Barrel of Laughs

Meaning of “Barrel of Laughs”

The phrase “barrel of laughs” means something that is entertaining and is a source of fun. In the past, the word “barrel” was used as a replacement to “a lot of”. Therefore, this phrase means that something or somebody is entertaining or funny.

Origin of “Barrel of Laughs”

The phrase “barrel of laughs” was first used in the early 20th century in a British newspaper, Burnley News, in its publication of October 1924. It goes: “It is a companion picture to “Back Home and Broke” with the same breezy fun, sharp satire, and heart appeal, containing a “crackerjack” role for the star, with a barrel of real laughs. Since then, it has become a popular idiom used in both American and England.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

Ruby’s Got a Big Idea by Candy Butchers

Ruby rolled in with a barrel of laughs
Ruby rolled in with a barrel of laughs
He got no audience, no place to crash
But Ruby’s got a barrel of laughs
Nothing but a barrel of la-la-la-la-la

The above lines from the song show that a girl named Ruby rolled in with “a barrel of laughs.” It means Ruby was perhaps reliving her happy moments, laughing even though there was no one to share her joy. The song represents self-confidence and self-motivation.

Example #2

A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer

This is a delightful children’s book revolves around its protagonist, the young prince, Roger. Prince Roger is naïve and has a good sense of humor but lacks the seriousness of life. His father, King Watchamacallit thinks he is not worthy of the throne. Therefore, he is sent to experience the ups and downs of life. For this purpose, he travels to the Forever Forest. The young prince meets the reality of life, though, he still finds some elements of humor in it. The phrase is used in the title of this book in the literal sense to portray the prince’s exuberant yet innocent personality. The phrase also highlights the poignant moments of Prince Roger’s topsy-turvy adventure.

Example #3

Gullah, Gullah Island; Barrel of Laughs directed by Chuck Vinson

Gullah Gullah Island is a famous television show aired between 1994 till 1998. In this series, the African-American family on Gullah Gullah Island learns many life lessons along with their friends, neighbors, and their pollywog pet, Binya Binya. Barrel of Laughs is an episode of this series in which the family crakes jokes and tries to make each other laugh.

Example #4

Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore by Alan Dundes

The book is a collection of more than sixty fascinating articles by a folklorist Alan Dundes. Dundes discusses the depth of rich African American culture. He explains the title of the book linking it with their gloomy history in the preface of this book. He elaborates that during slavery, laughing for African-American slaves was not permissible. When they urged to laugh, they had a “laughing barrel” in which they would lean down to laugh without the fear of being heard. Therefore, the use of this phrase as the title of this book is apt.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Amanda, you were not invited to the party? Superb! You know we really had a barrel of laughs.”

Example #2: “A contented life itself is a divine gift, but to experience life’s complexities is surely not a barrel of laughs.”

Example #3: “Parenting is something to be pondered by the couple as it has never been a barrel of laughs to raise children with morals.”

Example #4: “Charlie Chaplin’s appearance in the episode, The Mirror Maze, was not merely a barrel of laughs, but his character has a lot to educate the audience through his unsaid words and described actions.”

Example #5: “To stand against the patriarchal and stereotypical society was not a barrel of laughs for Amna as she had been part of it since her ancestors’ birth. However, the courageous soul manages to raise her voice for the next generation of daughters.”