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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Comic Relief and R&R (Rest and Recreation)

                                                                                           Source: AP

Did you ever notice that people that have had to go through difficult times end up with the best sense of humor? In reading about famous actors and comedians, I'm always amazed about their childhoods. Great comics such as Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Mo'Nique, Steve Harvey, Eddie Murphy, Redd Fox, the list goes on, were able to find relief and refuge through comedy. Comics are able to capture a specific moment and retell it in a way that is captivating to their audiences. The receptive audience in turn, identifies with the funny material and laughs, which releases endorphins, a feel good chemical that your body releases when you laugh or exercise.

Many of the comics I mentioned were able to tap into the pain of oppression or poverty and persevere. For Blacks during my father's time, (segregation) folks would have get togethers, reunions, parties, sporting events, social clubs and worship services, which  provided a safe harbor against discrimination. Community ties were sacred and everybody knew whose child you were.

 You didn't dare act a fool in school because you would get the paddle AND even more trouble when you got home. Corporal punishment for misbehavior in school was usually done by the principal. Most of my friends that I grew up with whose parents were from the south and working class used this method of discipline. Children had to go and retrieve the belt or "switch" from the tree, which seemed like the longest march in history. Most comics of color usually have a routine where they describe being disciplined back in the day. Today, children receive time outs and loss of privileges, such as loss of cell phones, or no television. A child with any visible markings on their skin by law in many states are required to be reported to the protective services and authorities.


My parents worked very hard during the week, and every weekend my family would make the long, two hour drive from Hartford, CT to the World Famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, USA. They saw comics and great singing acts such as James Brown, The Supremes, Jackson 5, Etta James, Stevie Wonder.... a plethora   of jazz and r&b greats and had a wonderful time. (I was an infant so I don't recall these excursions) My parents also entertained people at home and played card games such as Bid Whist, and Spades.

                                                                            Jazz Great, Miles Davis
                                                                              Source: Havenshop.ca


 When I moved into my very first apartment, a loft with exposed brick,  Dad who by then was elderly, remarked, "Hey, this reminds me of Greenwich Village where I saw Miles Davis perform."  I immediately pictured Miles Davis, the cool jazz player, who was known to turn his back to the crowd, performing. Later on, when I directed plays, students would inadvertently turn their backs to their audience and I would shout out, "Miles Davis!" They would laugh because they remembered me describing his unconventional performance style. Miles Davis, the style icon, played the trumpet for fifty years. It was hard to select just one of his many black and white photos, I might add.

I didn't really joke around with my dad until my late teens. As I said before, strict, old school dad. "Dad, you so old that when you were young you had to start your car by turning a large handle outside!" I was being obnoxious and "grown". "Hey, you're right, my father had a Model T Ford and that's how we started the car." Oops. Technology has certainly come along way with remote starters and keyless entry. Anyways....

Never underestimate the power of comic relief, or entertainment. Soldiers require R&R (Rest and recreation) because it replenishes them. Entertainers also perform on bases for troops. For the Montford Point Marines, they had an extended R&R before deployment (I'll explain THAT in the future.) It could be the frightened mother and child in a homeless shelter. A frazzled management guy in the suburbs. An anxious child in school who is preparing for a state standardized test. If you are a breathing, living, human being, we all need comic relief, recreation and entertainment.

                                                                            Source: USO




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