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© 2012 Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.

Laughter is powerful

One of the funniest and most dear videos rippling around the Internet currently is a tiny movie about the tiniest black pig (YouTube, “Kingsford the Piglet Goes for a Swim”).  The piglet is smaller than a woman’s foot, jet black, eager, and passionate to be included with his humans.  Watch this video once, and you’ll feel so charmed, you’ll have to watch it again.  The piglet’s antics make you laugh.  Another video is YouTube’s “Dancing Bulldog”, in which a small bulldog is evidently boogeying to some fun music.  Of all the videos I have seen in recent months, I laughed the hardest at “Silent Monks Hallelujah Chorus”, in which cards are held up to encourage the audience to sing along.  Impish variations surprise and make you laugh.  What videos or movies have made you laugh?

Laughter feels good!  It makes you relax, from your muscles to your skin to your attitude. Laughing very hard can cause you to clutch your spasming abdomen, gasp for breath, drool a bit, and wipe your teary eyes.  A good, hearty laugh can make you feel refreshed, even totally rested.  And there seem to be medical benefits: improved immune function (fewer allergies and illnesses with regular laughter) and better blood vessel function leading to better blood pressure than when you are stressed.  However, researchers say the medical benefits are hard to measure.  Rather, it is easier to observe the social benefits of laughter: it is both symptomatic of happy relationships and contagious, creating more social connection and happiness (Robert Provine, Laughter:  A Scientific Investigation, Penguin Books, 2001).  Women laugh about a quarter more than men.  Those who say they laugh a lot also tend to be in good health.  Laughter therapy is used for cancer patients, who find it helps their quality of life.  Laughter can increase the release of endorphins, the anti-stress brain chemicals that can lessen pain and stiffness.

Laughter is a part of our makeup.  Babies start laughing when they are as young as 10 weeks.  And adults are immediately drawn in, trying to see what they can do to get the baby to laugh again.  Watch a normally calm parent of a 3-month-old, making faces and tickling the baby, producing any noise or gesture that will make the little one laugh.  The urge to get a laugh is right up there with the urge to laugh.

Yet there can be a poignant edge to humor—a place where discomfort can be portrayed in a way that makes us laugh and discharge that discomfort.  A popular expression is, “You have to laugh to keep from crying!” Folk wisdom advises us to shrug off or laugh off our troubles.  Comedienne Ellen Degeneres made her early career describing uncomfortable events from everyday life, in a comical way, with a look of consternation on her face.  She delivered her vignettes in ways that made people laugh, and laugh, and laugh.  Today, she has a top-rated television show, Ellen, many endorsements and guest host opportunities, and an estimated income of $45 million per year.  People can relate to her humor, she makes them laugh, and this has built her success.  People need to laugh at their troubles.

Recently, Dr. Phil McGraw ran a show about comedians who transformed terrible personal pain into comedy.  The episode of Dr. Phil (http://www.drphil.com/shows/show/1753/) highlighted two comedians, Darrell Hammond and Chris Titus.  Each overcame horrific backgrounds to become well-known and successful in comedy.  Darrell Hammond is now the author of a book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F***ed.  His humor has helped many to laugh at their troubles and take a lighter view.   Chris Titus knows humor can literally be lifesaving:  a fan who was about to kill himself accidentally sat on his TV controller, and the TV popped on to a Chris Titus performance.  The fan began to laugh and changed his mind about killing himself.

What makes you laugh until you cry?  Do that more!  It’s your life, your health, and your relationships.


—  Comments welcome!   —

Reach the writer at kebba@kebba.com .