Corona Memoires: Laughter Is Great Medicine

Friday 17 April 202002:57 pm

Today I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane.

Humor is essential to our lives especially in times of trouble.

During the lockdown I have peppered my conversations with at least one or two humorous analogies wherever possible. Now I’d like to take you all back to my childhood when certain TV shows played an important role in my formative life.

In the Arab world, two countries provided social (and by extension political) comedy that transcended national and cultural boundaries: Egypt and Syria.

The characters of Ghawar, Husni and Fatoum were the stars of Sah El Nawm, a Syrian television show ostensibly about a village lodging house but in fact a platform ridiculing contemporary social mores and the bureaucracy of the Arab world. It resonated particularly strongly with the Lebanese who embraced it and aired it on Lebanese television, which was the only source of entertainment we had at home.  While the producer and star Duraid Laham produced many more overtly political film comedies, the simplicity of that show never stopped its appeal throughout my adulthood and especially in dark times like these.

Laughter is the best medicine. And you don’t have to worry if it’s covered by insurance.
I encourage you – in fact implore you - dear readers to take time out and revisit your favorite comedies.
Laugh out loud. Cry out loud. Just don’t keep it inside.

In Egypt, my favorites (from among a seemingly never-ending comedic well) were El Eyal Kebret (“The Kids Have Grown Up”) and Madraset El Moshaghbeen (“The School of the Mischievous”), two very funny plays that were televised. The first is about a dysfunctional family that comes together and rallies when they discover that their father is about to abandon them and run away with his secretary. Stratagems are devised, hilarity ensues – a typically Egyptian kind of humor that is understood by all. The second is centered around a school of adult children who have repeatedly failed high school, and the frustrated principal decides to bring in a new female teacher who uses gentler methods that yield better results, but only after a litany of hijinks.

You can think of these as stoner humor for the socially frustrated. I bonded with my shy but funny brother-in-law over these two comedies. When I first met him I mistook his shyness for aloofness but the second I asked him if he grew up watching those two plays his face lit up and thus began a friendship which continues to thrive until this day.

They were considered essential and - if we were lucky enough to have a video recorder - constant viewing. Those were the days when it took relatively little to be happy!

Later on, when we moved to London, Benny Hill was… well, Benny Hill. Are You Being Served and the timeless Fawlty Towers also joined the roster of mandatory viewing. Lately, I have been going back to watching and re-watching these comedies. They not only make me laugh but take me back to the more innocent times of my youth, before the decidedly unfunny coronavirus showed up.

When I moved to New York, Garry Shandling was “da bomb” and his alter ego was the host of my favorite American comedy show, the eponymous Larry Sanders Show.  Along the way, classics like M*A*S*H* and Seinfeld also made the cut, joined more recently by Larry David in his brilliant Curb your Enthusiasm and the ensemble cast of the wonderful Arrested Development.

Laughter is the best medicine. And you don’t have to worry if it’s covered by insurance.

I encourage you – in fact implore you - dear readers to take time out and revisit some of your favorite comedies.

Laugh out loud. Cry out loud. Just don’t keep it inside.


*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Raseef22

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