Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh2 min read

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen FryMoab Is My Washpot

Fry here captures the truth that demonic mental spirits can be redeemed and turn into angels. Self-consciousness turns us yet leads us to activities of the mind.. language, literature. Apartness, an inability to join in, leads us to appreciate the absurdity of what is deemed “normal.” Shame and self-loathing turn to laughter and mad intensities when we are blessed to not take ourselves so seriously.

Many of the best comics who have ever been, are touched with a sort of genius notched up to mad proportions. Robin Williams was the best of my generation. He was never quite in his right mind. Better said, he had no “right” mind. It was as if his whole being was made of silly putty that could be shaped into something that could make anyone laugh, from a child with terminal cancer, to the Prime Minister of North Korea.

I adored Robin Williams. Even before my own bipolar diagnosis, it seemed obvious to me that he had a brand of manic-depression so explosive yet so well managed that I never doubted good would come of it. Except when it didn’t.

But if Robin Williams were here to do his own eulogy, he would not focus on the tragedy of the end, but the comedy along the way. Making fun of death and dying is one way we have to celebrate life.

“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
― Margaret MitchellGone with the Wind

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ― Woody Allen

“When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.”  ― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

Robin might have alluded to these greats on death, but he would have gone much further. He would have had people at the grave site randomly throw things into his casket and he would tell a story about it that would make them laugh until they cried. Then cried until they laughed. Some men would split open their barely-worn black suit pants three sizes too small. Some women would realize they hadn’t brought enough tissues for such an occasion, so snot would run down their faces and collect in globules on their chins.



About the Author:

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.