.

A major part of the appeal of this movie is that everyone on the screen sells it. There are no sly winks at the camera, letting us know that the actors are in on the gag. Most of the characters are clueless idiots, and the actors are confident enough to play them exactly that way. It’s the same factor that made Ben Stiller’s ‘Zoolander’ such a joy. When performances are unflinching we don’t feel the need to question them, and that means the scenes and dialogue get to take a direct path into our brains.

I’ve always believed that sincerity = comedy. Early in his career Steve Martin pulled this off to a ‘T’ in the movie The Jerk. I guess the whole formula first clicked fifty years earlier with the likes of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.

I hope I never have to find out if laughter is indeed the best medicine, but if I do, I have no problem filling the prescription.

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