“I went on a date with this girl the other night. Boy, let me tell you, she was fat. [How fat was she?] She was so fat when I went to pick her up for our date I hit her with my car. She said, “How come you didn’t go around me?” I said, “I didn’t have enough gas.” She was ugly too. I took her out to an ugly contest and the judges turned her away. They said, “Please, no professionals.” Are you kidding me I know I’m ugly. I stuck my head out the window and got arrested for mooning. I was an ugly kid too. I had real bad acne. One time I fell asleep at the library, when I woke up a blind man was reading my face. When I was a kid every time I played in the sandbox the cat would cover me up. What a childhood I had. My mother, she never breast fed me. She told me she only liked me as a friend. She had morning sickness after I was born.”
– Rodney Dangerfield
Why Children are Awesome and Adults Suck
There is a statistic floating around out there that children laugh on average about 300 times a day, while adults laugh on average about 15 times a day. I had originally heard this fact about a year ago and it knocked me on my ass. At first I couldn’t believe this fact. I thought about my laughter on a daily basis and likened my habits to that of a hyena. I then got to thinking about the collection of people that fill my life that I don’t interact with that often: neighbors, teachers, coworkers of friends and family, and it dawned on me that this fact holds a lot of weight and truth behind it. Hopefully the Rodney Dangerfield set helped you meet your laughter quota for the day.
To me, comedy is a beautiful art form (I’m not talking about toilet humor, but it has its place and time too). Comedians posses a rare gift to take what we see and do and spin in it in a way that pleases people because of the novelty of their view points and perceptions. For some people comedy and humor seems to come effortlessly, and for others they have to labor to perfect their trade. Humor, itself, is the most skillful exercise in divergent thinking that man can partake in and we have our brains to thank because of it. We’ve discussed our “new brains” or neocortex several times here on social-brain. Our new brain is a specialized part of the brain that only humans possess, and as a result we can think in hypothetical, symbolism and symphony. The ability to think in hypothetical, symbols and link seemingly unrelated subjects is at the root of every comedian’s jokes whether they know it or not.
“Betty White is so old that the very first game show she was ever on the grand prize was fire!” – Lisa Lampenelli at the Roast of William Shatner
In social interactions the shortest distance between two people is laughter. I hold this to be very true. The best relationships in my life have started with a laugh, and this is true for plenty people. In Hollywood, when you look at the comedic trade, this is especially true. The highest honor is comedy is to be “roasted”. That is to say a group of your closest friends and peers gather to pay respect to you by ruthlessly making fun of you in a ceremonial event. Sounds messed up right? It is! But that is a testament to the unique bond that laughter can provide in social interactions.
I always make it a point to watch a roast when it’s on television. I love them. There is one thing I always notice about these roasts though. There are always a collection of comedians that are really really really old. Many of which were actually in Jesus’s yearbook. I’ve thought about the age of these comedians and it’s staggering the age they live to and the health they’re in at their old age. George Burns was 100 years old when he passed away, Rodney Dangerfield was putting crowds in stitches till he was 82 years young, and this past weekend the great Carl Reiner, who is 87, was up on stage roasting Joan Rivers, who is 76. What is more amazing is that these are just a handful of comedians who get better with old age. I wanted to examine in this post if there is something about laughter that keeps up young and as it turns out there is.
The Physical Benefits of Laughter: “Is it acually possible to pee your pants from laughter?”
Laughing actually relaxes the whole body. A good laugh can relieve physical tension and relax the muscles in your body for up to 45 minutes after. Ever been around someone who has actually peed themselves because they were laughing so hard? I have, and it’s because they laughed so hard they relaxed that part of their body more than they should have. If only R. Kelly’s defense lawyers would have been aware of this fact then they could have argued that he and that under aged girl he peed on were just watching Happy Gilmore and it was all just a big misunderstanding.
Laughing can actually boost your immune system. The physical act of laughter actually decreases the amount of Cortisol – a neurochemical associated with stress, and increase the amount of antibodies and immune cells in your blood stream. In addition to this laughter allows the brain to release endorphins which temporarily relieve pain and provide an overall sense of well being. Lastly, laughing can actually protect the heart because it exercises the cardio vascular flow to your ticker. Laughing over time can actually improve your blood flow to your heart.
The Social Benefits of Laughter: “Life is too important to take seriously.”
When used correctly humor can actually defuse a stressful or hostile situation. This is the say that if you’re getting mugged on a street corner a rubber chicken will probably not do you any good. However in professional settings the skill of well timed and appropriate humor is beyond beneficial. In research conducted by Daniel Goleman, he found that top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often, on average, as did midperforming leaders. It’s important to note that too much joking can negatively affect your perception as well as others might consider you to be more of a jester than a leader. Find that perfect humorous balance in the work place.
More often than not successful leaders and people who are humorous share a single important socially intelligent trait. That is that they have a sense of humor about themselves and do not take themselves too seriously. Being approachable and open to criticism about your skills is a vital trait that will take a person far in life both personally and professionally. Having a sense of humor about yourself is rigorous exercise in handling your own emotions. A lot of times in your life you will be presented with criticism that you are not particularly eager to hear, and as a result you may feel a swell of negative emotions start to build within you. A lesser person would becomes hostile or defensive because of their unease or anger. However a socially intelligent or humorous person will take what’s thrown at them and roll with it. No outburst. No defensive attitude. There is just the thought process of how to incorporate their criticism to reach a level of success.
People who are appropriately humorous are more likeable in general. Just looking over the physical benefits of laughter one can see the associations we can form from being around someone who brings us joy through laughter. Most adults may not laugh that much, and this saddens me. If life has you down, stressed, or in slump don’t hesitate to seek out those who make you laugh: friends, family, movies, tv shows or books. Laugh for your health and laugh for your own social benefit.
Comedians that continue their career into old age must have a talent for seeing the silly, ridiculousness that is life. Certainly, it must give them perspective and performing is always cathartic – what could be better than performing and bring sheer joy to people?
I was looking at comedians from another angle recently – how they use human weaknesses to create laughter whilst taking the greatest care when navigating those same weaknesses in themselves, as they prepared new material “Humans – a comedy routine or comedy of errors?” http://bit.ly/OsXRI