Oftentimes, people say that laughter is the best medicine. Sure—laughter can cure bad days, and hard times, but laughter is not the only way that we can cope with problems. We as human beings go through many emotions, and as you can tell, laughter is only one of them. When people face tough situations, their reaction to the episode can be with tears, laughter, or both.
When we go through extremely hard and agonizing incidents, sometimes the only way we can cope with the pain is by laughing. In contrast, problems that we find to be the most wearisome can make us feel confused and troubled. It is often true that our responses to dilemmas in life are based upon laughter or tears. In Dick Gregory’s autobiography Nigger, Momma teaches Dick “There’s more hope in laughing,” (25). During Dick Gregory’s life, he faces trials and tribulations as well as discrimination; he copes with his complications through laughter and he learns that laughter can be an affective cure, yet it can also be useless during tragedies.
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During Dick Gregory’s early years, he uses his Momma’s advice to get people on his side; he laughs at himself first before anyone else can. Dick Gregory learns the power of a joke while growing up. He is raised on welfare and kids in the neighborhood give him a hard time about it. For instance Dick gets made fun of a lot, but he learns that if he can make jokes about himself first, then the other kids will not climb all over him. Dick Gregory writes, “They were going to laugh anyway, but if I made the jokes they’d laugh with me instead of at me. I’d get the kids off my back, on my side. So I’d come off that porch talking about myself,” (41). Kids are always tormenting Dick Gregory and instead of using tears to cope with this occurrence, Dick uses laughter. From Momma’s words, he uncovers that laughing is a healthier way of dealing with a situation rather than crying. Dick has the choice of how to react towards the kids in his neighborhood. Dick can choose to brawl with his bullies or he can even try to run away from his problem, but instead, Dick chooses to tell jokes. This is Dick Gregory’s way out of this unpleasant position. As Dick grows up, there are other times in his life where he uses his wit, and his humor to escape troublesome events. For instance, Dick Gregory encounters a bully who wants to knock the daylights out of him. Dick casually says, “ ‘Baby, you better kill me quick. If you don’t, I’m gonna steal those cool shoes you wearin’,’ ”(47). When Dick gets into a situation that involves hostility, he just humors his tormentor in order to break away from this uncomfortable condition. He finds hope in laughing during bad incidents as an alternative to using violence or expressing grief because he sees that he does not need to use aggression or to bring himself down in order to get his point across. Dick Gregory’s reactions to setbacks are telling jokes and using humor. He sees what good laughter can bring to a person. In later parts of his autobiography, Dick shows that wit can overpower cruelty.
In the period of the Civil Rights movement, Dick Gregory is very active; police officers say offending phrases to him, but Dick handles it with laughter. While Dick Gregory demonstrates in the South, there are people against him who are yelling back at him, but he uses jokes instead of violence to outsmart the police officers. Dick takes Momma’s advice into consideration because he uses the power of laughter to make the event better for him. Dick Gregory says, “ ‘ Your momma’s a nigger.
Probably got more Negro blood in her than I could ever hope to have in me, ‘ “ (170). When Dick says this, the police officer is taken by surprise. Gregory writes, “He dropped my other arm then, and backed away, and his hand was on his gun. I thought he was going to explode. But nothing happened,” (170). This police officer is saying very unkind statements to Dick, but he is staying calm about it. He is not fighting back at the officer. The only thing that Dick is doing is using his words, and jokes to put the police officer in his place. Dick Gregory does not feel the need to fight back because if he does, he will be stooping down to the level of his opponents. Eventually, the police officer leaves Dick alone. Dick does not even have to use resistance in order to be let go. Dick uses Momma’s advice by using laughter as a weapon during distasteful moments. Dick Gregory says, “ ‘How could any man be funny when a dumb superintendent of police lets these heathen cops do the things they do?’ “ (173). Then he writes, “He got red and walked out,” (173). In this passage, Dick shows that using comedy as a tactic is much more affective than other actions like crying or fighting. He sees laughter as a strong force that can take hold of any person. During uncomfortable events, Dick tries to make the best of them by simply telling a joke. He shows that laughter can provide hope during times of tragedy because he becomes the better person when he uses humor against the person who is aggravating him. Although laughter can give comfort to a person, it does not always provide answers during very dreadful experiences.
In earlier parts of his autobiography, Dick Gregory writes about how his family is underprivileged; Dick makes fun of his mother and his family, but no matter how funny his jokes are, and no matter how hard he laughs, his wit will not solve their problems. Dick’s family is on welfare and Dick reacts to this problem by telling jokes about how poor he is and he pokes fun at his momma’s cooking. Even though he uses comedy to try and solve his problem, Dick Gregory realizes that no matter how many jokes he makes, he will still have financial problems at the end. Dick Gregory writes, “But mostly I’d use family jokes, about how my mother was such a bad cook, maybe the worst cook in the world . . . But that wasn’t really very funny,” (42).
Dick sees that using comedy, and laughter is not the right way out of dealing with his family’s money problems. His family is suffering a lot from hunger and he realizes that laughter is not the right way to handle this incident. Laughter cannot do anything to change the fact that Dick, and his family is on welfare. Laughter is ineffective in dealing with Dick and his family’s problems because laughter cannot buy them food nor can it provide them with clothing or new pairs of shoes. Another occasion where Momma’s advice is not suitable is when Dick is having dinner over his friend’s house. His friend’s mom gets upset at Dick, and he writes, “Yeah, I used to say thanks but you all made me feel so at home, like I belonged there with you. I never say thanks at home . . . Why’d she have to say that? Ain’t he got no mother and father?” (44). In this passage, Dick Gregory is distressed at what his friend’s mom says because he feels like he is part of their family. At Dick’s house they never sit down, and eat together. The feeling of having a family is so important to Dick that when his friend’s family accepts him, Dick is overjoyed. Dick cannot laugh at this event because it is an extremely heartbreaking occurrence for him. This is no laughing matter for Dick because he is already insecure about his family and when someone makes him even more apprehensive about his family, it just breaks him into pieces. Making jokes is not going to boost up his confidence for his family or himself. During another tragic event in Dick Gregory’s life, he understands why laughter is not always the best remedy.
When Dick is an adult, he has a baby boy who dies of overnight pneumonia; this sorrowful episode teaches Gregory that using humor and jokes will not bring his son back. Laughing at certain life situations can be a very healthy experience, but during other cases, laughing can be very distressful. Laughter can solve predicaments like arguments, but during serious catastrophes like death, hilarity cannot explain anything. In his son’s death, Dick is stricken with disbelief. He tries to make himself feel better by trying to stay calm, and by using his sense of humor, but he realizes that the death of his son is too severe of an issue to laugh off. A white boy calls Dick Gregory and says, “ ‘Mister Gregory, Tell me some jokes,’ “ (184). Dick Gregory replies, “ ‘Listen, white boy, us niggers up North are more sophisticated than you white folks down there. We never work after 11:30 at night. You’ll have to call me back during my working hours,’ “ (184-5). Dick’s son is dead, and Dick tries to deal with this depressing happening by keeping his wittiness. Dick writes, “For some reason, when they didn’t hear the cry for pity or sympathy or tolerance in my voice, they became ashamed. In their own little way they said they were sorry,” (185). This passage explains that Dick is not handling his son’s death by crying. He is trying to stay strong by still keeping his positive outlook, and his humor. The case is that Dick is trying to deal with this situation the wrong way. Sometimes laughter is not an efficient way of dealing with things. Sometimes the best way to express grief is by crying. Dick can laugh all he wants, but he cannot change the fact that his son is gone. His son is dead and he cannot do anything physically to bring his son back to life. Dick realizes that the best way to grieve his son is not by laughing, but by using his sorrow to remember the life of his son.
Laughter is a very good form of therapy. It makes people happy during sad times, and it helps people to get through certain challenges in life. Sometimes laughing has its downfalls and that is why it is not appropriate to laugh during tremendously disastrous proceedings. Most of the time, we respond to events in life by either laughing or crying. Dick Gregory learns that laughter can do him good during times of need and times of trouble. He also discovers that laughter is a better way of dealing with life crisis rather than using an act of violence or shedding tears. In some cases, laughter cannot console a person through sorrowful events like death.
Obstacles will come and go throughout our lives. We will all have different ways of dealing with these challenges, but as Dick Gregory’s mother’s advice says, “If you walk through life showing the aggravation you’ve gone through, people will feel sorry for you, and they’ll never respect you. She taught us that man has two ways out in life—laughing or crying. There’s more hope in laughing,” (25).
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