Laughing Matters

Comedian Brian Regan on stage at Laugh Away SMA 2011
Brian Regan on stage at Laugh Away SMA 2011

At first it started with pain in my side. Tears started running down my cheeks and I found it hard to breathe. My face felt stretched and sore. I looked around, and every person in the room looked just like me. The noise was thunderous. Almost fifteen hundred people together in a dark room… laughing.

Yes, we were cracking up. I’m discovering that sometimes, when we hear something funny we say, “Oh, that’s funny,” and move on. In this particular situation, you couldn’t just say it. You had to laugh. And laugh we did.

Stop SMA held their annual fundraiser at the Muse Center in Pearl. The entertainment was comedians Brian Regan and Henry Cho. For a few years, my husband Michael and I have been huge fans of Brian Regan. We are now big fans of Henry Cho as well. However, the true star of the night was Stop SMA. Jeff and his board have done a wonderful job making the state of Mississippi aware of this awful disease that is claiming precious children. Because they work so hard for their families and other families dealing with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a night of laughter was especially deserved by these wonderful people.

When Michael and I arrived at the Muse Center, the mood was high. The expectancy in the air and the laughter heard in the lobby put everyone in the mood for some funny. I saw many people from different parts of my life making what promised to be a great night even better. Jeff made the introductions. It was wonderful to see Evie and her cousin Reese, as well as Blake and Matt, who live every day with Type 2 SMA. My heart hurts for them, yet I’m amazed at their smiles, their hearts, their abilities, and what they bring to the spirit of Stop SMA. When you meet them, you understand why their families work so hard to find a cure for this disease. While the disease takes away their ability to function normally, it has not touched their spirits. Young Evie and Reese are incredibly beautiful and happy. Blake and Matt are brothers who have college degrees, have been to grad school, design websites, do graphic design, teach Spanish, and are amazing role-models to those with disabilities. From the little bit I know about them, it sounds like there’s not much they can’t do.

After the touching introduction, Henry Cho took the stage. He is hilarious. Having never heard him before, I don’t know that I expected a Korean with a Southern accent. He headlined last year’s show and has gotten to know the board of Stop SMA. You could tell he was really happy to be back helping with such a great cause. He joked a lot about his kids, and I think my favorite part was when he said that his son has never won a ballgame but has seven trophies. Most suburban parents today can relate to that!

By the time he introduced Brian Regan, I had already laughed more than I had all week. From the minute Brian opened his mouth to talk, I was beside myself. His first joke about his changing hair color wiped me out, and by the middle of his act I needed tissue and a glass of water. Laughing hard literally wore me out. It was the most wonderful feeling. Michael and I have talked about how we don’t laugh nearly enough. I’ve seen lots of video of Brian Regan. He did a few of our favorite jokes from previous routines, but mostly it was all new material from his new CD. It was fantastic. Everyone around was laughing just as hard. My brother and his wife were sitting just a few seats down from us, and the man in front of him complimented him on how well he enjoyed the show!

It was a great, great night, and when it was over I was a little sad. I didn’t want to stop the laughing! But the events didn’t end for us. Several of us were ushered into a backstage room where a meet and greet was set up. There were snacks, kids running around, and people taking pictures. The party was great. We got in line to meet the comedians, and I got nervous. I mean, what do you say to two guys who just made you laugh harder than you’ve laughed in weeks? Nothing would be cool enough. I thought I’d just smile for a picture and say, “Thanks, nice to meet you,” but I don’t want to live the rest of my life with the regret of being so lame. When it was our turn, we took the picture and I told them I was going to write about the show. I said I had a question, and they were happy to oblige me (I actually had a lot of questions, but didn’t want to hold up the line). I asked them who makes them laugh. They immediately pointed to each other and said each other’s names. It was a great response. Then Henry Cho said his wife is the funniest person in his life. I can imagine their life at home is hilarious! Brian Regan said his older brother is so funny. You could ask him a yes or no question and the answer would crack up everybody in the room.

We talked a minute more, then moved on out of the way. It was truly one of the best nights I’ve had in a while, and I’ll never forget it. The combination of friends and funny was just what I needed. Stop SMA has a lot of options when it comes to raising money. They could do a fancy dinner, they could bring in a singer or a band, or they could sponsor a 5k or half-marathon. But they chose to do a night of laughter. This choice sends the message that when things are difficult, obstacles seem overwhelming, and finding the answers appears impossible, we can laugh. We have to laugh because there is a lot of good in life. So many things can make us want to cry, but laughter teaches us that everything has a bright side. We have a choice in how we view our circumstances. I want to be someone who chooses to laugh. After Saturday night, I felt great. It truly was good medicine.

Backstage photo with Anne and the comedians.
Brian, Michael, Anne, and Henry backstage