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I'd Rather Laugh: How to be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans forYou

I'd Rather Laugh: How to be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans forYou

4.8 12
by Linda Richman, Rosie O'Donnell (Foreword by), R. O'Donnell

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The self-described "typical Jewish girl from Long Island" and the most popular speaker at the world-renowned Canyon Ranch Spa presents a tears and laughter guidebook to help readers withstand life's hard knocks.


The self-described "typical Jewish girl from Long Island" and the most popular speaker at the world-renowned Canyon Ranch Spa presents a tears and laughter guidebook to help readers withstand life's hard knocks.

Editorial Reviews

Our Review
Who is Linda Richman? She's a New Yorker, a survivor, and a lecturer at the fancy Canyon Ranch health spa. But we know her better as the inspiration behind "Coffee Talk," the brilliant Saturday Night Live sketch based on Richman's exuberant personality. "I'm all fahrklempt!" "I'm kvelling!" "Like buttah!" Richman has made us laugh for years through the impersonation by Mike Myers; now she teaches us how to find hilarity for ourselves. In I'd Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You, Richman speaks in her own voice about what she knows best: holding on to laughter, even in tragic years.

Richman's own life has been weighted by unimaginable sorrows. Her father died when she was eight, leaving Richman in the slack hands of a bedridden mother. When Richman grew up, she married a gambling addict who squandered her assets. And when Richman finally escaped that marriage, her 29-year-old son was killed in a car accident. "I'm supposed to be a basket case by now," Richman admits. "I'm supposed to be totally defeated and deflated by circumstance and fate."

Instead, Richman found ways to rise up. She learned to bring humor to intolerable situations -- and by doing so, she learned to survive. "I am an expert in surviving pain with a smile on your face," asserts Richman. "I was put here on this earth to be a teacher...but one who teaches from the heart." Talking plainly from her rough-trained heart, Richman teaches us to bear pain with humor and hope. She teaches us to give up our tragedies.

It's not easy to relinquish misery, as Richman well knows. But since histrionic displays often hurt those we love, we all must bear up gracefully. Richman learned this the hard way: When she had to cope with her son's death, Richman found that her own agony was killing other family members. "I was making my daughter suffer, and I decided I had to stop it at once," Richman explains. So she turned to her daughter. "You think you're sad?" Richman asked. "When your brother died he owed me a lot of money -- and now I'll never see a dime!" Her daughter laughed a little. And by cracking a joke, Richman got her daughter to smile, to snuffle out a giggle, and to take hope. "There are times," Richman shrugs, "when making a joke is the difference between life and death."

In I'd Rather Laugh, Richman hands out stories galore, along with hints for surviving tough times. She gives straight-up advice about therapy, about friends with issues, and about finding meaning in the difficulties you face. But throughout, she urges her readers to make fun a priority. "No matter how sad you are today," she promises, "happiness and laughter and even joy are still distinct possibilities for tomorrow...you and I have the ability to get all that." Richman's warm, genuine talk -- the real "Coffee Talk" -- helps us laugh and keep on laughing.

--Jesse Gale

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yes, there's a real woman behind Mike Myers's "Coffee Talk" caricature Linda Richman--his mother-in-law, now a lecturer at the Canyon Ranch spa. And has she got some stories! There's one about her nutcase mother. who refused to tell eight-year-old Linda that her father had died, instead claiming he had just "gone away," and another about Richman's marriage to a compulsive gambler. She also tells of the agoraphobia that kept her in her apartment for 11 years, and of the accidental death of her beloved 29-year-old son. The point of Richman's earthy, funny and sensible book is that she transcended these traumas--though not without a little wackiness, such as her one-time habit of shocking total strangers by telling them that her son has died. Amid her anecdotes about a foray into multispiritualism (aka "Lindaism"), her technique for eliciting group sob stories at Canyon Ranch (put on Groucho masks) and recommendations of tearjerkers like Terms of Endearment ("the nuclear weapon of dead children cinema"), she offers some good, if hardly original, advice. Among her nuggets: go see a therapist; when it comes to relatives who can't provide sanity and support, try to "accept whatever good is there and ignore the rest"; pain doesn't go away, but it can dim with time; once you give a gift or give help, accept that you have no say in how it's used. Agent, Richard Pine. (Feb.) Forecast: If Richman is as endearingly entertaining in person as this book and her over-the-top son-in-law, Mike Myers, suggest, her three-city author tour and 25-city TV satellite tour should propel hearty sales. Simultaneous Time Warner audio. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Richman, mother-in-law of comedian Mike Myers and lecturer at the Canyon Ranch spa in Arizona, comes across as an acquaintance you can only take in small doses. She has indeed had a tough life: she lost her father at age eight and her mother to hospitalization shortly thereafter; her husband was a compulsive gambler, and her son died in a car accident. However, after a few chapters, it starts to sound as if she is making excuses for her own behavior. The writing is disjointed, rambling, and raging, and it reads as if she wrote this for a personal cleansing, relieving and reliving her shock and anger. Despite the title, the emotions are still near the surface and raw. All in all, she has three ideas worth investigating: a pity party, where you allow yourself to grieve; the skill of "catastrophizing"; and listening to your own "red flags" of impending depression. "Do you need a book to tell you this?" she asks. This reader says no. However, she'll be a hit on talk shows, and therefore public libraries will get requests. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/00.]--Susan E. Burdick, MLS, Reading, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Grand Central Publishing
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: You're Probably Wondering Why I Invited You Here

I'm not supposed to be writing this book.

Which means you're not supposed to be reading it, so quick, put it down and go find something else to do. Take a walk, get some fresh air.

Okay, get back here.

I'm not supposed to be writing this or any other book because I'm supposed to be a basket case by now. I'm sup-posed to be totally defeated and deflated by circumstance and fate. I'm supposed to be a sad situation—mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and any other way you can think of. A walking tragedy. The person about whom you say, "There but for the grace of God . . ."

At any rate, I'm not supposed to have anything remotely useful or helpful or worthwhile to share with you. I'm certainly not supposed to be in any position to teach you a thing or two.

And yet, here we are, you and me.

I'm not exactly sure why you're here. I'm not exactly sure why I'm here, to be honest with you. Except that through no fault of my own, I have learned quite a lot about life and what it can put you through. Now, I know that we've all learned a lot about life, but believe me, some of us have picked up more than others. As I say, it's not because I really wanted to learn so much. There have been a few lessons I could have lived without. But I learned them all the same. And then I learned a few things more. What did I learn?

I learned that we can withstand a lot of pain and loss and not just survive it but rise above it. I learned that no matter how sad you are today, happiness and laughter and even joy are still distinct possibilities for tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, the day after that. And Ilearned that you and I have in our power the ability to get all that and more. Everything important is in our control. Everything necessary is ours to decide. It's work. But it's all there, waiting for us to make up our minds.

Okay, I hear you saying, Ms. Big Shot, tell me how. I can't. It's different for everybody. I don't have your directions. I can't draw your map. Look, I couldn't draw my map—it took me a while to find my way. It was a hell of a journey too, a lot of starts and stops and wrong turns and backing up and doing it over. A lot of wondering if I was headed in the right direction. A lot of wondering if there was a right direction.

But there was. And there is. And if I could find it, believe me, you can find it. I can even help you, if you'll let me.

One night not long ago I actually had dinner with Deepak Chopra.

"Tell me, Deepak," I said, "what's the most important thing you have to teach people?"

"We are the tinkers of our taughts," he said.

"We are the tinkers of our taughts," I repeated. "What the hell is that?"

He said it again.

Even when I finally figured out what he was saying, I knew it wasn't going to work for me. Deepak Chopra is a brilliant man who sells millions and millions of books and has millions and millions of followers. But nobody wants to hear a chunky Jew from Queens saying, "We are the tinkers of our taughts." Life doesn't work that way.

But I also have a message for people. It's fairly simple. I tell them that no matter what horrible thing has happened, life still offers you humor if you want it. I say that regardless of how low you feel today, someday you'll find something that will make you laugh your head off. I guarantee that you'll sing and dance once more. I promise that if you will only make a small effort, you will rediscover happiness.

Sounds like complete and utter bull, right?

It does. I know it. It sounds like bull, and yet people believe me. Sophisticated, intelligent adults, many of them with impressive educations and astronomical net worths, sit in a room and listen. Despite what they know of the world and what it can be like, they take my stories away with them. And if the word of these people can be trusted, sometimes I actually even help.

Why do these people listen to me? Maybe it starts with how I make their acquaintance. In my weekly lecture at Canyon Ranch, the fancy spa in Arizona, the first few minutes are devoted to a video clip showing the brilliant comic actor Mike Myers—who just happens to be my loving and devoted son-in-law—doing one of his most celebrated skits, the Coffee Talk Lady from Saturday Night Live—the character who just happens to have been inspired one hundred percent by me.

That breaks the ice. That lets everybody know they're in for a couple of hours of fun and merriment.

Then, once everybody in the room is laughing and giddy and relaxed, I give them a few biographical details from the real Linda Richman. Right between the eyes.

I start by telling them how my father was killed by a truck when I was eight years old. My mother, who had been severely depressed all her life, went into a tailspin with that. The first thing she did was decide not to tell me that my father was dead. Instead, she created a conspiracy of silence within the family. I was informed that my dear, loving dad had just "gone away," never to return home. Imagine the good things that might do to a little girl's psyche. My father's death left my mother totally unable to care properly for me and my older sister. At age nineteen I escaped my lot in life, or so I thought, by getting married, to a lawyer. It started out blissfully—we said we wanted a family soon, and I was pregnant within three months. And then, in short order, my mother was institutionalized and began receiving electroshock treatments, and I discovered that instead of a knight in shining armor, I'd married a gambling addict.

I dealt with all that by escaping into a form of behavioral insanity—I gradually turned into an agoraphobic and stayed inside our apartment for eleven, count 'em, eleven years. I got over that too, but still the bluebird of happiness didn't nest in my bouffant hairdo. My husband's gambling habit finally overtook him, costing us our home, car, furniture, and everything else of value. We divorced, and I would have been literally homeless if not for the kindness of family and friends. And then things finally got better, right?

Well, for a while they did. But a year after the divorce my twenty-nine-year-old son was killed in a car accident.

That little tale gets everybody's attention in a hurry, let me tell you. That stops the chuckling. Not that I really want to kill the cheery mood in the room. It just happens. And anyway, most of the people who come to my lectures do so because they are in some pain of their own.

I am an expert in surviving pain with a smile on your face at least some of the time. And that's the main reason people believe me. I'm not coming at them with nine Ph.Ds. I'm not a mystic or a swami. I was put here on this earth to be a teacher, I firmly believe, but one who teaches from the heart. I had to experience things first before I could tell people how to deal with them. I had to know great loss before I could talk about how to go on living after it. It couldn't come to me from a book, and, take it from me, I've tried it that way. I've read every book on spirituality and the soul that I can find. It all helps. But for somebody like me, the useful answers aren't up in the clouds.

People relate to me because I am like them. Whether they're from Nebraska or Queens or Los Angeles, it doesn't matter. They've all suffered. I stand up there as naked as can be and tell them all the terrible stuff that's happened to me and all the crazy, desperate things I've done in response. And then all the things I've done to bring myself back from the abyss and restore the joy.

It's one thing to hear your $150-an-hour (excuse me, fifty minutes) shrink say that if you do this, this, and this, you'll laugh again. It's another, I think, to hear it from me. But we'll see, right? We have a whole book ahead of us here. Come on, let's get going...

Meet the Author

Linda Richman was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens. She regularly lectures at the Canyon Ranch Spa and has offered coping advice to some of the world's most successful-and frequently stressed-people.

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I'd Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans For You 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book at the library while I was searching for anything that would help me deal with the very unexpected death of my boyfriend. Linda made me laugh and cry all in a matter of minutes sometimes, but she made me realize what I was feeling and doing was normal. I hadn't just fallen from mars! I am now in the process of purchasing this book for every member of my boyfriend's family, as well as my own personal copy. I hope they receive as much from it as I did!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Linda has a sense of humor that really helps when dealing with life's issues. Through her own experiences, she shares the lessons she has learned and advises how hope and laughter can improve your life. It is an easy read and is so enjoyable that I read it more than once and I recommend this book to everyone! Many of my friends and family have enjoyed this great book. I look forward to another book by this funny lady.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this book. I read the whole book in one day and gave it to my mom to read. I loved this book. It made me laugh and cry. I would recommend this to anyone, especially if they have lost a loved one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book mainly deals with death of someone you love and not much else about life. Somehow, it is pretty funny stuff. The author's style of writing, which is just like her style of talking (free flowing trains of thought) make you feel like you are talking to someone you know well. There are some inspiring stories in the book and I think people who have had a recent death of a family member will be able to relate well. When you are in that situation, you only want someone to talk to and understand what you are going through. You want someone to cry with and someone who knows how you feel inside. This book serves that purpose well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book deserves more than five stars for its ability to convey life-saving advice from experience that everyone will respect. Every life will be touched with pain. Whenever that occurs, I'd Rather Laugh is probably the best source of advice you will find. I'd Rather Laugh is remarkably good on how to overcome overwhelming personal pain. Although the libraries and book stores are filed with such books, rarely do their authors come to the subject from having survived tidal waves of pain. Ms. Richman brings just that perspective. As a result, you can believe her and act on what she tells you. That's as much as anyone can do for another person in pain. The rest is up to the suffering person. Ms. Richman's life has had more than its share of downs as compared to ups. Her father was killed when she was eight, and her mother refused to ever tell her what had happened to him. He just went away, was all she was told. This made her pain and confusion worse and caused them to fester for many years. Her mother's reaction to this loss was to stop taking good care of her two daughters. Her mother was soon suffering from mental illness. 'All my childhood I wished my mother had died instead of father.' Imagine the guilt Ms. Richman must have felt about that feeling! To get out of the house, Ms. Richman married at 19. Her mother was soon hospitalized for her mental problems. Her husband turned out to be a gambling addict who lost all of the family's money. During those years, she became a recluse -- never leaving her apartment for 11 years. The panic attacks were so extreme, she couldn't touch the doorknob to the apartment. She baby sat everyone's children in the building so they would run errands for her, like taking her children to the pediatrician and getting groceries. The ultimate blow came after she divorced. He older son was killed in a traffic accident when he was 29. The severe pain of this was worse than all the other losses combined. My heart was literally in pain for this poor woman as I read the book. But I came away more impressed with her courage than with her pain. The way she has kept fighting back is wonderful. How did she do it? First, she wanted to overcome the pain. She assures us that the pain never goes away, you just integrate into your life in a new way. Second, she found that intensifying the pain could eventually help her find it ridiculous and cause her to laugh. The laughter was like an analgesic for her soul. Eventually, she found more ways to laugh. Third, she began helping other people. Her methods seem to work for them, too. At the end of the book, she outlines what works best . . . mostly ways to shift your mood by changing your surroundings, associations, and focus. There is a very nice foreword to the book from her friend, Rosie O'Donnell, which puts Ms. Richman in context. She is a truly outrageous person and a great friend to have. In the process, you realize that it's okay to give yourself permission to be outrageous. It's like taking off a straitjacket that allows you to move your emotions and your soul again. Ms. Richman is a comic genius
Guest More than 1 year ago
Today I told my therapist about this book..I have lost a daughter to suicide, read every spiritual and after death book there is, then I found this gem. When the pupil is ready...the teacher appears..Thanks for your lessons, Linda.
Guest More than 1 year ago
She draws you in on the first page. Straight from the heart, on coping with the hardships that life bestows on us. I loved this book, makes you feel like she is right there talking with you. You even catch yourself laughing outloud. Kudos to you Linda for laughing again and the ability to put it all down on paper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started this book around noon and I continued reading it until I finished it at five o'clock. Literally, I went from lunch to dinner with Linda Richman. She makes you laugh, she makes you cry, she makes you feel her pain as you relate to her. I am in awe of her astuteness and her awareness in explaining the functioning of the human heart and soul. She is absolutely a woman to be admired and is an example of a true survivor. I teach and read many self-help books...this is one of the best I have read; definitely the most interesting and the most humorous. The personal stories she uses to illustrate her points, help you to comprehend the concepts and leaves a lasting impression. I look forward to future books.
harstan More than 1 year ago
I¿D RATHER LAUGH is a self-help book without the trappings of torture necessary to be labeled as part of the genre. Instead, Linda Richman encourages laughter as the best medicine when tragedy strikes as will happen to everyone at some time in their life. Ms. Richman provides amusing anecdotes (her mother at Bingo reminds me of my mother-in-law who recently passed away). Other reactions to anguish that Ms. Richman has done are similar to what many people have done to pass time and simply cope with negative punches. Cleaning and reorganizing things are a way of life for the depressed during a depressing moment.

This book is worth reading not just when ¿life has other plans for you¿, but in everyday situations. Ms. Richman swears by humor to make it through the darkest day. I fully agree. When my mother-in-law died, her three sons, who still love her dearly, told amusing tales about her antics. Those jocular moments were not disrespectful, but a way of remembering a cherished person who is missed but will always be fondly thought of.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is wonderful.linda has gone thru more than most people i know and has triumphed beyond words. she has given me laughter and tears simultaneously. as they tears came the laughs followed. i will read and re read this.