When this Laurel & Hardy scene was shot sometime in the early ’30s, laughing a little too loudly in a restaurant was regarded as a social faux pas. Nowadays it’s completely normal and even de rigueur for people to laugh like Stan Laurel and then some — shrieking like hyenas, throwing their heads back — in cafes, restaurants and bars. Especially among women who’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. In the same sense that George C. Scott‘s General Patton claimed that he fought in a famous battle between the Romans and the Cathaginians, I am that moustache-wearing guy sitting behind L&H who twice turns around to give Stan the stink-eye. I am also that woman seething at the table.
From “Worst People In The World“, posted on 4.30.10: “I’m sitting in a little joint on Second Avenue near 11th Street, trying to do a little work and savor the warm mid-afternoon air. But I can’t. I have to pack up and leave. A group of hysterical shriekers sat down about ten or twelve minutes ago — okay, a shrieking man and a cackling woman accompanied by two hee-hee-ers — and all I want to do is see one of them choke to death on a piece of ham. Or…you know, be garroted by one of the waiters.
“It has to be said again because this trend isn’t ebbing — it’s getting worse. There’s nothing quite as awful to me (and others, I presume) as people who laugh like drunken coyotes or wild orgasm dogs in restaurants. The key component in any display of obnoxious public behavior is being utterly oblivious to the possibility that you might be offending others. Clearly such a thought hasn’t occured to the gang sitting next to me now.”
From “Oppressive Laughter,” filed on 1.18.07: “I was writing at a table in a sports bar last night, and there was a group of five sitting nearby — four guys and a lady — who couldn’t stop laughing uproariously. Every time they burst out laughing it felt like someone had exploded an aural fart grenade…’hah-hah-hah-hahhhh!’ After a while I got out my watch and started timing their frequency — no lie, the boisterous noise happened about once every 75 or 80 seconds.
“Everybody explodes in laughter from time to time — it’s wonderful when this happens. But people who do it repeatedly and oppressively in a crowded room are, no offense, animals.”