I’ve always been aware of how certain words or phrases start showing up, and then they become hip and fashionable. They eventually become so mainstream that you hear them said on sitcoms, or by six year-olds, or by eighty-six year-olds, and then you realize that it’s no longer hip and fashionable to say them.
A few years ago, I started noticing this cute little exchange more and more frequently:
Person One: (Says something intended for humorous effect)
Person Two: “Ah, I see what you did there.”
I couldn’t figure out why this started to annoy me each time I heard it. It was more than mere over-usage. Maybe it was the smug subtext in which Person Two seems to be implying , “I acknowledge and understand your attempt at humor, but it’s not worthy of my responding with an actual laugh.”
Then I started thinking, “Hey, Person Two….what’s your damned problem? Is your face going to crack if you allow yourself to laugh?” If you’ve been guilty of this maneuver, I forgive you.
So now I’m going to take the plunge by attempting to say a few not-funny things about humor and laughter, despite E. B. White’s warning that “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”
What I’m saying is this: Allow yourself to laugh. Try to make others laugh. Granted, the world is fraught with a huge stack of serious things, but the only chance we have of navigating it while retaining any trace of sanity is to be open to the humor in any situation. In a group, a shared laugh is an incredible bonding experience. And, in terms of self-preservation, I’m convinced that a good laugh can provide restorative and curative properties. As a matter of fact, Norman Cousins of The Saturday Review wrote an entire book about how he was rescued from Death’s Door mainly by watching things like Marx Brothers movies, convinced that the idea of a “Laughing Cure” has true merit.
There a lot of things that are important to me: family, career, etc. But, equally important is my mission to induce at least a few guffaws, chuckles or snorts out of the people that I encounter each day. That, to me, is a small but vital victory. It’s gratifying to have brought a ray of happiness into someone’s day. no matter how fleeting.
I find the sound of other people laughing to be therapeutic, too, even if I’m not directly involved in their exchange. For that reason, from time to time I listen to this recording of Mike Nichols and Elaine May cracking each other up in the recording studio:
You see, I find the sound of their laughter a wonderful thing to encounter, even if I wasn’t to think that its cause is all that funny (which I do).
So, for the good of our species, don’t pass up a chance to make someone laugh. You’ll both feel better. And, just as important, never resist rewarding yourself with a chortle when someone has made the effort to provoke it. Trust me, this is a good thing.