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Lewis H. Richmond, '58

Lewis H. Richmond, '58

Taking Humor to the Next Level

Dr. Lewis H. Richmond likes a good joke. He likes jokes and one-liners so much that he collects them like somebody would collect rare coins or Beanie Babies. In fact, he has two metal file cabinets stuffed with about 8 thousand of his own jokes and one-liners. And they are neatly organized by subject ranging from psychiatry jokes to gastrointestinal jokes.
“I have probably bored my wife to death by now,” he says. But Richmond, a psychiatrist, often uses humor to put his troubled adolescent patients at ease. “We are healthier if we can laugh,” says Dr. Richmond, who is 65. “I think it has healing aspects.”

Some of Dr. Richmond’s patients have behavioral problems, others are battling depression or anxiety, and there are a few who are psychotic. “I mix some of them together in my groups,” he says. “A lot of times I like to see what people’s tolerance is for humor. People who really have a hard time with humor generally have a harder time expressing emotions appropriately. They have more stuff bottled up.”

Dr. Richmond grew up in a working class section of Baltimore. While in high school, he and a friend became interested in how the human mind worked. They also analyzed their dreams, and read books by Sigmund Freud and Carl Menninger. After graduating from high school in 1951, Dr. Richmond went to the University of Maryland at College Park and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1954. He graduated from the School of Medicine in 1958. To pay for the final two years, Dr. Richmond joined the U.S. Air Force.

After stints in Texas and France, he came to Washington’s Walter Reed Hospital, where he did his psychiatric residency. It was at Walter Reed when he discovered his gift. At times he used “gallows” humor to poke fun at more mundane aspects of the job. A poem he wrote was entitled An Ode to a Bedside Commode. Dr. Richmond moved to San Antonio in 1965 as chief of mental hygiene at Lackland Air Force Base. He settled in San Antonio and worked at the University of Texas Health Science Center and also formed his own practice. By 1969, he was in private practice full time. He still practices and is clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas.
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Although he has used humor for more than 30 years during his professional career, it has been during the last two years that Dr. Richmond has blossomed publicly as a humorist. In 1997, he appeared at a San Antonio coffee house and told original jokes.
After the coffee house, he had a six week “gig” on Texas Public Radio, where he read his humorous essays. In February, he played a “redneck” and a rabbi in a production Brown Pigs and Burgers. And in August, he played a part in a Biblical musical Out of Ur. Dr. Richmond was Zor, the “lord of the household” to King Nimrod. Seven of the eight performances were sold out. “It was just wonderful,” says his wife Barbara, who noted that she was first attracted to her husband because of his quick wit.

“My kids went to see it, and they usually hate everything, but they loved it,” Dr. Richmond says. “For the first time in my life, I do a lot of dancing. For me, moving two feet at the same time is dancing.”

Dr. Richmond has his sights set on participating in other plays. “I hope somebody will discover me while I’m still alive,” he says. “They better hurry, too.”

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