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Q and A with Freddy Lou Barneberg

by: DENISE FARWELL, The most serious times of our lives are the ones when we need humor the most, says Freddy Lou Barneburg, secretary-treasurer of the Humor R Us club. The group meets monthly at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center.

Every Friday, the Portland Tribune puts questions to a prominent - or not so prominent - local person.

So a clown walks into a hospital.

Actually, several clowns walk into a hospital. On the second Tuesday of every month. At 1 p.m.

And while at least one of these clowns does volunteer work at the hospital once in a while, entertaining child patients, the second Tuesday of every month is not for that.

The second Tuesday of every month, at a meeting room at Portland's Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center, is for a meeting of Portland's Humor R Us club.

Life is funny. And these people are here to remember that.

They are not all clowns here. And few of them are professional funny-people. They are just people - a little on the graying side - who get together once a month to talk about humor, learn maybe a bit about humor and, mostly, learn to appreciate humor.

Humor R Us - it eventually hopes to have chapters nationwide - was founded by Cornelius resident Forrest Wheeler, a retired administrator of British-American consulate schools in Southeast Asia. He's also a professional clown and author of the book 'Using the Power of Humor to Improve Your Life.'

Wheeler runs the meetings of the local chapter. (For information about the group, contact Wheeler, 503-429-1584 or forrest This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

However, he referred Q and A to club secretary-treasurer Freddy Lou Barneburg, who is 68 and also a retired school administrator, because 'she's so bubbly and effervescent.'

She's also the clown who entertains the young patients at the hospital.

Portland Tribune: So is everyone in your club funny, or are there some who just think they're funny?

Freddy Lou Barneburg: Some are so funny that you just look at them and they make you want to laugh.

And it's not that they're particularly funny looking. It's just that they have such exuberance. You just pay attention and you know they're going to come up with something - they have a gift, I guess, of seeing the humor in life.

Tribune: Why a humor club? Does it make you funnier?

Barneburg: I think it enriches our life because Forrest gives us direction and understanding of ourselves that allows our natural abilities to see the humor in things. It actually produces good physical results. Endorphins are released … blood pressure is lowered.

Tribune: So what happens at your meetings?

Barneburg: Forrest asks us for suggestions and we learn more about humor. He gives lectures, written materials.

Last time we covered various kinds of humor. He defined the many types of humor. Sarcasm was one. I can't think of the others. …

He began talking about the big splash a fly made as it fell into the bowl of soup. Well, I found that tremendously funny. You know, a fly doesn't make a big splash.

Different personalities like different kinds of humor.

Tribune: Have you figured out your humor personality?

Barneburg: No. That doesn't help you with your article. But no.

I just know that humor is a leveler for life, for the ups and downs of life. It kind of helps you lift yourself up from the ruts you find in the road of life.

Tribune: Lectures, written materials … sounds studious.

Barneburg: The people there (make it) light. Many of the people who attend are clowns.

Tribune: And that's not an insult. That's a professional statement?

Barneburg: Yeah, right. But (attending the meetings) would be very helpful for the regular Joe Blow.

Oftentimes, I think when people think of the word 'humor,' they think in terms of clowns and people who are entertainers.

But everyone has a clown side to them, if they would only let it out. And the Humor R Us club is a safe environment for letting it out and for discovering it, as a matter of fact. We're in a such a rush, rush, rush world that we don't take time to smell the roses.

Tribune: Do you always meet at the hospital? That doesn't exactly lend itself to humor, does it?

Barneburg: I don't have a problem with it. I hadn't thought of that.

What (Forrest) is trying to do is he's trying to educate the community, and hospital workers and people who work with the personal needs of people - people who are involved with someone in serious and responsible positions - to understand the place of humor in the workplace and in your life.

Tribune: Because there's a place for humor in serious situations?

Barneburg: It's most important in serious situations. Because humor is the leveler that lets us survive some of the hardships of life.

Tribune: How many people are in your club, or come to your meetings?

Barneburg: We've been having a small turnout. I hate to tell you how small.

Tribune: Just you and Forrest?

Barneburg: No, it's not that small. But not a whole lot bigger.

Tribune: What's the typical member of Portland Humor R Us Club? Is there a typical member?

Barneburg: The ones that have been coming … they're from 50 to in their 80s.

Tribune: Why older people?

Barneburg: I think because the younger set are working during the day. Our meetings are the second Tuesday of the month, from 1 (o'clock) to 2.

Tribune: So does the world need more humor?

Barneburg: Oh, absolutely.

Tribune: Why?

Barneburg: Well, have you got caught in traffic, and seen the behavior patterns of people? I think people could use more humor.

Tribune: What does the secretary-treasurer of a humor club do, exactly?

Barneburg: The same thing that I do when I've been secretary-treasurer of (other clubs). I do keep minutes. We are, after all, a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit).

Tribune: Are the minutes of a humor club funny?

Barneburg: I think that unless you were a member … well, there are things you don't really put in the minutes … I hate to tell you. But probably not.

- Todd Murphy