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Light a Candle
The disciples of a Hasidic Rabbi complained about the presence of the forces of darkness in the World. The Rabbi counseled them to take brooms and sweep out the darkness. They tried to sweep out the darkness, but they were unsuccessful. Next he advised his disciples to shout away the darkness. They tried to shout away the darkness, but they were unsuccessful. Finally he advised his disciples to meet the challenge of darkness by lighting a candle. Each of his disciples lit a candle and the darkness was gone.
The Golden Rule
Paul Krassner remembers comedian George Carlin as a very kind man. Occasionally, Mr. Krassner would perform in Los Angeles, and Mr. Carlin would send a limo to pick him up and would let him stay in his home. When Mr. Krassner opened for Mr. Carlin at the Warner-Grand Theater in San Pedro, California, the two hung out together in Mr. Carlin’s dressing room. Mr. Krassner was also able to see Mr. Carlin interact with fans: “I watched as he continued to be genuinely gracious with every fan who stopped by. If they wanted his autograph, he would gladly sign his name. If they wanted to be photographed with him, he would assume the pose. If they wanted to have a little chat, he indulged them with congeniality.” Mr. Krassner said to Mr. Carlin, “You really show respect for everybody.” And Mr. Carlin replied, “Well, that’s just the way I would want to be treated.”
“Well-Played, Anonymous Ticket-Finder”
On Saturday, April 12, 2008, Jon Sorak of Park Forest and his significant other, Melinda, were looking forward to seeing Jerry Seinfeld at the Chicago Theater in, of course, Chicago. They ate dinner at Harry Caray’s, then took a few photographs on State Street, and then found out that their tickets were missing. Mr. Sorak realized that the tickets had probably fallen out of his pocket when he had taken his camera out, so they searched for the tickets in that area but did not find them. They then talked to a security officer at the Chicago Theater, who directed them to the Will Call office, and their tickets were handed to them. Mr. Sorak says, “In a city where scalping is the norm, someone was honest and kind-hearted enough to [turn in the tickets]. Our thanks and prayers to this Good Samaritan.” Movie critic Richard Roeper, who wrote about this good deed in his blog, adds, “Well-played, anonymous ticket-finder.”
“Alas, Poor Yorick”
When improvisational comedian Del Close died, he left this provision in his will: “I give my skull to the Goodman Theatre, for a production of Hamlet in which to play Yorick, or for any other purposes the Goodman Theatre deems appropriate.” However, when he died, Charna Halpern, his partner at ImprovOlympic, was unable to get his head, and therefore Ms. Halpern had his entire remains cremated. She ended up buying a skull from the Anatomical Chart Company in Skokie, Illinois. To make the skull as much like Mr. Close’s as possible, she pulled out several of its teeth before presenting it to Robert Falls, the artistic director of the Goodman Theatre. Mr. Falls keeps the skull on one of his bookshelves, and no one is bothered by the truth of whose corpse it originally belonged to. According to Kim “Howard” Johnson, author of a biography of Mr. Close titled The Funniest One in the Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close (Chicago Review Press), “The attitude of most of Del’s friends is that if it wasn’t originally Del’s skull, it is now.”
A Promise to Help Each Other
As young adults studying acting at Juilliard in New York City, Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve became friends, and they promised that they would come to each other’s aid if either of them needed help. Of course, Mr. Williams became a famous comedian and actor, and Mr. Reeve became a famous actor who was best known for playing Superman in a series of big-budget movies. Mr. Reeve also started competing in equestrian events, and he was severely injured in a fall at one of these competitions. Mr. Reeve had good insurance, but even good insurance may run out when an accident is severe, and Mr. Reeve’s accident was severe, putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and forcing him to rely on a breathing tube. Mr. Williams, as he had promised, came to Mr. Reeve’s aid, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for Mr. Reeve’s medical expenses and care.
Country comedian Jerry Clower grew up in the South at a time when white people thought they were better than black people. He grew up racist, but he changed. One of the reasons he changed was the behavior of a black man he worked with. Both he and the black man sold fertilizer, and they got to talking together about their families. The black man’s wife was mentally ill and had been in a mental institution for 25 years, but he had remained faithful to her for those 25 years. Mr. Clower says, “I don’t know whether I could be faithful for 25 years to a lady after the doctor told me she wasn’t ever going to get out of the mental institution.”
A Coffee Cup Suspended in Mid-Air
Comedian Danny Thomas received his greatest compliment from Mike Todd, who was in a nightclub while Mr. Thomas was performing. Mr. Todd had lifted his coffee cup from his saucer when Mr. Thomas went into the dramatic part in his “Ode to the Wailing Lebanese.” Mr. Todd felt it was inappropriate to put the coffee cup to his lips at such a dramatic moment, and he was afraid that he would make a noise if he set the coffee cup back down. So he held the coffee cup suspended in mid-air for three minutes, until the dramatic part was over.
Putting Down a Racist
In 1946, British comedian George Formby and Beryl, his wife, went on tour in South Africa. There, they entertained black audiences and even embraced adorable (and adoring) black children. Because South Africa was following the segregationist policy of apartheid, Daniel François Malan, who was then the leader of the South African National Party, became angry at the non-racist actions of George and Beryl. When he complained about how George and Beryl were acting, Beryl told him, “P*ss off, you horrible little man.”
Starting Your Own Peace March
Comedian Bertice Berry and her cousin once traveled to a peace march, but they couldn’t find it. At first, they started to get upset, but then they decided to have their own peace march. The two of them started marching, chanting, “We want peace. We want peace.” Quite a few people came up to them—they were also looking for the peace march. Ms. Berry says, “I found out that a lot of people looking for peace are simply lost. We’re all lost. And once we find each other, there will be a lot of power in coming together and working for change. But we have to do it in humor and in love.”
Defending the Comedians
Enrico Banducci, owner of the hungry i, a club that nurtured rising comedians, was also the club’s bouncer and a fierce defender of the comedians who worked there. Anyone who heckled a comedian was quickly given their money back and thrown out—in groups if necessary. Comedian Irwin Corey remembers Mr. Banducci telling a group of hecklers, “You noisy bunch of mothers! … Have respect for the acts or don’t come here!” He once fought a couple of lumberjacks who wanted to fight him, and he once threw out an entire audience.
 Source: William B. Silverman, Rabbinic Wisdom and Jewish Values, p. 55.
 Source: Paul Krassner, “Remembering George Carlin.” Huffingtonpost.com. 27 June 2008 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-krassner/remembering-george-carlin_b_109548.html>.
 Source: Richard Roeper, “Decaffeinated Big Z could be all zzzzzzzz’s ….” Chicago Sun-Times. 17 April 2008 <http://www.suntimes.com/news/roeper/899278,CST-NWS-roep17.article>.
 Source: Kim “Howard” Johnson, “As Del Lay Dying.” Chicago Reader. 7 April 2008 <http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/delclose/>
 Source: Hal Marcovitz, Robin Williams, pp. 31, 85-86.
 Source: Jerry Clower, Ain’t God Good!, pp. 66-67.
 Source: Larry Wilde, The Great Comedians, p. 362.
 Source: Iain Ellis, “Subversive Rock Humor: ‘George Formby: Tangled In The Roots Of British Rock Humor.’” 30 November 2007 <http://www.popmatters.com/pm/columns/article/51268/george-formby-tangled-in-the-roots-of-british-rock-humor/>.
 Source: Roz Warren, editor, Revolutionary Laughter, p. 28.
 Source: Gerald Nachman, Seriously Funny, p. 12.