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The Best Medicine of All Time: Laughter

When did you have your last good laugh? As we leave 2021 behind with all its tribulations, let’s ring in the new year with a bit of laughter.

For all cultures, laughing has been a way to make it through hard times. Last March, Sixty and Me published a great blog about laughing, “3 Fun Ways to Combat Coronavirus with Laughter.” As we begin 2021, I thought it was time to revisit the topic of laughter.

The Psychology Today article “Laughter is the Best Medicine” describes a plethora of research that demonstrates how laughter can reduce pain and improve the oxygen flow to your brain and heart. For people with diabetes, laughter has been found to increase glucose tolerance.

Upside Down World

Shared laughter can increase synchronization between the brains of speaker and listener. Humor also eases emotional pain. That is why people turn to humor in times like these. On New Year’s Eve, a friend sent me an email with the subject line “Goodbye 2020.” Have you heard any of these?

  • I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
  • The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house, and their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!
  • Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller wearing a mask and ask for money!

Funny Bone

Did you know that gorillas laugh? They like to be tickled. I guess that is what is meant by having a funny bone. There are many examples on YouTube. This laughing gorilla was my favorite because something that happened struck him or her as hilarious.

Children have a funny bone too. When I taught first grade, we always created a class joke book. They shared their favorite jokes like “What did one wave say to the other? The answer ‘Nothing, they just waved.’” Their sense of humor was so sweet.

Writing About Laughter

This week the theme in my writing group was laughter. The members each wrote stories about laughter in their lives. One woman shared the funny refrigerator magnets that she and her friend exchanged as gifts.

Another shared home-made comics, sent daily to her by a friend who is actually a software engineer. And yet another said that when she needed a laugh, she would open YouTube and watch the Funniest Home Videos.

The Laughing Record

When it was my turn to share, I wrote about a recent discovery I made when exploring family history. My Great Uncle Otto began OKEH records, named after himself, Otto K. E. Heinemann, in the early 1900s.

His record company became famous for releasing the Laughing Record, recorded in 1920, shortly after the end of World War I. It featured nothing but opera singers laughing along with a cornet solo. The record became an instant hit, selling over a million copies.

It was said to be a precursor to laugh tracks we hear on sitcoms. When I heard it on YouTube, I rolled my eyes as I usually do with laugh tracks. But as I listened, I could not stop myself from laughing. Listen here:

Daily Sources of Laughter

These days my daily dose of laughter comes from two places. First, my dogs are so funny when they compete to sit beside me on our couch. Mango, my little bulldog, known for being slow, uncharacteristically comes running to snuggle next to me.

That does not stop Pepe, the much bigger, high-energy pointer from trying to squeeze in without taking into consideration he is actually sitting on top of me. We make a pretty funny scene all squished together.

The other source of laughter is Anteo, my grandson who is now 9 months old. What is funnier than a baby? My daughter sends daily short videos with Anteo doing all sorts of hilarious baby acrobatics and laughing away.

Have you seen anything funny on TV or Netflix? Check out Sebastian Mansicalco’s standup routine about the impossible task of teaching his father how to use the “Internets” – over the phone. Sebastian commented: “It hasn’t gotten any better… When I call my dad now, he always says ‘I can’t see you’… I say, ‘Because I’m calling you…this is not FaceTime.’”

My own father had the propensity of telling the same jokes over and over. For my sister and me, the funny part was that we heard them repeated so many times.

I recently dug out a file folder labeled “jokes” that I found among my father’s things after he died last January. It had a collection of jokes he amassed over many years to share when he was speaking in public. He always personalized them. Here’s one:

Last week I sat moping in my office and my secretary Birdie said, “Cheer up. Things could get worse.” So I did. And sure enough, things got worse.

Let’s laugh our way out of 2020 and into 2021. What makes you laugh?

What is your favorite joke? Where do you look for laughter? Do you record funny stories or videos? Do you browse the web for things to laugh at? Please share what makes you laugh!

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The Author

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D, has been blogging regularly for Sixty and Me since 2015. She is a retired educator and independent consultant. She's the co-author of three books on identity safe schools where students of all backgrounds flourish. Becki and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have three adult children and one grandchild. You can connect with her at the links below.

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