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Words of Comedy Wisdom

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Learning how, and when, and why to laugh can make us healthier and happier.

Posted April 9, 2013



In celebration of National Humor Month, here are some wise words about comedy from comedy gurus (and some other words from the author of this article—not sure how wise those are…)

“The whole object of comedy is to be yourself and the closer you get to that, the funnier you will be.”
   —Jerry Seinfeld

Too often, we lose the fun of life by trying to be someone else, whether in our personal or professional lives. Hiding our true selves in order to please someone else never works out in the long run. To be yourself and enjoy your own quirks and shortcomings is the shortest path to joy.

“Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.”
   —Sid Caesar

The more we can take our own truths and look for something to laugh at in them, the less we have to turn to medications or other addictive substances in order to find happiness.

“A humorist tells himself every morning, ‘I hope it’s going to be a rough day.’”
   —Alan Coren

Bring on the rain, the skirt tucked in pantyhose, the zit on the nose, the accidentally sending that email to everyone in the office… Without a little drama in our days, there’d be less to laugh at. The knowledge that what doesn’t kill us can make us laugh can totally transform your life.

“Comedy is when you accidentally fall off a cliff and die. Tragedy is when I have a hangnail.”
   —Mel Brooks

We all tend to be able to see the humor in other people’s stressful lives, but are less able to find the comedy in our own because it’s happening to us. The ability to develop perspective on our own lives by choosing to laugh off our own stresses helps us build resilience (not to mention, we’ll never run out of things to laugh at).

“Comedy equals tragedy plus time.”
   —Carol Burnett

If, even in those moments of deepest grief and loss, we understand in our hearts that we will laugh again when the time is right for us, we will find the proverbial light shining at the end of the tunnel. The human spirit (actually, the mammalian spirit) needs laughter to heal and survive, and it will eventually return to us. One of the best ways to heal from tragedy is to surround yourself with people who make you want to laugh again.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
   —Victor Borge

When used positively and inclusively, creating funny brings people together instead of driving them apart. This is why repeating jokes that professional comedians use in bars and clubs is often a very bad tactic when it comes to building interpersonal relationships. Club comics often wield comedy as a weapon—not to mention that they don’t have to try to live with their audience day in and day out.

“The next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”
   —Frank Clark

Too many things in life have no real solutions: Carpet or hard wood? Republican or Democrat? American Idol or The Voice? Paper or plastic? The ability to laugh at our differences helps us move beyond them.

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”
   —Erma Bombeck

Laughter is like the steam regulator valve on a pressure cooker (go ahead and Google it if you’re under 40; I’ll wait…) Once a group of people can no longer use laughter to let go of stress, the ability to get along and work together disappears. This applies not only to civilization as a whole, but to microcosms in offices and families across the globe.

“Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death.”
   —Tom Robbins

Choosing a humorous perspective on life is the only truly effective anti-aging technique. Ask yourself who seems older and closer to the grave, an 80-year old woman laughing or a 30-year old man screaming into his cell phone.

“Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully.”
   —Max Eastman

My favorite part of this quote is the word “instinct,” which refers to our natural tendency to find humor in pain. Eventually the things that cause us humiliation, embarrassment, jealousy, guilt, sadness or depression can lead us to laughter. Many grown-ups think that laughing at things that “aren’t funny” is unnatural and shows a lack of social skill or culture, when the truth is we all know inherently that finding humor in pain will improve our lives; we just need to get over the voices in our heads that have told us otherwise over the years.

“It’s bad to suppress laughter. It goes back down and spreads to your hips.”
   —Fred Allen

There’s a board game called Don’t Make Me Laugh that I love to play. The object is to try to make the other team crack up while they try their best to remain stone-faced. I often remind my comedy students not to apologize for laughing when someone is trying to be funny. Stop hiding your mouth behind your hand, toning down your snort because it embarrasses your children, and looking around the theater when you’re the only one who laughed. If you get the joke (or even if you’re laughing at the world inside your own head), take pride!

“Too little laughter leads to death, or at least severe constipation.”
   —Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant

Hey, when you’re holding things in, you’re holding things in. Laughter opens the floodgates to let all your emotions free.

Leigh Anne Jasheway is a motivational speaker and stand-up comic who speaks at 40-60 conferences and workshops and performs at more than 30 shows a year. To date, more than one-quarter million people have seen her presentations. She has a masters degree in public health, is an expert in stress management, and has 15 published books. Leigh Anne has won numerous writing awards, including the 2003 Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Competition. Her website is AccidentalComic.com.

 

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