Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there. The bond between father and daughter is a special one. And today I am reminded how powerful and magical fathers are in shaping their kids’ self-perceptions. Fatherhood is tough love, yes, but it’s the “love” and encouragement part I celebrate today.
My father and I were close – I have his blue eyes, his analytical mind, and his sense of humor. My dad used to tell me laughter was a gift. I just thought everyone had it and couldn’t understand back then the “life jacket” that humor has proven to be. He nurtured my sense of humor and taught me that funny is a meritocracy. We watched countless hours of The Three Stooges, Monty Python (note: mom didn’t approve because it was “raunchy”), and Dave Allen Group together and programs like The Carol Burnett Show. Sure, it was in syndication then but it was the first time I saw a woman on TV with her own sketch comedy show. My dad told me I was funny and, coming from my dad, that meant something. He WAS funny. “It’s in your genes,” he said, “but you still have to nurture it.” He was right. “Look at her (pointing to Carol on TV). She is funny, and so ARE you,” he’d say. He also loved Vicki Lawrence – and I think it was because he had a crush on her (my mom later verified this)! But I cherished that time with my father because it was our love of comedy that we shared and it was truly “ours” – our time together (without my mom and brothers). Together, we nurtured our senses of humor, and, more importantly, those were the times he spent nurturing me.
What dad gave me was the gift of confidence. Today, in my experience, there are few women in improvisational comedy compared to the number of men. Few women are encouraged and told how magically brilliant they are – just being who they are. Yet, my dad always did. He told me often and I knew he meant it. He was right, too, about humor being a gift. Throughout the ups and downs of life, humor and the ability to laugh have been my “life jackets” in rough waters. Humor is more than my life jacket I would tell him if he were here: it’s my oxygen.
My dad died when I was 17 – suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. He never saw me get several graduate degrees, publish, get married and have a son, go on to do stand-up, sketch and improv comedy on the stage. And there isn’t a time that I am performing that I don’t think of him. I know he is there in spirit. I regret not having the years to get to know my father “the person” rather than just the “father” he was. I do know a few things, however, and one of them was just how much he loved to laugh. He had a beautiful, deep, resonant laugh, too – hearty and sincere, and it was music to my ears.
I often think of how little it takes for fathers to encourage their daughters and the encouragement I received that many others out there do not. You gave me many gifts, dad. And today I think about how three simple words said frequently with love and sincerity changed my life: “You ARE funny.”
Thank you, dad. It takes one to know one.