I was out for a drive a couple of weeks ago with my grown daughter, just to get out of the house. We came to a red light on Cook Street, and along the boulevard across the street there was a big tree just covered in birds. Starlings, I think.
I said to my daughter “Bird meeting.” She immediately mimicked a bird, saying “I guess you all got my tweet!” I laughed so hard. She makes me giggle like nobody else. It was perfect comic relief.
It’s not something we get much of lately, but “comic relief” is a definitely something we need more of these days. It’s a relief to laugh, a release, even. For just a few moments, you forget everything else in the world. And in this dark time that we’re trying to get through, a little break from the doom and gloom is wonderful.
Babies usually start smiling and laughing at about 6 weeks old. There’s nothing more contagious than a baby’s laugh, or more satisfying than when we make them cackle. But where does that ability or instinct to laugh come from?
Because I’m always curious to know how we humans tick, I did a little research and discovered some interesting facts.
As it turns out, studies say that laughter is actually more about communicating and bonding than anything else. It isn’t the joke, it’s the interaction. Laughing together creates that bond, and helps us feel and become a part of the group. And in an uncomfortable situation, or in meeting someone new, sharing a laugh can make everyone a little more relaxed. We work better together when we can laugh together.
We are also more likely to laugh along with another person than we are to do it alone by ourselves, which is one of the reasons why laugh tracks on television sitcoms came into being. Psychologically speaking, laugh tracks and live audiences on TV make us feel like we’re sitting right there in the crowd, and we can’t help but chuckle along. It’s infectious.
If you are a fan of TV talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, have you noticed how different these shows are lately without their live audiences? Minus the energy and laughter of all those people, it really hasn’t been the same. The jokes and the banter don’t seem to be nearly as funny. I mean, there’s no doubt that it’s funny, but that silence right after the joke just makes it seem awkward.
In my LOL research, I found out to my amazement that rats can laugh! Theirs doesn’t sound quite like our giggles, of course, but they can be brought to laughter by tickling, and they also tend to hang around with other rats who laugh. I’ve seen them in groups before, but never realized the noises they were making might be laughter. That’s okay, as long as they’re not laughing at me.
I also discovered that women laugh 126% more than men do. I can vouch for that. When I golf with my girlfriends, we can literally make ourselves hysterical with laughter, but the male groups that are ahead of or behind us don’t seem to be nearly as amused. Lighten up guys. It’s just a game.
The physical effect of laughter releases endorphins, those “feel good” chemicals that relieve stress and pain, something you may be feeling a lot of these days. That’s why laughter is literally the best medicine. And why a smile is a curve that sets everything straight. There are at least a million idioms and quotes about laughter out there.
For instance, you might be a bundle of laughs, but you don’t want to be a laughing stock. You might laugh yourself silly, or laugh your head off, but you don’t want to kill yourself laughing!
There have been plenty of COVID jokes and memes out there too, of course. Like the new COVID Edition of Where’s Waldo.
Hint: he’s really easy to find.
And a sign I saw in the window of a book store lately: “Please note: The post-apocolyptical fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.”
Well, you gotta laugh.