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Laughter is Good Medicine

“Humor is the shock absorber of life….”

~ Peggy Noonan

Good Morning My Confidants

Shortly after tying the knot, a young straight married couple started arguing over who should make the coffee. Being a Christian family, the wife went to the Bible for her answer. Satisfied, she went to her husband and said that the scriptures absolutely specified that men should make the coffee. Puzzled, the husband asked her where in the Bible that was. Smiling, the wife opened up her Bible and said: “It’s right here—HEBREWS.”


And if you don't like Bible jokes, how about this one....

A man goes to a doctors office, and says “Whenever I touch anywhere on my body, it hurts.” He touches his arm, and screams in agony. He touches his shoulder, and screams in agony. The doctor observes all this and says, “I think you have a broken finger.”

I was interested to discover that humor has health benefits....

Laughter relaxes the body, relieves physical tension and stress (it actually decreases stress hormones), and relaxes muscles for as much as 45 minutes. It boosts the immune system and infection-fighting antibodies, improving resistance to disease. It triggers endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good chemicals and even temporarily relieves pain). Laughter protects the heart, even improving the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow. It can help protect against heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.*

When I am feeling down I watch funny shows and movies, silliness on YouTube and collect funny jokes.

Of course, humor is subjective. One person's funny is another person's not-funny. And that can be for various reasons. It's a groaner (although I think some of those can be the best). They can be without taste, but then that's subjective too. Unless of course the humor is racist or phobic in some way. I wish we could all agree that those kinds of jokes aren't funny. They depend on saying one group of people aren't as good as another group of people. And then there are jokes that are just plain hurtful.

But that is a wholly different kettle of fish. Because as Michael Valentine Smith notes in the book Stranger in a Strange Land, most humor relies on the fact that someone got hurt in some way. "Apparently the pratfall is the peak of all humor. It's not a pretty picture of the human race,"* his friend replies when he makes this observation. She tries to prove him wrong and only finds more and more jokes where indeed, the laughter comes loudest when someone slips on a banana peel.

And when we laugh at the person who fell, does that make us terrible people?

I can't tell you how many times I have posted something, quite innocently, that I thought was hilarious only to get a dozen comments about how hurtful that joke could be to somebody. So, what then, do I never post anything but pictures of puppies? I will tell you now that numerous times when I have done so, I offended a cat lover.

I could go on for pages and pages and pages about this.

My first joke above. It could hurt someone that was raised religious and it wasn't a good thing. Someone could say it was misogynistic, because of the man vs woman subject. They could say the joke implies the woman is dumb. So many ways to look at that joke...but because so many of us have been hurt, we find hurt.

You know, in the movie Avengers: Endgame, we do a leap of five years and when we meet Thor again, the big reveal is that he has gained a tremendous amount of weight. Because he believes he has failed the world, he has retreated to a place in the middle of no where and has been drinking his woes away (or has tried to) and he has gained a lot of weight. He turns to the screen, revealing his huge belly...and the audience roared with laughter.

As a person that the National Institute of Health considers morbidly obese, I was quite uncomfortable. I admit it. My feelings were hurt. I also couldn't help but think of the very important person in my life who was battling alcoholism. I felt as if everyone in the theater was laughing at me. At the person I loved. I had to think about that a lot.

And I suddenly thought back to Michael Valentine Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land and his observance of humanity. Are we horrible people when we laugh at Ethel Merman when she slips on the banana peel at the end of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? She probably got hurt!

Why do we laugh when someone falls?

According to an essay at the website The Conversation,*** our laughter is not provoked by lack of empathy or sadism. One reason is because of surprise. More specifically, it is seeing a person surprised by a situation in everyday life, when it seemed like they had everything under control only a few seconds earlier. The unexpected situation surprises us and creates a departure from the predictable. This incongruous situation highlights our errors of prediction: we predicted that the sequence of X would be Y, but then the events unfolded in an unexpected way via B. We made a mistake in our prediction of what would happen. It is no longer coherent. Laughing at the situation is a way of resolving the incongruity by formulating a new, more coherent, comic interpretation of what we witnessed.

And then there is facial expressions. when we perceive perplexity in the facial expression of the victim of clumsiness (a look of bewilderment, surprise or astonishment), this information creates a context that triggers our laughter. On the other hand, if we can read suffering or anger in the facial expression, we will be touched by the distress of the victim of the fall and be empathetic to their distress, which will prevent us from laughing. Our neural circuits appear to have the ability to recognize and appreciate the funny elements of unfortunate situations and analyze the context as non-threatening.

Witnessing another person’s unfortunate situation causes us to imagine ourselves in that same situation and ask, “What if it were me…?” We identify with what they are going through and what they must be feeling. This exercise in empathy can quickly activate issues of discomfort, powerlessness, humiliation and shame within us. Laughter in that case allows us to externalize our relief at not being in the shoes of that unfortunate person. Let’s forgive ourselves for laughing at comical situations involving other people’s clumsiness! We aren’t laughing at the other person’s suffering or distress; we are reacting to their surprise.

So why did I get upset at "fat-Thor" and everyone's laughter?

Well.... I took it personally. I forgot the Second Agreement: Never Take Anything Personally. Nothing anyone ever does or says is because of me, or about me. It is always about themselves. If somebody upsets me and triggers me with their words are they to blame for my hurt feelings? Actually, no. I am responsible for my reaction because there is a part within me that has not found peace yet. I can only be triggered if a part deep within me believes what is being thrown at me.

I am not a bad person because I am "morbidly obese." The writers of Avengers: Endgame were not trying to hurt Benjamin Grant Thomas Jr's feelings with their joke. And it was not their job to avoid any joke that might hurt someone's feelings out there, unless it was done maliciously. And in the near dozen times I've seen that movie, I know that was not malicious. I have to accept that and take responsibility for my feelings. And grow. What good is it going to do me to get offended (unless I take that energy and use it in a constructive manner)? I am only going to suffer. There is slim to no chance that the other person cares if you were offended. Once again it is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die!

Maybe laugh at myself.

And if I can't do that?

I should find a way to laugh at something. For all the health reasons I mention above, and more.

Saying that.....

I am always looking for a good joke, especially the kind I can tell anywhere.

So now…drum roll…my favorite joke!

There were these two men walking their dogs one very hot summer day. They got really thirsty and as they passed this bar, they talked about how nice it would be to be able to go in and have a nice cold one.

Then the first guy gets an idea. “Watch this he says.”

And he sails right into that bar like he owns the place.

Of course the bartender says, “Excuse me sir, but you can’t come in here with that animal.”

And the first guy says, “But this is my seeing-eye dog.”

The bartender says, “Oh sir! I’m sorry. Come on. Sit down! Let me get you a beer,” and pours him one.

The second guy says, “Whoa! That worked!” And he decides to try it. He sails right into that bar like he owns the place.

And of course the bartender says, “Excuse me sir, but you can’t come in here with that animal.”

The second guy says, “But this is my seeing-eye dog.”

The bartender says, “Your seeing-eye dog is a Chihuahua?!”

And the second guy says, “A Chihuahua? They sold me a Chihuahua??”


It's funny. It's hilarious. It is nothing against people who need seeing-eye dogs. And it is nothing about my friend who is now a year and a half sober recovering alcoholic.

Let’s forgive ourselves for laughing at comical situations involving other people... We aren’t laughing at the other person’s suffering or distress; we are reacting to their surprise.

Or in the case of this joke, I'm laughing at the sheer ingenuity of the second guy! And happy that he got his "cold one" on a hot day and he wasn't letting rules get in his way.

the subject of letting, or not letting, rules get in my way is a whole different enchilada and something for another day.

In the meantime, please, give me a good joke any day!

I'm waiting....


B.G. "Gentle Ben" Thomas


** Stranger in a Strange Land: by Robert Heinlein

*** The Conversation: Why do we laugh when someone falls down? Here’s what science says:

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A friend of mine is undergoing treatment for Pancreatic cancer. She is taking a funny item a day from each of her friends to keep her spirits up. It is helping. She's on the mend. This is part of why there are 2 photodumps a week. Not all of them are humor, but most are. (some are obscure humor) A priest, an imam, and a rabbit walk into a clinic to donate blood. The rabbit turns to the nurse and says, 'I think I'm a Type-O.'

Replying to

OMG that is so funny! The joke, not your friend. But I am thrilled she is on the mend. Pancreatic cancer is a scary one! You can count on me for funny memes!


Feb 20

I'd go for a joke or pun any day. It's like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day!!

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