I'd Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans For You

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Overview

" The first four decades of Linda Richman's life were rife with tragedy: She lost her father at eight and her mother to depression soon after; later, she lost her husband to compulsive gambling; her son to a car accident; and spent 11 years battling agoraphobia. But now, Linda shares her life story and how she learned that when all is said and done, the only cure that works, and the one that takes the most courage, is laughter. Combining wry, self-deprecating humor with hard-knocks wisdom, Linda makes it her mission to get everyone to shake off
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Overview

" The first four decades of Linda Richman's life were rife with tragedy: She lost her father at eight and her mother to depression soon after; later, she lost her husband to compulsive gambling; her son to a car accident; and spent 11 years battling agoraphobia. But now, Linda shares her life story and how she learned that when all is said and done, the only cure that works, and the one that takes the most courage, is laughter. Combining wry, self-deprecating humor with hard-knocks wisdom, Linda makes it her mission to get everyone to shake off the blues and make their way back into the world. Because she knows from experience that when life makes you cry-that's the best time to laugh."
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Editorial Reviews

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783894652
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Pages: 267

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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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...

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi
1. You're Probably Wondering Why I Invited You Here 1
2. My Mother, Myself? 7
3. The Incurable Homebody 27
4. Losing Jordan 37
5. The First Laugh Is the Hardest 51
6. How to Throw a Pity Party 59
7. Try It, It Works for Me: Creative Catastrophizing 71
8. Issue? I Hardly Know You! 79
9. A Tale of Two Sammys 95
10. Try It, It Works for Me: Waving the Red Flag 101
11. Travels in the Spirit World 109
12. "Coffee Talk" or Me? 133
13. More Travels in the Spirit World 143
14. You Talkin' to Me? 153
15. Try It, It Works for Me: The F-Word 161
16. Help Yourself (or Don't) 169
17. Try It, It Works for Me: The Good News 179
18. Jews in Cyberspace 189
19. Try It, It Works for Me: The Wise Fool 199
20. In Search of Your Inner Control Freak 201
Epilogue 217
Acknowledgments 221
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2002

    Inspiring. Funny. Real. Enjoyable.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2001

    I'm all fahrklempt!

    A must read for anyone and everyone dealing with pain and loss. I love the way Linda mixes her advice with humor, the best medicine of all! Mazel Tov!(congratulations!) to you Linda on a gem of a book! May you live to be 120!

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