The Gospel Truth

The Best Medicine | October 10, 2010

I just started reading Marlo Thomas’ new book Growing Up Laughing about growing up in a home riven with jokes and good humor.

Her late father was Danny Thomas and he gave me the best rule of thumb…or motto about having fun and making jokes.

A House of Laughs


One should never ridicule or mock another human being.  Doing lines on fat people, short people or evenbaldpeople…without their implicit permission is dead wrong.

Danny said on his Make Room for Daddy show one time that the only person I have the right to make fun of is myself.

That rule of humor and more importantly of life has been the standard that I use to laugh and have a good time.

I am very good at self-effacing commentary.

My new favorite is I am an only child and I never was my parent’s ‘favorite’ child. They liked the neighbors kids better.

Or my dad predicted I would be a football player.  This is the end.

I figure every one else makes fun of me–I had better beat them to the punch.

Where I come from Borst-picking is in season 24/7.

If only more people would learn the positive value of humor.

It has been said  Laugh and the world laughs with you.  Cry and you cry alone!

Due to our growing trend toward narcissism and victimhood, this truism has been effectively turned on its head.

We are fast becoming a land of whiners and crybabies.

Millions flock daily to Oprah with the expectation of seeing people they can cry with or whose lives mirror their own sad existence.

Tears reign where laughter once ruled.

As for myself, I have always liked to laugh and make fun.

If I don’t chuckle twenty times a day, I tend to feel nervous or get headaches.

I need that natural endorphin rush to go about life with a smile on my face.  That thought is not just in my imagination.

The late editor of the Saturday Evening Post, Norman Cousins dramatically proved that laughter is the best medicine, many years ago when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Determined that his time was not up, Cousins rented a motel room, replete with a VCR.


Laurel and Hardy kept him alive


He spent a week, inundating himself with the side-splitting antics of Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers.

Personally Groucho and his siblings never did anything for me.

The results were astonishing.

Cousins survived his terminal disease, only to die in 1990 at the age of 75 of a different malady— one more presumably resistant to the therapeutic powers of slapstick comedy.

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Never liked them myself


People have always though I was funny.

I am aware the word has two connotations.

I have tried to entertain small groups in conversation ever since my grandfather’s wake thirty-five years ago.

My relentless pursuit of the evocative, cheek-swelling reaction to my hilarious barbs has served me well at parties and social gatherings ever since.

I even tried a standup comedy routine on a cruise many years ago.

I dutifully prepared four minutes of humor.

Like teaching and writing, the rules are that you should only do what you know best or what your audience can relate to.

So I did lines on each member of my immediate family.

My delivery was near perfect, yet the three hundred and fifty people in the audience found occasion to laugh only at references to Matthew, my eight-year old son, who I said had the instincts of a terrorist.

I don’t think anyone would laugh at that today.

The prior evening my wife had been commandeered from the audience to assist a magician in his act.

He wanted to cut off her head.

I used that in my monologue, talking about her shortcomings and the fact that before the act was over four ladies inquired as to my availability after the show.

Not only did no one laugh at that remark, one woman scolded me for having had the nerve to say such things about my wife.

Or perhaps she didn’t like my comment about my wife as Attila the Honeybun.

The success of my humor is that it often blows back in my face.  I tend to be a bit wordy.  That’s like saying Mother Teresa was a bit holy.

My wife gave me a tee-shirt that read, I am talking and I can’t shut-up.  I love that shirt!

After spending two weeks on a bus tour a new friend asked me, Do you breathe through your ears, because I have not seen you stop talking long enough to do so?

I also consider myself a student of humor, especially political humor.

This country has had a rich and proud tradition of funny people from the political satire of Will Rogers through the physical antics of Jackie Gleason, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor.

Rogers once said that when Congress makes a joke…it’s a law.

I wonder if that’s what President Obama had in mind with his health care bill.

No president had a better sense of humor than Ronald Reagan.  I can’t help thinking back to his debate with Democratic challenger, Fritz Mondale when Reagan said that people were worried that Mondale might be too young for the job.

Chevy Chase was marvelous in his 1976 satire of President Gerald Ford.

I’ll never forget Chase’s pratfall in a breakaway-voting booth that cracked three of his ribs.

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Probably cost Ford the election


I’ll bet he cost Ford a million votes.

As a result the comedian became addicted to pain pills, requiring a period of recovery at the Betty Ford Clinic. Now that’s real irony!

Our political debates have taken us down a route that even Jay Leno nor David Letterman can’t restore.

What passes for humor today is generally mean-spirited and because of the political correct nature of so much of our discourse, it is increasing more difficult to tweak individuals with group consciousness without being charged with outlandish claims of insensitivity.

As a result comedians have retreated into the safe harbors of their own groups for humorous exchange.

All this being said, we should all reflect on what philosopher Russell Kirk wrote,  A sense of humor can only exist in a world of faith.

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The Thinking Man's Conservative


It is my deep fear that our country has broken faith with its past, having forfeited that wonderful gift which Kirk called the trace of God’s smile.

But it is never too late.  Maybe a good laugh is still the best medicine for what ails us.  Try it and let me know if it works.


1 Comment »

  1. BB, I like to laugh but don’t do too much of it. not much is funny these days. The only tv show that I enjoy is andy Griffith. Pax.

    Comment by Mary B — October 11, 2010 @ 2:51 am

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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