The ‘Punny’ Man

A spoonful of laughter is really the best medicine

By Chandrea Serebro

I asked the ‘punny’ man, Richard Bayer, about his humour. “Chickens, geese, and ducks.” Then he apologised about the “foul” language. “I will try and think of a sewing pun that will leave you in stitches,” he said. Richard and his wife, Lee-Anne, have been married for almost ten years, and have managed to survive life, dreaded disease, love, parenthood, and marriage by using laughter as the real old clichéd best medicine, but one that really works. “I enjoy making people laugh with my clever puns or my very dry sense of humour that draws out many desperate groans.”

Lee-Anne and Richard met at the Wits School of Education, where they both studied teaching. “Despite our one lecturer always telling us that we should be together, we only started dating after we had finished our Bachelors of Education.” Marrying in 2009, and having a son, Shane, the following year, everything was bright and positive about their life until “our world turned upside down at the end of 2011”. Lee-Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27. “Shane was 20 months old and we were all broken. The next few months were traumatic. I was both a mum and dad to Shane as Lee-Anne had chemotherapy for six months. During that difficult time, I watched my wife fight for her life. After the six months of chemotherapy, Lee-Anne had a double mastectomy with reconstruction, and we had to restart our lives.”

But, in 2015, Lee mentioned that she was not feeling great and that she had a pain in her stomach, which was the start of what would become the next battle for her life: acute pancreatitis. For 12 weeks, Lee-Anne was at Linksfield Hospital, moving from ICU to ward and back, which proved to be a painful and challenging time. “It was touch and go. We realised that Lee-Anne’s health was not getting better.” She was moved to the Donald Gordon where, after three months of numerous operations, drains, drips, and blood transfusions, she was released and sent home to her parents’ house for recuperation. After intense physiotherapy, further blood transfusions, and loving support and kindness from the Bayer family, friends, and community, a miracle happened: Lee-Anne’s health returned.

“I used laughter to help ease the suffering not only for her, but also to get me through the stress of the latest medical results and the pain.” Richard cheered Lee-Anne by brain storming impromptu puns, which would cast a lighter side on the darkness, and by being silly even in her hardest times. “She needed to laugh and relax. Most importantly, she needed to know that I was okay and that our precious son, Shane, was in good hands.”

Laughter as the best medicine worked for Richard and Le-Anne, and, says Richard, while humour, and in turn laughter may not heal someone, “it will definitely help make the difficult situation easier to deal with”. “So many people take medication for stress and anxiety. When I feel unsettled/upset/unwell/tired, humour is what ‘heals’ me,” says Richard. Inspired by comedians such as Steven Wright, Tim Vine, and Milton Jones –“the kings of one liners” – Richard enjoys clever humour and has made it part of his own vocabulary.

Having grown up in a home that was full of debate, laughter, and puns, Richard’s first introduction to literacy involved his two favourite things: sport and humour. “My father, Peter, has his Masters in Creative Writing. He has written a variety of books that involve different genres. When I was little, he wrote a sports book called, ‘The almost complete guide to just about every sport that you want to read about but never got around to because you had to mow the lawn’. He finds humour in most things. My mother, Jocelyne, is a journalist and has been published in hundreds of magazines. She has a superb way with the English language and her sharp tongue is hysterical. I was surrounded by laughter and the elegant use of the English language growing up.”

Being a naturally quiet person, laughter has brought out the best in Richard and he loves nothing more than spreading it around. “Humour is contagious. It has become part of me.” He uses laughter to rid himself, and those who banter with him by swapping puns and sharing jokes, of the tension of everyday life, in much the same way as he helped his wife Lee-Anne get through her life-threatening ordeal. “I have become conscious of humour, but it is vital to use it in the right place and right setting without insulting anyone.”

Life is stressful, muses Richard. “Technology has taken over our lives. We must use it to our advantage.” Social media connects people all around the world, so this is where Richard goes to spread his brand of humour. “I have friends in different continents and all over the world people find their way to my Facebook page, where I post my puns every morning. It starts my day off on a fun note. I know that many people read my puns on a daily basis and share them with colleagues. That gives me massive satisfaction. I have people come up to me at shul, in shopping centres, and at parks to discuss my latest puns. I love it. The focus is positive and creates fun banter. It is better than talking about people who can’t defend themselves.”

“I believe that laughter can help you deal with tension and difficult situations. It creates fun conversation. It does wonders for your health. I have had Type 1 diabetes for 25 years. Stress is problematic for my blood sugars. When I smile and laugh, my sugars are perfect. It’s no coincidence. Eating the right foods and exercise is vital, but the ingredients are complete when I am relaxed after a good chuckle.” Richard looks at Lee-Anne now. “She looks wonderful. She is an inspirational educator and very popular person. I am beyond grateful and appreciative for her, and she makes me happy. I strive to pay that forward.”

Some of the ‘punny’man’s’ best puns:

I have finally found “the one”. It is next to number 2 on my keyboard.

I just failed my Italics writing exams with straight As.

My friend is dating a girl called Summer. I am not sure as to what he season her.

My friend gave me a lift this morning. It is a bit pointless as I live in a bungalow.

Apparently, there is a secret code to opening up an egg. I just don’t know how to crack the code.

My wife wanted a present with diamonds so I got her a pack of cards.

I was going to throw out all my socks, but I got cold feet.

When I played golf, I wore one sock as the other had a hole in one.

I used to date a girl named Pronoun. It ended, as she is possessive.

I passed my paint throwing exam with flying colours.

I used to go out with an anaesthetist. Unfortunately she kept putting me to sleep.

I was chatting to someone who spends so much money on coffee. I wonder how he sleeps at night.

All the lettering has come off my keyboard. I am lost for words.

Something about jigsaws puzzles me.

I was walking my two dogs this morning. A guy asked me if they’re Jack Russel’s. I said, “No, they’re mine.”

I was in a speed reading accident and got hit by a bookmark.

I don’t believe in change, I pay the exact amount.

I just watched a soccer match between ballerinas. It ended two two.

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