Have a Laugh, It’s Good For You!!

Posted on November 8, 2010

I am reading a book at the the moment called The Naked Jape which an intriguing insight in to why we laugh and what makes us do it. It is something I haven’t really thought about before because it is an instinctive human trait that goes back millions of years. So what does make us laugh? It would appear that laughing is very complex indeed and recent research from Stanford (below) would appear to confirm not much, apart from the fact that it must have been written by someone without a sense of humour:

“Our analysis showed extroversion to positively correlate with humor-drive blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in discrete regions of the right orbital frontal cortex, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, and bilateral temporal cortices. Introversion correlated with increased activation in several regions, most prominently the bilateral amygdala …”

If you understand that paragraph, you are a genius or a brain surgeon who has probably come across this blog by Googling “bilateral temporal corices”. You may as well go back to the search engine now. If (which is more likely if know me) you don’t understand it, join me in totally ignoring it, and looking at other more understandable theories. The old story goes that laughing came about by a reaction to rapidly receding danger. For example, a Caveman was approached by a Mammoth which made him scream in terror to alert his relatives of the imminent danger, the Mammoth slips on the ice and lands on his arse and the caveman’s panic stricken shrieking turns to hysterical laughter. The theory being that in the early days of man, laughter was caused by relief.

I can get that theory, because when I was in my early 20’s I was driving on the A34 over The Chilterns near Oxford when I saw a major pile up in front of me. As I braked I realised that I was on a road sheeted with black ice, and my car fizzed towards the accident completely out of my control and span round a few times before shuddering to a halt against the centre barriers about ten yards short of the pile up. From a point where I was assuming my premature removal from the planet, I was suddenly in a situation where I was miraculously unscathed. For no apparent reason I began to laugh uncontrollably to the point where the people who came to assist me thought I may have been concussed. It was only when I convinced them I was laughing out of sheer joy at still being alive that they let me continue my journey. Some theorists also claim laughing is infectious, but I don’t suppose the people getting lifted in to the back of the ambulances as I drove past saw the funny side of my escape like I did.

I also have a habit of laughing in awkward situations where I know I shouldn’t laugh at all. Many years ago a old member of a fishing club I belonged to died, which was in fact very sad. However, the description of his hideous death became more Monty Pythonesque as it progressed. The speaker described the poor bastards demise in great detail as he had his limbs amputated one by one, which left me imagining the somewhat bizarre sight of just a head on a hospital pillow alongside a forlorn looking Doctor with a blunt hacksaw, and this made me chuckle away to myself. However, the situation worsened as the speaker announced not one, but two minutes silence in his honour, and I just fell apart and laughed hysterically all the way through despite desperately not wanting to, trying to cover it up with pathetic coughing noises, in what was a truly awful situation. I was severely reprimanded and asked to explain why I thought someone dying was so funny, something I couldn’t do, as I didn’t think the poor sod dying was funny at all, it was the morbid description of his body getting hacked to bits that got to me. Why on earth would anyone want to go in to so much detail?  It only just fell short of him mimmicking a sawing action!!

The minutes silence has now become a curse to me, I avoid it at all costs to avoid embarrassing myself, but I was caught out again with my own Son at a Reading game a couple of years back. I can’t remember who had died, probably John Madjeskis dog or something, but as the silence began, I looked down the line of players in the middle of the pitch with their heads bowed and right at the end was Kingsley The Lion, Reading’s mascot, complete with a fucking great grin on his big Lion face and his big bushy tail hanging between his legs. How inappropriate is that, a grinning lion, why didn’t they get him off the pitch? I nudged my son and said; “Look at Kingsley.” The next 50 seconds was utter mayhem as we both laughed until it hurt whilst being told to show more respect by fans around us. I really shouldn’t have pointed the mascot out to George, because now if there is a minutes silence we have to delay our entrance the fear of a reoccurrence. Fortunately they seem to applaud when people die now at football matches, which is not much better than laughing when you think about it. What next fireworks?

So anyway, it would appear that I laugh most when I am shocked or I am in an inappropriate situation, which lends to the theory that we laugh at something we are so thankful to be avoiding like injury or death, that’s what’s perhaps what makes YouTube so popular. Two million You Tube followers have seen the Belgian man interviewing the disabled guy with a strange voices (if you haven’t go to You Tube and search Belgian interview) If it is a true situation, it is one of the greatest examples of laughter when you least want to, a truly awful moment that so many people will have empathy with, why he fell apart like that I suppose only he can say.

Whatever makes you laugh, carry on doing it as much as you can, because one bit of research that is consistent, is that people who laugh a lot have longer healthier lives, are more popular with the opposite sex and in the work place, and are unlikely to suffer from depression. So laughing is better than cocaine or Valium, just don’t join a fishing club where one of the members has Gangreen!

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