In the opening minutes of the new Aaron Sorkin film, Being the Ricardos, we learn that 60 million people tuned in each week to watch I Love Lucy, making it the most popular show on television for most of its six-year run. Viewers could count on marital hijinks between Lucy and Ricky, along with their neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz, but most of all they watched to laugh at the one-of-a-kind physical comedy of Lucille Ball and her character’s ditzy escapades. (One of the film’s re-creations: when Lucy stomps around in a vat of grapes and loses her earring.) To this day, an estimated 40 million Americans watch syndicated reruns of I Love Lucy, a series that ended production in 1957 and remains beloved around the globe.
The death on New Year’s Eve of another iconic comedienne, Betty White, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday, was another reminder of the powerful ability of laughter to bring people together. Various pundits from across the political spectrum noted that Betty White was one of the few wonderful people that everyone could agree on. Saturday Night Live’s replay of her 2010 appearance as host (at the ripe old age of 88) proved her wry and often salty appeal. Among the highlights: A sketch in which she appears on an NPR program to talk about her delicious muffins.
For myself, despite my best attempts during the holidays to stick to reading novels, multi-day marathon reruns of The Office were addictive. More than once I told my family as one episode ended, “Oh, just one more.” That’s a show—and nearly every character in it, but maybe especially the ridiculous Dwight Schrute played by Rainn Wilson—that never fails to make me laugh out loud.
In the coming months, as the challenges facing America and the globe intensify and accumulate, we might find it harder to just sit back and laugh together. So let’s take this moment to ask: Who makes you laugh? Or, what show or movie never fails to make you laugh? Goodness knows we all need a funny break now and then. So I hope you’ll share your favorites. As always, please be respectful of each other.
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