For many years I had a gift subscription to Reader’s Digest magazine. When each issue arrived, I immediately tore off the plastic cover and turned to the funny features such as Life’s Like That, and Laughter, the Best Medicine. There was always a joke or anecdote to make me giggle. There’s nothing like a good laugh!
I love to laugh, don’t you? When I’m having a bad day, laughter lifts my spirits. When I’m with friends and family, laughing together connects us in a way that very little else can. A funny passage in a book can reduce me to helpless guffaws and streaming tears, even in public among strangers. (This actually happened to me on the Toronto subway while I was reading The Best Laid Plans by Toronto writer Terry Fallis. I was a bit embarrassed, but sympathetic to those craning their necks to see the title of the book. And yes, I’ve read every one of Terry’s books since and eagerly await the publication of Poles Apart in October 2015.)
Whether it’s a little chuckle or howls of mirth, laughter somehow changes us.
Of course, what we find amusing is highly subjective. What tickles our funny bone may leave someone else with a frown on their face. Humour comes in many forms and styles. Just a few include slapstick, dry/deadpan, off-colour, satirical, self-deprecating, ironic, juvenile/sophomoric, and farcical.
Here’s an example from the old Carol Burnett show that’s intended to be deadpan humour, but the players lose it halfway through:
Did you know that there’s a field of scientific study dedicated to laughter and its physiological and psychological effects? It’s called gelotology, from the Greek root gelos (to laugh), and was coined in 1964 by Dr. William F. Fry and Dr. Edith Trager. There are even academic journals dedicated to humour, including HUMOR (International Journal of Humor Research) and Studies in American Humor.
Increasingly, humour is being used in healthcare settings and beyond to help people cope in difficult situations. At two of the hospitals at which I have worked, humour is brought to the bedside of young patients through the innovative and effective therapy of therapeutic clowning. At Sick Kids Hospital and on the paediatric unit of Credit Valley Hospital, therapeutic clowns visit children and families to offer emotional support by using humour and gentle play. The clown becomes a playmate, friend and confidante who helps minimize stress during hospitalization and treatment. It’s absolutely wonderful to see in action!
Here’s another example of humour that makes me laugh:
Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. “Watson,” he says. “Look up in the sky and tell me what you see.”
“I see millions of stars, Holmes,” says Watson.
“And what do you conclude from that, Watson?”
Watson thinks for a moment. “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorlogically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?”
“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”
Ha ha ha!