What’s so funny?

I wanted to write about FUN today so I began to address laughter. But when I started writing about laughter, it led me to jokes – which made me start laughing. I was having so much fun laughing when I realized I was supposed to be writing a blog! So here is my circuitous blog…I promise to do better tomorrow.

It all started here:

I recently attended a friend’s birthday party. We surprised her at a local restaurant where we ate a delicious meal and then continued  celebrating at a popular line dance pub. It was a type of ‘dude’ ranch if you will, complete with electronic bull, multiple pool tables and a huge dance floor. It even had a smoking room from which you could view the dance floor. The place seemed like a throw-back to a simpler time and we laughed heartily about THAT on and off all evening.

But what really struck me was the amount of laughing we all did throughout the evening. I knew most, but not all of the guests, yet every one of us was laughing with each other the whole time.

I know what you’re thinking – but it WASN’T just the alcohol that did it. Yes, some of us were drinking, and Yes, some of the group eventually got drunk by the end of the night, but from the very beginning of our dinner we were laughing and some of us didn’t have more that 2 glasses of alcohol the entire night (in 9+ hours together!)

When we got to the pub the whole place was already bouncing with joviality. The regulars were dancing up a storm and clearly having a blast. When we started learning dance steps we were messing up all over the place yet we laughed at ourselves and each other as we stumbled, faced the wrong direction, and bumped into each other. And there were more than a few “expert” line dancers there, having just as much fun showing everyone else their expertise and yucking it up. It was the same in the pool table area. Everyone was playing, laughing, and poking fun at each other. Then there were the smokers, standing in the glassed area that was just on the other side of our table. They could view the dance floor while they smoked and they were all talking and laughing with a vengence. And do I need to even mention the laughter around the mechanical bull?!

Fun is contagious as is laughing, and joking always seems to follow close behind.  So my first question is: What makes you laugh? For example, are these funny to you?

  • Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?
  • Why is it that when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it’s called cargo?
  • Why does your nose run yet your feet smell?

Hmmm, are you laughing yet? Probably not. But these questions are a clue to humor because humor requires incongruit statements… and even if they didn’t make you laugh, you may be in a better mood now having read them.

How about this one:

  • Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Anything? No? Okay, last try:

My friend was working at an amusement park when a couple stopped him. “Excuse me,” said the woman, pointing to a pond. “What is that water made out of?”

Bemused, my friend replied, “Two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.”

“See?” she said to her boyfriend. “I told you it wasn’t real.”

Anything?

The point is that we all find different things funny. Why? Because we are educated differently and finding something funny depends on so many different aspects of language, culture, education, element of surprise, political view, and socio-economic status, to name a few.

Here’s a cocktail conversation starter: Did you know that humans are not the only mammals that laugh? Rats, dogs, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos (a dwarf chimpanzee found in the Congo) do as well. Okay, so it’s not funny but it’s an interesting and little known fact don’t you think?

But what is Laughing and why is it so fun to do it?

Laughing is a reaction to stress believe it or not. It serves as an emotional balancing mechanism – When we laugh heartily, changes occur in many parts of the body.  For example laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine and 15 minutes on an exercise bike.  Laughter gives your whole body a workout including your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles. And it’s the reason you feel exhausted after a long bout of laughter. Many things are happening in your body when you laugh too, like your blood pressure is lowered and your vascular blood flow and oxygenation levels are increased.

I think it’s interesting that there are three theories about what we find humorous:

  • The incongruity theory  Researcher Thomas Veatch says a joke becomes funny when we expect one outcome and another happens.  We experience two sets of incompatible thoughts and emotions simultaneously.
  • The superiority theory  states that when we laugh at jokes that focus on someone else’s mistakes, stupidity or misfortune we feel superior to this person, and experience a certain detachment from the situation so are able to laugh at it.
  • The relief theory is when situation creates tension within us. As we try to cope with two sets of emotions and thoughts, we need a release and laughter is the way of cleansing our system of the built-up tension and incongruity. Movie makers capitalize on this!

So that’s the story behind laughing and fun and jokes. Like I said, I promise to do better tomorrow. Until then? I’m going back to the google search on jokes because I was having so much FUN!

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