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by Mike Masterson | February 23, 2021 at 3:01 a.m.

Can't speak for you, but I could have benefited of late from a lot less stress and lots more belly laughs.

Love of laughter being in my nature, it's unnatural when I can't enjoy chuckles and laughs over an extended period (thanks covid, politics and freezing weather).

Without them, I fall well short of my potential as a relatively happy person.

I also realize I'm likely not alone, which called my attention to a recent survey of 120 volunteers by The participants watched sitcoms featuring comedians widely considered in the top 20 of their craft.

Beforehand, I made a list of my own favorites based on recollections; no need to rewatch the specific sitcoms and films. My top nods went to John Belushi, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, Jonathan Winters, Red Foxx, Gene Wilder and Chevy Chase among the males. Lucille Ball was my top female.

In the study, their top male comedian proved to be the late Robin Williams, who provoked 4 minutes and 51 seconds of laughter per hour. He was followed by Jim Carrey, Dave Chappelle and Don Rickles. Joan Rivers was the top-rated female.

Goes to show it takes lots of different tastes to satisfy a nation's diverse funny bones.

Truth is, our nation has produced dozens of talented comedians who've have enriched our lives with laughter over the past half century.

In today's conflicted America, we can use a lot more of the joy and escape these performers have offered us.

Chuckles and choices

Staying with the subject, most of you likely realize my favorite comic strip in our paper is Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine with its characters of Rat, Pig and Goat. From time to time I express an opinion about the content of this talented artist's messages about society and culture.

Last week's focused on one of my favorite topics: How we are very much the product of the endless choices we make over our lifetimes.

In this case, Pig tells Goat his life is a mess because of all the poor choices he's made.

Goat tries to reassure Pig by saying no good is accomplished by dwelling on such things, and that instead he should make plans for what to do in the future.

Pig says his plan will be to invent a machine that changes the past.

Goat insists that's not a viable solution. But Pig insists, "No, no, this solves a lot."

Wish it was as simple as erasing the poor choices we've made over the decades?

I take solace in realizing Pastis recognizes that choices, large and small, can lead sometimes to fatal outcomes, regardless of how we might try to avoid them at the last minute.

Unfortunately, we all recognize how easy through hindsight it can be to see where we went wrong in our decisions, often because they are complicated by placing raw emotion ahead of reason or too often acting on inaccurate information.

I thank Pastis and his wit for touching on yet another foible of the human condition. And, as usual, he did so in a way that gave me further chuckles by sharing a valid message about human nature as we briefly navigate this temporary experience we agree to call life.

I also still laugh when recalling one of Pastis' best from years ago when Zebra was appealing for alligators to finally declare peace with his species.

Zebra carefully explained the tireless efforts he and his herd had made to appease the alligators and wonders why they don't make the slightest effort to reciprocate. "Why do you always want to kill and eat us?" Zebra asks.

The alligator responds: "Because you taste gude!"

Sometimes life is just that simple despite our best efforts to complicate it.

GodNod and UFO

Faithful reader Bill Smith recently offered this rare blend of a GodNod and a UFO account. "My wife and were driving home to Conway from New Orleans where her parents lived in the mid-'80s. It was almost dark in the evening and I was behind a slowpoke on a two-lane highway in Louisiana.

"My wife said to pass him. But I mentioned how in the country you could still see the road but others couldn't see you without your headlights on. So I was reluctant to pass.

"At that moment a car without its lights on zoomed past us. I have always thought of that as a 'GodNod,' because had I attempted to pass, we would surely have been injured or killed.

"My UFO experience occurred about 1960 when I was 15. My brother and I were in our front yard in Crowville, La., when we saw a triangular formation of seven lights in the eastern sky. They then moved rapidly (in seconds) to directly overhead, then hovered motionless for several minutes.

"I called my uncle's house, and they saw them too. The lights then rapidly disappeared over the horizon. At school the next day other students also reported seeing them. Those of us who saw them were looked askance. We didn't talk about them after that. It was very taboo."

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at


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