Laughter and tears: fitting remedies for Christmas - Life and Style - The Independent

Laughter and tears: fitting remedies for Christmas

RADIO

A TRAIN was very late out of Charing Cross the other night. Laconically, the guard apologised: the delay was caused by a fatality on the line, he explained, adding, with weary cynicism, "silly season, I'm afraid". Such lurches of emotion - from exasperation, to horror, to bathos - are very Christmassy. Strenuous efforts to reproduce the peace and goodwill promised by the Bethlehem angels are not always rewarded: joy usually creeps in unannounced, and rare is the household that does not Laugh a Little, Cry a Little (WS).

As the sun rises bright and warm on a garden in India, members of the Laughing Club International meet to practise. Laughter, explains their founder earnestly, is excellent therapy for bronchitis and asthma, exercising the lungs and reducing blood pressure. At first they told jokes to get started, but that became risky with ladies present, so now they solemnly ho-ho-ho themselves into guffawing jollity, like so many novice Father Christmases. Laughter is a weapon no sadist can disarm, no amnesty confiscate. Its closeness to grief is proverbial; by some mysterious alchemy, tragedy can readily provoke either, and both spill over into tears - which distinguish us from animals and offer us a vital waterway back towards serenity.

Lydia Syson's thoughtful, intelligent programme was the most sophisticated of many attempts to define and celebrate happiness this Christmas. John Bird sadly failed to conjure up the elusive, exotic wraith of Peter Cook in Cook's Tour (R4) on Boxing Day. One of the people he asked for help with the programme had advised him that the only possible way to do it was to make it all clips, but he tried valiantly to do more than that. The clips, however, were what you wanted to hear, and Bird himself admitted that discussions of comic procedure tend to be depressing. Still, Willie Rushton did offer a nice thought, that John Major's voice is directly descended from E L Wisty. It's true, isn't it?

More successful was Roy Hudd's Extremely Amusing History of the Comic Song (R2), which really lived up to its title. Hudd is an amazing man, immensely knowledgeable but blessed with a deft lightness of touch that allows him to inform painlessly. His own rendition of a Purcell song was brilliantly funny - but the whole hour was highlights. I particularly liked Marie Lloyd's lovely refained voice belting out "Every Little Movement Has a Story of Its Own" with outrageous innuendo, and it was very pleasing to know that her real name was the same as her illustrious successor in the genre, Victoria Wood.

Also living up to its title was an appalling offering from R1. Midnight Massacre was a horrible thing, both offensive and emotional in its blatantly lurid attempt to appeal to yoof by means of heavy-rock music intercut with quasi-spiritual experiences. If the Worldwide Message Tribe are really "Britain's hippest Christian band", as the Radio Times declares, then God help Britain.

Now just a mention of Emma Freud's enjoyable study of urban myths in A Friend of a Friend (R4). These modern folk tales are gloriously preposterous affairs, given credence by the fact that they happened to your brother- in-law's next-door neighbour's best friend's auntie. Some are familiar, but one I hadn't heard before was about a dog taken to a vet, choking. The vet keeps it in for observation/surgery, but the owner's phone is ringing as she returns home. "Call the police at once," says the vet and, sure enough, a burglar is hiding, locked up in the bathroom, nursing his hand - which is lacking three fingers. Aaargh.

Finally, back to the search for happiness and Nick Baker's jokey effort. Don't Worry, Be Happy (R4), he suggested, asking a team of "experts" to concoct a recipe for happiness. As they toiled away producing the kind of vital ingredients that we amateurs could readily suggest, namely health, wealth, love and job satisfaction, he went to extremes. The imprisoned Terry Waite was happy when a chance to look out of a window offered him a glimpse of a woman carrying bright flowers; Elvis, labouring on the "hedonic treadmill", was ultimately incapable of joy, despite having access to the most disgustingly vast sandwiches I have ever been asked to imagine.

And then along came Professor Eysenck. Oh yes, he's the one they always ask. He pretended to have brought along something new. He prevaricated a bit, wrapped it up in different paper, hid it behind his back, but in the end, de-spite more years of earnest research, he produced the same answer he always gives. Toss away your Prozac and your video, leave the post-Jungian monks contemplating the pretty patterns on their carpets in Kentish Town, and get out there and do the one thing the Professor guarantees will make you happy. On with your kilt, pump up your bagpipes and start on the Scottish dancing: after all, it is Hogmanay.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week