Recent research has shown on average people laugh 17 times a day.
We all know, in the words of the Reader’s Digest, that ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ There are different kinds of laughter from the he he he wicked witch of the West kind of laugh, right through to the rolling about the carpet, full belly laugh.
The comedy series Fawlty Towers has been repeated more times than most of us can remember and has a fascinating feature. The key character in this hilarious series almost never laughs, and certainly never laughs at himself. His whole bizarre contribution to the comedy is his complete dysfunction. John Cleese, in this role, is a clear expression of what Fritz Perls the father of Gestalt therapy calls figure ground inflexibility. He has what is called a character defect. Such a person can see everybody else’s blemishes, but are unable to have enough integration and awareness of their own personal dynamics to see their own faults. Probably this is where the title of the series comes from, ‘Fawlty Towers.’ It is said he often sneers at those around him for being incompetent, but there is no grin of recognition of his own contribution to the chaos.
In sharp contrast we have the humour of Bill Cosby, which sees him regularly tell stories against himself. The basis of his humour is the audience’s identification with and recognition of, the dilemmas and insights he shares so hilariously. Being an Australian I love our sense of humour, and laughing at disaster has been in our national character since the first 60 years of white settlement.
Somebody asks how things are going and we say” I suppose it’s better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.” Humour shrinks discomfort; by laughing at disaster we manage the threat of it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had to wrestle with my own cynical kind of laugh, that would be inclined to diminish people who I thought had “the wrong end of the pineapple.” Why? Because just under the surface I was coping with deep grief. However I did find as a journalled and shared it with God , the peace came and good humour returned .
If it’s not straight avoidance, laughter can be the best medicine.
We have often heard people say, “If I didn’t laugh I’d cry. Both tears and laughter come from our emotions or right hemisphere in our brain. Every now and then we have to admit to ourselves, more is going on in our lives than our reason can grasp and control. In those times a good friend who can listen deeply and bring a sense of cheer, is a real gift. We are told of the medicinal qualities of the happy heart in the book of Proverbs.15:15 . It says, “A merry heart is like being at a continual party.”
There are a number of times in the New Testament where we see Jesus having a bit of fun. He walks on the water and is about to walk right by the disciples, that is until they freak out. He says “Don’t be afraid; it is I, be of good cheer.” The Greek word for cheerfulness is hillaros, from which we get the word hilarious.
In a moment of crisis the archaic parent tapes inside our head will accuse either us or others, unless we have learned to have or our thinking adult part tune into the place where good humour is found – our spirit or natural child. More often than not this part of us will say, ”It’s ok. I am with you.”
There is nothing wrong with fun but foolishness, that’s a different matter. That usually happens when the so-called fun happens at the expense of another. I firmly believe that any humour that is at the expense of another human being is too expensive. In fact the Bible says put away this kind of foolish jesting.