He who laughs last probably outlived the rest

  • By Malcolm Ritter Associated Press
  • Friday, November 2, 2007 3:09pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

“Last Laughs: Cartoons about Aging, Retirement … and the Great Beyond,” edited by Mort Gerberg

Why would anybody seek out and publish a bunch of cartoons about aging, retirement and death? Mort Gerberg was inspired by the sight of an elderly man at a ski resort who was as exuberant as a school kid in claiming a new perk.

“Today is my 80th birthday,” the man exalted. “And I skied for free! Free at last!”

Gerberg, himself in his 70s and a professional cartoonist, rounded up a group of colleagues from the roster of The New Yorker. The result is a book of 132 cartoons, nearly all new.

Why should anybody read this book? Because these cartoons really are funny. I counted only six that didn’t do much for me, versus 21 that stood out even in this witty collection.

“He’s one tough cookie,” a doctor confides at a bedside. “I’ve never seen anyone bounce back from an autopsy before.”

And for all of us who’ve grown dissatisfied with our appearance, there’s the panel of an older gent looking into the bathroom mirror — and trying to control it by clicking a remote control. No caption necessary.

The 26 contributors include such stars as Roz Chast, Ed Koren, Victoria Roberts and Gahan Wilson. They turn in a terrific performance. They also contribute brief texts in which they answer questions about their lives. (Their cartoons are a lot funnier.)

So what’s the point of all this? Gerberg suggests that rather than living in denial about aging and death, that we treat it like “any other familiar irritation such as traffic or technology — by laughing about it.”

His book is a good start.

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