What makes you laugh…

….when nothing is funny?

I don’t know why, but today’s Bloganuary prompt “what makes you laugh?” took me to a funny place (funny odd, not funny haha). Perhaps it was that yesterday was the anniversary of a brutal attack upon the US Capital. It felt like many of the attackers thought they were being cute and funny, with their braggy social media posts.

It wasn’t funny. People died.

We seem to be unable to discern between serious and humorous because they both induce laughter.

I’ve noticed this with late night comedy, often the laugh lines are not actually funny; they induce an “OMG! I can’t believe this is real” reaction, which, for many of us is laughter. We are in shock and don’t quite know what to do. It only takes one person in an audience whose response to shock is laughter for us all to join in.

So, naturally, I did an internet search about it. I found this piece: Laughing as a coping mechanism.

The things discussed in the article feel familiar to me.

I remember being in a social situation where a family was sharing some of its lore. The mother told the story and everyone seemed to really think it was funny. I laughed along, but had an odd feeling. It took me a while to figure out why: I realized that the story wasn’t at all funny.

Here’s how it went, as best I can remember it.

There were two siblings, a son and a daughter. They had friends over and the girls had ingested some sort of poison. The mother called the doctor’s office or poison control and was told that the girls needed to keep moving. The mother gave the boys sticks and told them to chase the girls.

It was presented like this was a clever, and fun solution to the problem. Even the daughter, an adult when I met her and heard the story in her presence, laughed along. Yet it must have been, at least a little bit, traumatic. I wasn’t surprised when I later heard some remark about her being in therapy.

I do have a quirky sense of humor. But I don’t generally think of it as unkind. Yet I find myself laughing along, like in the case of the family story above. When just refraining from laughing, and maybe trying to convey, non-verbally, puzzlement about why they thought the story was funny might have been a better, kinder reaction. I’m just so slow at processing these things. Figuring out why the feeling is odd takes me a while.

Reading a bit more about laughter I learned that we tend to use laughter more as a communication tool and coping mechanism than a response to true humor. It can be very healthy to laugh. Here is a more lighthearted article about laughter: Why do people laugh? 13 things you probably don’t know about laughing.

But I can’t help but think, like when I hear that people pay good money to go to a seminar on folding clothes, that our society has gotten a bit out of whack in some areas.

Have you ever caught yourself laughing when something isn’t funny? Did it make you feel odd?

One thought on “What makes you laugh…”

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