How Comedy, Laughter, and Humor Can Improve Your Life

Laughter has amazing social perks, health benefits, and can help enhance memory capacity. Over the past few years there has been a revival in comedy, with dad jokes, stand-up comedy, skit comedy, sketch comedy, and workplace humor. Although humor varies from culture to culture, creating laughter has a universal effect of making people feel happy, and brightening the immediate environment.

A great documentary to watch on the cultural differences of humor is Exporting Raymond, which is about getting the American sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond aired in different cultures while maintaining its comedic appeal to audiences all over.

According to comedy writer Scott Dikkers, the founding editor of satirical news site The Onion, there are 11 categories of comedy:

  1. Irony–  Intended meaning is opposite of literal meaning
  2. Character– Comedic character acting on personality traits
  3. Reference– Common experiences that audiences can relate to
  4. Shock– Surprising jokes typically involving sex, drugs, gross-out humor, swearing
  5. Parody– Mimic a familiar character, trope or cliché in an unfamiliar way
  6. Hyperbole– Exaggeration to absurd extremes
  7. Wordplay– Puns, rhymes, double entendres, etc.
  8. Analogy– Comparing two disparate things
  9. Madcap– Crazy, wacky, silly, nonsensical 
  10. Meta Humor– Jokes about jokes, or about the idea of comedy
  11. Misplaced Focus– Attention is focused on the wrong thing

Of course, not all humor is fit for every situation or environment, but finding that balance is surely helpful for social interactions. Humor can lighten moods, improve morale, encourage positivity, boost energy, freshen perspectives, create and strengthen interpersonal relations, and spark cognitive thinking. Yet, no matter your efforts, some people will still take offence to anything and everything, not smile, not laugh, become envious, or cause problems for those wishing to share humor.

Thorin Klosowski, a staff writer for The New York Times who covers privacy and security for Wirecutter, says the best way to handle a sourpuss is to, first, find that person’s baseline to determine if this is a personality trait or difference of opinion. Second, get the opinions of three other people who are not too connected, in order to see varying perspectives of the person in question. And third, ask the person directly, and respectfully, “why” they think the way they do.

Nevertheless, fret not because most people will still enjoy and appreciate tasteful comedy. A good sense of humor is typically associated with intelligence, a likable personality, and work ethic.

Another benefit of utilizing humor is that it enhances one’s health. Michigan State University’s Jonathan Novello explains how humor is medicine in five key ways:

  1. Laughter is a potent releaser of endorphins creating a sense of euphoria.
  2. Laughter contagiously forms social bonds which is also an endorphin releaser.
  3. Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants by releasing serotonin.
  4. Laughter improves mental health all around.
  5. Laughter protects your heart as it is a natural anti-inflammatory helping the circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system.

Other independent research shows other health benefits. A 15-year study of 53,556 women and men in Norway suggested that having a good sense of humor may significantly increase life expectancy, according to Scientific American. It’s as if those “Live, Laugh, Love,” signs may be onto something after all (even though some of us feel like we die from cringe a little each time we see them).

For Evan “The Cass Man” Cassidy, stand-up host and improv-comedian of Southern California, comedy and laughter play a large role in healing individuals as well as communities. Evan speaks of genuine comedy, not the luxurious shows and television specials, as being much simpler and raw in its delivery, while serving as a catalyst for bonding. In a recent interview with me, he describes comedy like this:

“Live stand-up comedy is a pretty niche thing. It often fails to be funny. A guy says laughter is the best medicine to get you to spend $75 on cover charge and drinks at a comedy club. Comedy is the trade of inducing laughter. It’s like a massage for the soul, mind, and nerves. The hardest I’ve ever laughed was just sitting at a diner with a couple buddies. When we have a good laugh, it’s like winning an arm wrestling match with the absurdity and uncertainty of life, the bill I haven’t paid, the interpersonal conflict, and overseas wars.”

A third benefit of humor is the practical application of memory enhancement through mind games. By memorizing many jokes like stand-up comedians do or for the average person who just wants to know a few funny jokes to share, a person naturally improves his capacity for memorization. The process is rewarded and reinforced by the laughs and social bonding the person creates with the jokes, and it helps wire a person’s mind for quicker response times. This internal dopamine reward system functions by releasing dopamine when the jokes are told and well-received by the audience, improving the retention of the joke even further for later recollection. In turn, this strengthens the muscles necessary for memory building.

Imagine reading silly dad jokes every day, and using them when given the opportunity. Not only will the memorization allow for further amplified memorization, but it will also naturally elevate the jokester and their environment in a myriad of ways. When communicating with people from various cultures, consider learning what makes them smile, what makes them “Live, Laugh, Love,” and what humor to share between you. It will benefit everyone involved.

The post How Comedy, Laughter, and Humor Can Improve Your Life was first published by the Foundation for Economic Education, and is republished here with permission. Please support their efforts.

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