One of my favorite scenes from “The West Wing” tackles the serious subject of inappropriate laughter. CJ and team are meeting with a disgruntled DAR dowager to smooth her ruffled feathers prior to an event, and CJ cracks up at the most inopportune moment:
That happens to me sometimes. Not very often, thank dog, but it just happened the other night when I called to place a takeout order at a Chinese restaurant. One of the dishes I was ordering was “chow mai fun,” and when I started to say the words, the name of the dish suddenly seemed like the funniest goddamn thing in the world, and I couldn’t stop laughing.
I’ve ordered that dish many times, and while the name sounds mildly amusing to me as an English speaker, it never struck me as screamingly funny, but this time it did. Every time I tried to choke out the words, I’d collapse in hysterical laughter and have to put the phone aside while the poor takeout dude was saying, “Ma’am? Ma’am? Ma’am?”
My husband and daughter were gaping at me as if I’d lost my mind, which I had. I tried to hand the phone off to them, but they wouldn’t take it. They openly speculated that I was drunk or on drugs, which I wasn’t.
Finally I pulled my shit together long enough to complete the order, but I continued to laugh so hard I had tears and snot all over my face for the better part of an hour. I made the kid go pick up the order because I was too embarrassed to show my face in the restaurant.
Has that ever happened to you? If so, what set you off?
PS: The “West Wing” bit reminded me of my mom’s all-time favorite television portrayal of inappropriate laughter: the funeral of Chuckles the Clown on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Go ahead, laugh! Laugh for Chuckles!