When I was little, my brother used to play the No Smiling Game with me. This game consisted of him telling me that I was not allowed to smile. He would use his best mock-serious face and voice. Let me tell you, we are people who are good at mock-serious. Of course, I would smile and also start laughing a little bit, then a lot. He would respond by getting more and more fake angry until I was awash in little girl giggles.
Have you ever been awash in little girl giggles? It's all sugar and spice.
When I was in New York recently, a stranger tried to play the No Smiling Game with me. Or maybe it was the No Laughing Game. Or maybe it wasn't a game at all, and he was just kind of a jerk.
Maybe I should explain.
My friend Sarah and I went to see The 39 Steps while I was in town. I've seen the Hitchcock movie before, which is old, black and white, and heavy on the dialogue. It's a good movie, and is actually quite funny, but you do have to stick with it and pay attention. The play, while pretty faithful to the plot of the movie, was much more obviously comedic. Aside from the witty dialogue and wacky situations, there were a lot of sight gags. Most of these were a result of using a limited set and cast to do the show. So the scene in and on top of the train actually took place on a set of four wooden crates, while the actors just moved around like they were on an actual train. Part of the humor and enjoyment from the show came from the clever usage of few resources, and as the play went on, they began to actually play on the fact that there were only four people doing all these characters. I wish I could explain it better, but I can't, so I'll just say "Support live theater!"
At the start of intermission, the fellow next to me turned and said, "Wow, you guys didn't like that at all, did you? You sure weren't laughing very much!"
I wasn't really sure how to respond to this. Did he think that is an appropriate way to strike up a conversation with a young lady? Or maybe he was being incredibly passive aggressive in telling us that our laughing was getting in the way of his enjoyment of the show, which is really too bad, since we were having a great time. I don't remember my response; it wasn't clever. I was a bit stunned and not at all sure how to even take his comment.
To be fair, I would not be particularly surprised if I am sort of a loud laugher. Loud is one of my general characteristics. Many people have remarked upon this, and many more have looked uncomfortable when I asked about it. I can't really tell, of course, but I am comfortable with the idea that I am on the upper end of the human volume dial. However, no one has ever specifically mentioned that I laugh too loud. At inappropriate times, sure, but not too loud. Also, Sarah did not grow up in my family, so she is a person of normal volume levels. She's also much more in tune with, you know, other people having feelings and stuff.
So I don't think that we were being quite the raucous pair as he painted us. Also? It was a comedy. It's supposed to be funny. The rest of the audience thought so, too, and as a result, they laughed. The actors even had strategic pauses after the really funny bits so that the next funny bit would not be lost in the chuckles and guffaws.
I think the real question is how tight do you have to be wound such that the sound of happiness in other human beings irritates you?
At the end of intermission, he came back and made another remark about it, comparing the pair of us to a laugh track on a silent movie. I started muttering at that point, whispering to Sarah that I would offer the man some of my Kit-Kat bar, except that I'd already laughed all over it. When the second act started, I found myself self-conscious about betraying any sort of amusement at all, so as not to lose the No Laughing Game that I hadn't known we were playing. Of course, that sort of made me mad that he was spoiling the play for me because he didn't like for other people to be too happy. That made the contrarian in me want to laugh louder. Screw you, fella, I'm going to have fun whether you approve or not. But after five minutes I forgot all about that guy, because the play was just so darn good.
Support live theater!
The absolute worst moment was towards the end, when the lights when down after a scene that could have been the final one, but wasn't. One guy in the audience apparently thought it was the end, because he started clapping. He got one clap into his applause when he realized that he was the only doing it, and he stopped. So there was just one sharp bark of a clap. And it was funny! We've all been that guy before and clapped at the wrong time. It made both Sarah and me start giggling, but then we were self-conscious in our giggles, which made it all even funnier and soon we were in the throes of a giggle loop. We were trying really hard to stifle it at that point, but man, it was just so funny. We were awash.