This is one of those times when our life preserver in a sea of sadness can be our sense of humor. As one anonymous philosopher described it , “It’s the icing on a very crumby reality cake.”

When choosing friends and especially a lifetime mate, make sure they’ve been blessed with this heaven-sent gift. You can manage to live in harmony with someone who doesn’t share your views on politics, religion, art and maybe even major league baseball, but if they lack a sense of humor, there’s going to be trouble.

Most people seem willing and able to be amused, to laugh or at least smile at something “funny”. The gloomy minority often finds this jocular attitude strange and even irrational. Sometimes I have great difficulty telling one of my favorite jokes. I usually can’t help laughing during the recitation and right after I’ve delivered the socko punchline and I’m sitting there, helpless, slapping my knee and out of breath, someone will ask, “So that was the joke?”

What people consider funny may depend on what country they live in, their age, social level, intelligence and even their occupation. Their sense of humor can be wry, witty and even of the gallows type, being courageously able to laugh when beset by serious trouble. However, if your date at the movies begins to giggle and guffaw during the torture scene of a slasher film, that could be a bad sign.

The subject has been studied by scientists. Some claim proper therapy can help those born without funny bones by exposing them to stand-up comedians and comedy movies and TV shows. Just being in an audience that’s roaring with laughter may trigger your herd instinct and you’ll begin to join in. Someone can explain the jokes to you later.

Mark Twain disagreed with the scientists. “Studying humor,” he said, “is like dissecting a frog. You may or may not learn something, but you end up with a dead frog.” (That was a test. Did you laugh at Twain’s little joke or did you just feel bad for the frog?)

We’ve been advised by W.C.Fields to “start off each day with a smile and get it over with.” Of course, this popular sourpuss just said that because he wanted to make us laugh.

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