Tom Purcell, 5/3/2010 [Archive]

For Mother's Day --Spreading the Art of Laughter

For Mother's Day -- Spreading the Art of Laughter

By Tom Purcell

I handed my debit card to the owner of a barbecue restaurant. He saw my name on the card.

"Is your mother's name Elizabeth?" he asked.

When I nodded, he burst out laughing. And then proceeded to confess to a prank, motivated by my mother, that he'd pulled on my family 30 years ago.

My mother, you see, is a little bit "out there." People would refer to her as "eccentric" if she were as wealthy financially as she is wealthy otherwise.

Her greatest wealth is her art of laughter.

She knew laughter's benefits long before scientific studies confirmed them. When she wasn't laughing herself, she was teaching us how.

Most nights after dinner, we sat around the table, relating stories about we'd done and laughing aloud.

While many parents in our neighborhood went out on Saturday nights, my mother preferred to stay home.

We'd make banana splits and watch the Carol Burnett show, and as Tim Conway's old-man routine made me laugh so hard that I'd fall off the couch, she'd watch me, delighted that I was learning her art so well.

She collected friends even more eccentric than she. One lady, Marty, had five children -- my mother had six. Both had been housewives their entire adult lives -- both wanted to try their hand at writing.

My mother soon published a few magazine articles -- Erma Bombeck-style housewife humor. She and Marty wrote a play, "Betty's Attic," that a local theater company performed.

They sold jokes to Phyllis Diller. They were thrilled to see her do their jokes at a live show -- delighted by the laughter their jokes provoked.

The writing never produced much money, though, so my mother concocted another plan to generate extra cash. Did she get a part-time job, like normal moms in our neighborhood?

No, she dressed up like Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Raggedy Ann or Clown Clara and staged children's parties for parents desperate to pay her. It was easy for her to bring instant order to a room of 40 kids or more.

She was soon staging three parties every Saturday -- all of them as Clown Clara, to avoid costume changes.

As fate would have it, though -- and I'm not making this up -- a thief dressed as a clown had been robbing area banks.

But she still was surprised when a cop roared into a driveway where she had just pulled in for one of her gigs, jumped out and began barking at her.

It took some time to clear up the confusion -- at one point, the cop thought my mother was in cahoots with the guy who'd hired her to stage his kid's party. But when everybody finally figured out what was going on, she had but one response: a giant burst of laughter.

Which brings us back to the barbecue restaurant.

The fellow who owned the joint had lived in a neighborhood near ours during my mother's Clown Clara period. A teen then, he was friends with my sister Mary.

He and his buddies, aware that my mother dressed as a clown -- everyone in our neighborhood knew about Clown Clara -- could not fend off the temptation to prank-call our home.

Late at night, after sneaking beers in the woods, he'd call our house, disguising his voice as Mickey Mouse.

"Is Clown Clara there?" he'd say, his friends laughing aloud in the background.

It happened 30 years ago -- and he's still laughing about it.

That's my mother: spreading the art of laughter wherever she goes.

© 2010 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email sales@cagle.com. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications.



Download Tom Purcell's color photo - Download Tom Purcell's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tom Purcell's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

Moms Rock COLOR
By: Cameron Cardow
The Ottawa Citizen
May 11, 2007

Moms Rock
By: Cameron Cardow
The Ottawa Citizen
May 11, 2007

This is my Mom
By: Mike Lester

May 6, 2005

Mothers Day color
By: Michael Kountouris

May 11, 2007

Mothers Day
By: Michael Kountouris

May 10, 2007

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829 sales@cagle.com
Billing Information: (805) 969-2829billing@cagle.com
Technical Support: support@cagle.com

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. [Privacy Policy]