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As Another Year Ends, We All Could Use a Laugh

By Nancy Heller Moskowitz, LPC, NCC, CCMHC, 
AMHCA’s Public Awareness, Advocacy & Marketing Committee 

As holiday celebrations abounded and everyone scrambled to say good-bye to the old year and welcome in the new one, I came upon a wonderful find. 

More than once I have told you how I love to laugh. Although circumstances may cause me to do otherwise, I always rebound for a good laugh. And I found many in a 75-minute-long tribute to the “Legendary Victor Borge.” Narrated by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, the tribute features journalist Mike Wallace in a very funny skit. More about that later.

Victor Borge, born Borge Rosenbaum, was known by many titles, the most well-known being “The Great Dane” and “The Clown Prince of Denmark.” He came to the United States in 1940 because his Jewish heritage and his political humor against Adolph Hitler made him a target for the Nazi regime. Luckily, he was performing in Sweden when the Nazis occupied Denmark, and he escaped on a ship leaving from Finland with $20 in his pocket and no English on his lips. Borge easily remedied his language handicap by watching movies in English. 

An icon in comedy and music, he is beloved by many. (Click here to visit a website devoted to Borge.) 

Many regard Borge as a classical pianist. He began his long career with a piano recital at age 8. Among his many talents was an ability to poke fun at classical music. He thought it too highbrow for most, and yet, he wanted to have audiences hear the classic pieces, done his inimitable way. He played the piano masterfully and his classical music spoofs are treasures. His “Phonetic Punctuation,” for example, has delighted audiences all over the world.

Victor Borge once said, “Laughter (or a smile) is the shortest distance between two people.” With the stresses of today, our clients often complain that their lives are devoid of humor. Watching this DVD could help them see the irony in the human condition. 

One of the funniest scenes is the one with Mike Wallace, who interviews composer Franz Liszt, played by Borge. Wallace asks Liszt (Borge): “Who influenced you most?” Liszt (Borge) replies, “My mother. She was lovely. Even her name is lovely.” He pauses, then adds, “Christmas. She is Christmas Liszt.” 

Later in the same skit, they discuss the movie, “Song Without End,” which chronicles the life of Franz Liszt. Wallace extols the movie and Liszt’s brilliant accomplishments. Liszt (Borge) replies that his life was wonderful, except for 1887. What happened in 1887? “I died!”

A sought-after actor, musician, and humorist, Victor Borge received numerous awards, including the Kennedy Center Award for Outstanding Contribution to American Cultural Life in 1999 at the age of 90. 

Clinicians can use this DVD and information about Borge to encourage clients to see that age is only a number, and passion is the answer to a full life.

“Laughter is the best medicine” is an aphorism whose truth has been demonstrated by research. Research shows laughter has both physical and mental health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, increased immune function, stress relief, and increased creativity.

A final highlight of the DVD is Victor Borge with the late Italian tenor Sergio Franchi (younger clients most likely will need to be told who Franchi is). Franchi tells Victor Borge to follow him as Franchi sings a song. Borge and his page-turner move the piano—while Borge is playing—in order to literally follow Franchi around. 

The scene is a visual masterpiece. It’s also a humorous reminder to us mental health counselors to watch our words, as many clients take what we say literally since they see us as “the authority.”

I think Victor Borge summarizes the value of humor best. He says, “Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than anything else, because, you see, humor is truth.”

Laughing at themselves is most difficult for many of our clients. Yet it is the upsets of life that are often our greatest teachers. 

Victor Borge is this generation’s elegant Jerry Lewis, Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell, and through his humor, Borge can be appreciated by young and old alike.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday with family and friends, filled with joy and, of course, laughter.

Until next time,