“When you laugh, it’s an involuntary explosion of the lungs. The lungs need to replenish themselves with oxygen. So you laugh, you breathe, the blood runs, and everything is circulating. If you don’t laugh, you’ll die.” — Mel Brooks
Humor may not cure aging, but it definitely smooths some of the rough edges. And adds years to our longevity, too, you can reasonably extrapolate from research which shows those of us with a healthy, positive perception of aging live longer.
LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF
Sacramento-based artist Eric Decetis literally wrote the book on having a sense of humor about aging. It’s titled Old Farts. And then there’s the worldwide distribution of his popular single-panel cartoons, greeting cards, calendars, clothing and more — all of which offer a take-no-prisoners view of the fears, anxieties and foibles of older people.
Amazingly, for Decetis and his legion of fans, after nearly four decades of cartooning, his irreverent outlook never gets old.
“I know of no other cartoonist who possesses Eric’s command of anatomy combined with a sense of humor that should probably be registered as a lethal weapon,” wrote New Yorker cartoonist Tom Cheney. “I can promise that you’ll never walk again through a crowd without seeing one of his characters in the flesh (fully clothed I hope.) … Mr. Decetis has brought us a powerful message … that even during our prettiest, coolest, and noblest moments we are, each and every one of us, just another ass in the crowd.”
INTERVIEW: ERIC DECETIS “MAKES FUN” OF OLD AGE
HUMBLE SKY: Why old people as a theme for your cartoons?
ERIC DECETIS: My themes overall vary quite a bit depending on the publisher, but I would say that a good percentage deal with the elderly. I license my images worldwide for (mainly) greeting cards, calendars, books, clothing and a variety of other print products. As boomers such as myself “mature,” I think we find aging very relatable, which humor writing is based upon. And … they are my sales demographics. So, not only is it a topic that I can personally relate to, it’s good business sense.
HS: Is there anything that’s off limits; or a challenging subject you have yet to crack?
ED: I’ve touched on a myriad of topics in my nearly 40-year career of humor writing and professional cartooning. As my work spans the globe I focus on general humor that relates to virtually all cultures (I’ve even had my greeting cards translated to Cyrillic for Russian audiences). As such, I steer clear of religion and politics. I choose to focus on more sophomoric themes that have the potential to appeal to most all audiences.
HS: Do you find having a sense of humor about aging comes easier or harder as you get older yourself?
ED: As I eluded to earlier there is no question that my personal aging provides insight to my own special blend of humor. In my industry I observe and comment. And I can’t help but notice my own elevating belt height, accompanied by my decreasing stature, and a bald spot (which I affectionately refer to as my “landing zone”) as it grows to the size of a salad plate.
HS: Did you draw influence or inspiration from your mom’s aging experience?
ED: From my earliest years my dad had a very dry sense of humor and my ma was hilarious — not sure if my sense of humor was genetic or acquired, but I have to attribute it mainly to my mother. Even in her later years as her health declined she had a brilliant wit and kept me and the other residents and staff in stitches (no pun intended although she had her fair share from falls). During her 10-year stay at Eskaton [the Northern California continuing care retirement community] I spent quite a bit of time with her and around the other residents. I remember when she first moved in an elderly gentleman asked me to help him with his telephone as he couldn’t get a dial tone. When we went into his room he opened his nightstand and attempted to dial out on his clock. My experiences with my own mother and the other residents during her time there was invaluable on so many levels. I will always be grateful for that.
HS: Do you consider it healthy to have a sense of humor about aging — that “laughter is the best medicine”?
ED: I sincerely believe it’s the best medicine regardless of age. I have never taken an art class and my degree from UC Davis is in Biology/Pre-Med. I was a respiratory therapist for five years at a local hospital back in the seventies. Resultantly I saw a tremendous amount of pain and sadness. But I was known throughout the hospital as the guy who brought a smile to patients and staff as well. I’ve always felt blessed to have this “gift” and I try to bring laughter to as many people as possible through my work today.