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LAUGHTER WAS THE MEANING OF LIFE WITH LUCY

Over the past several weeks, I have read one editorial after another dissecting the social impact of "Lucy" on the western world. The comments have ranged from "a comic genius who made television history" to "an intellectually deficient, ambitionless, cunning and basically useless scatter-brained housewife who lied and schemed and treated her husband unkindly."

Serious people of the world (and you all know who you are), come out of the laboratory and bring your scalpels with you. You cannot dissect humor or the people who make it. It's been tried.

After you isolate the surprise, the exaggeration, the relevancy, the irreverence, the absurdity and the creativity, there will be nothing left under your microscope but a colorless slice of life.

There are those who have tried to mix hindsight with humor.

Was Jackie Gleason a chauvinist who eventually would have lost control and sent Alice "to the moon" and ended up in the courts?

There are those who would stir in the personal morality of a star with his comedy and try to neutralize the talent.

Is John Belushi's gift diminished after Bob Woodward's book?

There are those who have tried to read social messages into humor that is just not there.

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Was Red Skelton in his baggy pants and secondhand cigar really making fun of the homeless? Were Lucy and Ethel sending out the wrong message to children when they ate all that sugar in the candy factory, which nutritionists now know is bad for you?

Don't try to unlock the secret formula for laughter. Just sit back and enjoy the enigma of a few seconds when problems and pain were anesthetized by a carrot-topped housewife setting fire to her nose. Just enjoy yourself.

That's what humor is all about.

I never dissected Lucy. I doubt if Lucille Ball did, either.

Like Carol Burnett, Goldie Hawn, Mary Tyler Moore and anyone else who deals with humor, Lucy threw inhibition to the wind. All great comedians give whatever it takes to extract from people the precious and rare gift of laughter, which makes you feel good and you don't know why.

Frankly, I don't want to live in a world so serious that you see a 6-foot rabbit called Harvey and call the Humane Society. Or a world where Jay Leno and Johnny Carson can no longer take potshots at Washington without partisan groans. Or where the Cosby family isn't standing around the commode putting a dead goldfish to rest without activists picketing outside.

When the day comes that you turn on your TV set or open your newspaper and there is nothing there to make you smile -- start worrying.

That means things are so bad, humorists and comedy writers can no longer put life in perspective. That's what Lucy did for me.

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