My best is when I am walking alone, and I remember something funny, and almost as I remember it I start wailing with laughter. It happens when I am driving, too, but there is something more sort of potent and embodied about being overwhelmed with laughter when you are walking around. It’s also more public, and so more of a total experience. It’s one of my favourite feelings.
It happened to me yesterday in the airport. I thought about how someone had recently reminded me of the existence of Gustave, one of the most famous crocodiles out there. Gustave is a hundred years old. Imagine being a crocodile who is called Gustave and on top of everything else you are a hundred. They made a movie about him starring Orlando Bloom, called “Primeval”. The original title was “Gustave”. I thought about all this, took it back a few notches and just ruminated on famous crocodiles as, like, a concept¸ thought about the Wikipedia category “Fictional crocodiles”, and burst out laughing directly into the check-in woman’s face. I told her that I wasn’t laughing at her, or at anything that was going on in the airport, but she knew already. She could see I was somewhere else entirely, cruising around on Planet Crocodile. Planet Gustave the Crocodile.
Also yesterday, I thought of how my friend Sarah described someone we both know and find odd as reminding her of Boxing Day. It was a perfect thing to say, because it was both completely right and completely mysterious. This person is the essence of Boxing Day, she is Boxing Day in human form, but why? I could find no reason for this “fact”. I told Caitie about it, and asked her what it was. She said “hearty good cheer to be found in empty traditions on the most depressing day of the year.” She said “think of her marching stiff limbed and banging cymbals to keep your attention off the window ledge.” It was so brilliant, and so spot on, and I feel sure that I will laugh about it until I die. I just laughed about it all the way home from the shops, alone.
This second one, actually, is a better example than Gustave the crocodile, because it relies on an understanding between the three of us. Sarah to make the observation, Caitie to perform exegesis, and me to laugh about it until I die. I suspect that no one will laugh at Gustave the crocodile as much as me, and will also not fully love my idea for a column called “Famous Crocodile”, where you rate different crocodiles on a scale of one to five stars, but instead of stars you have crocodiles. Some famous crocodiles I can think of off the top of my head: the one in Peter Pan, the ones in The Rescuers, the ones in Fantasia, King Gator, that alligator they found in a pool in Florida. This is naturally funny, to me, and requires no explanation. Crocodiles! Haha! That’s it! I might be the only one who really loves this joke, though. I have told some people about Gustave and they literally have not even smiled. Hectic. I suspect that I am alone on Planet Crocodile, but I know for sure that at least two other people in this world find the idea of the Human Boxing Day to be an absolute scream.
This has always been the big deal for me. The only game in town. A shared language of laughter is at the core of all of my closest and most important relationships. I have fallen in love with many ridiculous types because they made me laugh. I am freaked out by humourless people. I think I am actually afraid of them. There is no lonelier feeling, for me, than being with someone who doesn’t find the same things funny. I have ended relationships for this reason alone. My whole life, everything, is fuelled by laughter. This is not to say that I believe myself to be particularly funny, but rather that laughter is what keeps my entire show on the road. I think this is true of many people, or at least I hope it is.
Today is my 52nd essay, which means that I have been writing these for a year. I have got a lot out of doing this: I gave myself a goal and I stuck to it; people with the ability to give me work read them, and gave me work; I think it has made me a better writer. These are all wonderful things. The words “I am proud of myself” just flared in my mind. I give the whole experience five out of five crocodiles. I’m not going to stop doing them – I can’t actually imagine what I would do with myself if I did. Don’t say get a real job. Don’t say stop writing about crocodiles or whatever. I do have a real job, and many other things on the go, but these essays have become a big part of how I live. Like laughter, I revolve around them. So I won’t stop. But the fact that it has now been one year means that I should probably take the Opportunity to Reflect. I am very grateful for everything that doing this has brought into my life: the goal-setting and work-having etc. But the main thing, the big deal, has been the pals I have made.
I made friends out of doing this, which means that people I do not know read an essay I wrote about Captain Scott, or a dream I had where I drove out a party in a car, or swimming, or how much I hate Monopoly and also how much I hate Rumpelstiltskin. People I did not know read all this frankly odd material, and they did not back away in fear and concern. They did the completely other thing, which is that they became my friends. They said, basically, that they understood. They laughed. This sounds sentimental, and indeed is sentimental, but this has always been the only thing that mattered to me. Not making people laugh, exactly, but knowing that we share a language, and knowing that we get it, together. Thank you.