Cats and children have a way of making me laugh out loud. But when I don’t have cats or children around, I rely on my family and friends to offer lighthearted moments. But too many times they have life struggles, or daily mundane tasks, that keep them from feeling humorous. So we don’t laugh. We zero in on our troubles.
With all the articles and studies telling us that humor and laughter helps improve psychological and physical health, I think more humor in our life would be a good thing. But it’s not easy laughing when you feel bogged down with have-to’s, must-do’s, to-do’s, and most importantly, hair-do’s. Bad hair days aside, I don’t see the humor very often in my everyday life.
For example. It’s hard to laugh while applying for a home equity loan unless you find humor in the myriad of people you talk to on the phone who tell you their particular responsibilities don’t handle your banking needs. “Oh, that’s not my department, you want Mr. Fisker, just a moment while I transfer you.” The line disconnects and you hear a dial tone. You call back (being the persistent person you are). More transfers and finally you’re put through to Mr. Fisker’s line. You sit on hold for twenty minutes, then suddenly Mr. Fisker’s pre-recorded voicemail greeting bursts on the line, announcing he can’t take your call. He’s on another line or stepped away from his office. You know very well he’s munching a donut, guzzling the iced coconut mocha macchiato he bought on his break and way too involved in Candy Crush to answer. Some might laugh at the waste of time companies put us through. I could laugh it off too. I don’t. I prefer to slam the phone down very hard so Jerry knows I’m upset. I say to Jerry, “I can’t believe the headache I have! Jerry, you have no idea how much pain the bank has just put me through. I’m going to bed.”
Sometimes I find humor when I’m not looking for it. Like today. I typed “how to have…” in Google’s search box and before I could finish typing the word “humor,” Google thought it would impress me and finish the sentence for me. It flashed “how to have hemorrhoids removed.” Google! You read my mind. Of course! Yes! Not humor, but hemorrhoids. That’s exactly what I was going to type. How perceptive.
If someone says to me, “I’ve got a joke, it’s so funny,” – I immediately think, “I’ll be the judge of that,” and then I never laugh at the joke because my expectations are too high. Tell me a joke that’s not funny and then I’ll want, and even try, to laugh.
It’s hard to define what’s funny. Author George Orwell wrote, “A thing is funny when−in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening−it upsets the established order.” In other words, people find things funny that surprise them and forces them to think of things in a new way.
Some books claim to be funny and really are. Ellen DeGeneres wrote, My Point…And I Do have One. I read it a long time ago, so I can’t be clear on the specifics. In one chapter she hopes for a quarter inch more space in her airline seat and during that same flight she tells a nun she’s going to hit her. I don’t remember why or what the nun did. But I remember laughing out loud and that’s what’s important.
I laugh whenever I read a book by Anne Lamott. She says what’s on her mind and she can be serious and insightful as well as funny. I don’t think she threatens nuns, however.
As a kid, I laughed at every I Love Lucy episode. Who doesn’t think a loaf of bread the size of a canoe jutting headlong from the oven and into the wall isn’t funny?
Apparently Jerry. “I never liked Lucy,” he says, “she’s like the Three Stooges and she’s just silly and not funny.”
“Uh, no Jerry, Lucy is not like the Three Stooges. She doesn’t grunt ‘yut, yut,’ and then boink someone on the head with her fist. She has comedic talent.”
A few days after I defended Lucy, I watched a TV documentary on her life and was surprised to learn she wasn’t funny in her real life. She needed the writer’s words to become Lucy Ricardo. For some reason, that disturbed me.
Even so, Lucy did a lot of good with her writer-directed antics, like lighting her putty nose on fire or wrestling in a vat of grapes. Norman Cousins wrote a book in 1979 titled Anatomy of an Illness describing how watching comedic movies helped him recover from a serious and painful illness.
Hospitals and Cancer Centers offer laughter therapy programs based on studies that reveal laughter helps reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones, and boost the immune system.
Here are some suggestions on how to have hemorrhoids. I mean humor.
1. Learn to laugh at yourself. When you accidentally fall flat on your face, sprawled out on the floor looking like a turkey about to be stuffed, laugh at yourself. Ha, ha, I’m down here looking for my contact lens. Or I wanted a better look at the design on this floor. Or be honest, “Hey, people, the cooking wine causes me to be a little tipsy!”
2. Actively look for a laugh every day. It’s the UPS guy at the door and he rings your doorbell and hurries back to his truck. You open the door and wave to him as he speeds off. What’s funny about that? Nothing. So look somewhere else for your laugh. Your good friend Phyllis sent you an e-mail and stated the event you wanted to attend will soon be posted on a website. She writes, “Keep your eyes peeled, but not like onions or carrots.” Now that’s funny.
3. Learn a variety of jokes. Practice these semi-humorous starter jokes. You’ll want to start out slow and work your way up to the really hilarious jokes (to be learned at a later date.)
Starter joke 1.
Wife: “I look fat. Can you give me a compliment?”
Husband: “You have perfect eyesight.”
Starter joke 2.
A man telephoned the airlines and asked, “How long does it take to fly to Boston?”
The clerk said, “…just a minute…”
“Thank you,” the man said and hung up.
4. Get a bouncy house. Now I’ve never had a bouncy house, but I know if I had one I would laugh, guaranteed. If the bank put me through misery by transferring my calls to a hundred people and then placed me on hold, I would hang up and go outside and jump in my bouncy house. Why isn’t it mandatory that we all have a bouncy house in our backyard? I know it would help me handle life better.
“Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one’s fellow human beings.” – Maya Angelou