By The Landlord
What is it? A strange nervous, pleasurable choking? An audible respiratory orgasm? Laughter is defined as a physical reaction in humans and some species of primate consisting of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system. But where do we start. With Elvis of course. Respect to those backing singers who just kept going. That might have been what kept The King in tears:
From the sound of a snorting pig to an asthmatic seal, everyone has their own individual laugh – uncontrollable, suddenly exposing the real self, released briefly from the seriousness and self-consciousness of life into wonderful and sometimes bizarre, often infectious joy. So this week we’re looking at songs that not only mention the act of laughing in song, but also do it, whether that be throughout, like a certain laughing policeman, or at spontaneous moments within it, in all kinds of contexts. Laughter, like fingerprints, is always unique, but also covers a whole spectrum of emotions.
Ken Dodd, who never does less than a four-hour standup show, and is never shy of going on a bit, actually sums up some humour’s different forms of laughter in an uncharacteristically compact form: “Laughter is like a rainbow. At the top is white laughter – little kids playing and laughing their heads off at the sheer joy of being alive. Beautiful. Then there’s yellow, the laughter of clowns. Red is the laughter of romance… right at the bottom is the dark laughter of satire and cruel cynicism.”
There’s nothing quite like the real thing, but laughter still inspires and variety of amusing definitions from a variety of cards now coming up to order at the Song Bar: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose,” Woody Allen, snorting out his white Russian. “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face,” chips in Victor Hugo. “Ninety-eight per cent of laughter is nothing to do with jokes.” comes the droll voice of Arthur Smith, propping up the bar. “Laughter is like inner jogging,” says Norman Cousins, rather inspiringly. And Mozart, portrayed in the wonderful, if not always accurate film, Amadeus, was shown to have a rather annoying high-pitched, nervous giggle. We'll never know if it was true, but it's certainly an amusing idea for the genius:
And now, twirling his stick, Charlie Chapin quips that “a day without laughter is a day wasted,” before proceeding to get utterly wasted himself. And finally, here comes Jasper Carrot. “Laughter is the best medicine,” he says. “Oh not that old cliche!” everyone else replies. “Well it is,” he says, unless you're diabetic, then insulin comes pretty high on the list.” A light chuckle completes the selection of laughter on the bar menu.
But then again there’s more. Laughter appears in all forms in song. There’s the incidental type in this rather glorious instrumental funk piece, in which, if you listen carefully, you’ll here some rather saucy giggling, revealing rather more going on than you might think:
You might pick out, for example, songs that talk about laughing, or indeed not laughing, and contain a melancholy hue, such as this from Regina Spektor:
Sarah Vaughan isn’t laughing either, but she’s certainly planning to:
Your choices might contain a form of crazy, enunciated spoken laughter, perhaps by a certain Mr Bowie and his vertically challenged friend, or such as that supplied by Napoleon XIV:
Or you might find the rather evil laughter of Vincent Price on Michael Jackson’s Thriller rather fetching:
But these are simply just some of many examples to explore and available to nominate this week, whether that be in songs where laughter is throughly discussed, or incidentally appear either as a brief moment, or throughout any song. All are equally valid. Whatever makes you laugh, laughing at or with, laughing to stop crying, or light harrumphs of laughter in brief phrases. Some of you may recall, a very long time ago, a topic of smiling and laughing, but may also recall that that gathered playlists ended up being all about the former, but hardly at all about laughter, so it’s high time we all had proper laugh.
So who is going to have the last laugh this week, in choosing playlists from you suggestions? I am overjoyed again to announced that this week’s leading lady of laughter is Hoshino Sakura! Put forward your songs that are about, or contain laughter in comments below by last orders on Monday, for the lists published next Wednesday. Ha ha!
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.