"The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow."
—Mark Twain

My wife was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. What an unexpected punch-in-the-gut (or actually, the lymph nodes). At times like this, your throat tightens, your stomach contracts, you feel numb.

On the other hand, it should give me some great material. After all, I writes jokes for a living.

Perhaps laughter serves as the most logical response to a reality that we simply can't grasp, a reality that overpowers us. Comedy is the best medicine, helping us cope with life's hardest lessons.

Laughing at the human condition

Ten classic comedies were screened at the recent City of the Angels Film Festival. A broad coalition including Fuller Seminary, InterVarsity, and Catholics in Media offer this annual event as a gift to the city, a celebration of theology and film.

The festival has been distinguished by its timely themes, from 2001's "Touches of Evil" following the events of 9/11, to 2004's "Reel Myths," which highlighted the re-enchantment of fantasy films. So what does the festival's most recent theme, "Divine Comedy: Spirited Laughter," suggest about our circumstances?

Festival producer Michael Smith noted, "Comedy at its best stares the human condition straight in the face, but comes out smiling, and sometimes laughing, at the most gravely serious situations."

Fittingly, the festival opened with a double feature of the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I was struck by the Jewish origins of so many classic comedies. The earthy, boisterous Hebrew storytelling tradition offers a sharp contrast to our often disembodied, Greek-influenced Christian faith.

Hearty laughter arose from the broad satire of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles to the ...

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