By Lori Berkey Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Carol Little comes from funny genes. Her father and her uncle teamed up to star in a comedy radio show. Her dad was a big fan of the television sitcom, “The Honeymooners,” and her Uncle Jim was not only hilarious, but also looked exactly like Jackie Gleason. No wonder Little ended up joining her college roommate in a stand-up routine for the college cable channel and did jokes for “open mic” nights in the 1980s. And it's not surprising that she's one day link humor to a philanthropic venture she's start later in life.
Raising a child and other adult responsibilities won out over Little's trying to become a professional comedienne. But when her mother developed the serious condition of Alzheimer's disease, Little accidentally discovered how humor brought her mother joy.
“She's a Sicilian, so I'sl say, “Goo gootz.” She always told me that meant “squash head,” and with whatever strength she has, she'sl laugh,” Little said. It's a family expression that had previously cracked them up.
“We's laugh like crazy when Tony Soprano on [the television drama series] “The Sopranos,” called his son a “Goo gootz,” Little added.
Little said her parents were very philanthropic, and that, combined with her son getting old enough to need her less, made her think she should use what she learned in helping her mother to help others. It was 2008 when she began the process of starting the nonprofit organization, “A Good Laugh, Inc.” Her mission was “to provide therapeutic humor to those affected by illness, injury and trauma.”
The year Little sought nonprofi t status was the same year the economy took a nosedive.
“I have to have a sense of humor to try to start a nonprofit under those conditions,” she said.
Luckily, Little had that part mastered. She was able to gain IRS 501(c)3 designated standing and she slowly started trying to accomplish her mission. She gathered funny DVDs and books in order to create a humor library for other nonprofit organizations that cared for people who are ill or injured.
A Good Laugh gave a humor collection to the Hope Lodge in Worcester, a facility for people receiving cancer treatment at nearby hospitals. Another group to which the organization has given funny material to was the Hole the Wall Gang Camp for children and their families who are struggling with cancer or other serious illnesses.
“At some point down the road we's like to get it more personal, maybe get a comedian to come in to one of the larger places or help a hospital that might be interested in adding to one of their complimentary therapies to start up with that,” Little said.
A Good Laugh's board of directors has helped her select materials according to people's needs. They'se gotten positive feedback from the facilities too.
“I think the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is that I's not skilled enough to be a doctor or a nurse or a therapist or whatever, but just hopefully knowing that somebody was maybe distracted from their pain for a little bit for that day or it lifted their spirits a little bit,” Little said.
The organization aims to bring the healing power and comfort of laughter to as many people as possible.
“It doesn's have the hard science behind it that medicine does,” she said, “but you know if you'se watching something funny or you'se with a funny person, you automatically feel much better.”
Little has tested the efficacy of humor on herself. She found that when she's having a bad day, if she watches an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” she inevitably starts laughing and it shakes off the bad part of the day. She has a pillow in her house that reads, “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”
She's hoping to “infect” more people with laughter.
“We'se anxious to do more and I's always on the lookout for places that might be interested in what we have to offer,” Little said.
According to Little, IRS regulations prohibit her group from giving directly to individuals, but she welcomes hearing from nonprofi t organizations that can use her provisions, while adhering to her nonprofit's mission.