Everybody enjoys a good laugh.
Going to a comedy club or clicking on an HBO special is always filled with an anticipation that we are going to have a good time. A well-placed joke can definitely lighten the mood.
How many situations in your life can you remember where a laugh has taken the edge off a stressful situation? When you hear a good joke, how often do you look forward to telling it to your friends or family?
Being a standup comedian is arguably one of the toughest jobs in the world. Performing in front of mostly strangers with the plan being to make them laugh for the next 30 to 60 minutes can be intimidating. There could be nothing worse than being 10 minutes into your routine, having barely elicited a chuckle, knowing you still have 50 minutes on stage.
It’s a comedian’s worst nightmare. That’s why they start in small venues to hone their craft. Failing in front of 20 is easier to survive than in front of thousands. They have to find out what works and what doesn’t. When I hear a good one, I’ve learned to say it out loud to myself initially. Who of us hasn’t blown a punchline the first time we retold a killer joke?
“Laughter is the best medicine.”
Ever hear that phrase? Some attribute its origin to the American publisher and humor writer Bennett Cerf. One could point to Proverbs 17:22 “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” This quote refers to the fact there are proven benefits to laughter. You can google “10 Impressive Benefits of Laughter by Meenakshi Navdege” to see the complete list I am referencing.
Here are some of the benefits.
•Reduces Stress Hormones — “Laughter has been shown to reduce the levels of certain stress hormones in the body”
•Increases health-enhancing Hormones — “Laughter can increase the number of beneficial hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters in the body.”
•Boosts Immune System — “Laughter can even go so far as to help you stay healthy. It has been widely studied that laughter can stimulate antibody cells to develop at faster rates by changing the body’s chemistry through hormonal shifts. This increase in antibodies means that the body is able to fight off illness and infection easier. T-Cells are a type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Studies have shown that the efficiency of T-cells is actually increased in a subject who regularly laughs and adds those hormonal advantages to their overall system.”
•Regulates Blood Pressure — “For anyone with high blood pressure, try to laugh more and watch your blood pressure decrease. Studies have shown that ‘mirthful laughter’ causes an initial increase in arterial blood pressure due to the physical act of laughing, but that rise is followed by a decrease to below the normal resting blood pressure. This is further proof that laughter does indeed improve circulation and can reduce blood pressure, which is one of the major causes of heart disease and cardiac issues for many people.”
•Increases Blood Oxygenation — “The process of laughter causes us to use our respiratory system very quickly and strenuously for a short amount of time. This intense activity stimulates an increase in the blood flow as the heart rate increases temporarily, thus increasing the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain. Increased oxygen levels in the brain promote healthier brain function, as oxygen is integral to brain health. Additionally, the pulmonary activity gets a boost from laughter as well, because there is a higher level of ventilation of the lungs during robust episodes of ‘mirthful laughter.’”
•Promotes Creativity — “Laughter has a large number of effects on the chemical processes in the body, and the combination of reduced stress hormones, increased endorphins, and increased oxygenation to the blood and brain caused an increase in creativity in test subjects who laugh often. By improving overall brain health and bolstering its natural support system, both hemispheres can work together more efficiently so creativity has a place to foster and grow.”
Should we be concerned?
There was an urban legend going around that certain comedians — Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld being mentioned — will no longer perform on college campuses. I checked the internet and, low and behold, this rumor is not a rumor. There are several standup comics who fit into this category. Why? Apparently, too many of our higher-learning students “don’t get the joke.”
“The physical response of laughter is very fast. After our senses are exposed to something ‘funny,’ an electric current runs through our nervous system to our cerebral cortex. The higher brain functions in the left hemisphere decode the words and the syntactical structure in a very analytic approach to the information, while the more creative right hemisphere understands the humor, or ‘gets it.’”
I wrote a column several months ago titled “The Coming Healthcare Tsunami,” referring to the millennials’ health issues. At 27 years of age, their health will start to decline on several fronts. The number one health issue is depression. This lay person sees a linkage between depression and “not getting it.” I could speculate on why that is, but we might be getting into very controversial arenas and it is definitely above my pay grade.
Being an old born and raised Georgia boy, I never was offended by Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck if…” jokes. They were (and still are) hilarious! Don’t be so judgmental.
Don’t be so “woke.” It’s a narrow view of life. Suffice to say we all need to learn to laugh more, particularly at ourselves. Our health may depend on it.
Good luck and good health!