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Embrace April Foolishness?


"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." – Mark Twain




My husband, John, has already tried to prank me this morning.  Tried to convince me that we won the lotto. April Fools. Haha.


Dr. Richard Wiseman, he’s the same research guru I have previously mentioned who researched luck - which I wrote about for a Saint Patrick’s Day blog, also studied humor. He did an experiment over twenty years ago. He wanted to identify for all of us the “world’s funniest joke.”


Wiseman and his colleagues created a website where people could submit and rate jokes.  The idea was to discover the joke that had the widest appeal and understanding among all populations. The History Channel even hosted a special on the subject.


Tada.  And the winning joke is (I still laugh at this joke no matter how many times I hear it or tell it):

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says, "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"

 

Well what about you, did you laugh? Supposedly, as we age, it's easy to fall into the trap of becoming a grumpy old soul, a miserable malcontent, or a surly sourpuss. But people like Mel Brooks (you must remember him with a comedy career spanning seven decades), still believes, at ninety-seven (yes, he’s STILL alive) that humor can keep the elderly rolling along, singing a song.




Norman Cousins, a writer, and adjunct professor in psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, famously used laughter as medicine during his battle with a crippling disease. Research supports the notion that humor has the power to keep us vital, maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. From enhancing creativity and learning to fostering trust and healthy relationships, humor is considered a “transcendent” strength because it largely goes beyond our ego and allows us to fraternally join in the joke along with the rest of humanity.


However, researchers claim that without specific intentions, our sense of humor tends to decline with age. We laugh less as we grow older, but it doesn't have to be this way. I know some people who subscribe to this list who love humor and use it well. Some of them are pushing 100!


George Bernard Shaw once said, "We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing." We can make it our it our mission to keep laughing for as long as we can breathe.


Personally, I've also come to realize the transformative power of humor. I've committed myself to a bit more playfulness. To cultivate this mindset, I am indulging in recommended Netflix shows – currently on Season 3 of Young Sheldon (it’s a spinoff from Big Bang Theory)


My husband and I turn to each other at least three or four times in each episode and laugh out loud as the various characters: the chubby football coach, the girl-crazy teenaged boy, the brilliant priggish nine-year old boy, the sassy sister, the beer-drinking grandmother, and trying-her-very-best-to-be-good Baptist mother…all try to live together. It’s easy to lovingly embrace them all even in their follies and foibles. Anything set in Texas is bound to have some funny scenarios. My phone has already figured out my humor aims and gives me Instagram videos of animals and babies, sometimes even adults funning around.




Now I wrote a version of the blog for The Good Life magazine which came out a few days ago.  A few readers and friends sent me a list of their favorite shows and jokes.  Here are the shows (some are supposedly “dark humor” and some may just be recommended movies, but worth checking out perhaps - I have only seen a few of these myself):


The Tourist (Netflix) 

The Gentleman (Netflix) – I’ve seen a few episodes, it’s pretty gory

The Night Agent (Netflix) 

Death and Other Details (Hulu) 

Fisk (Netflix)

Schit$ Creek (Prime) – I’ve seen some of this, it took me awhile to find the humor

Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) – I’ve heard from several, this is funny

The Bear (Disney) 

Ted Lasso (Disney) – this is a great little series, won lots of awards, some language and sexual innuendo

 

And here’s a comment from Gene Sharratt (he’s a master of good humor) - My father told us growing up that you become an adult when you can laugh at yourself.  I have plenty of memories of laughing at myself!  Most certainly, I have made enough missteps that deserve “laughing at myself.”  They later became “lessons” from which I grew, painful for sure, growth producing.  Life tends to give you the experience first, the lesson second. 

 

And here’s a joke Gene shared - Bob Hope was asked once, “What is the secret of your 64 years of marriage to Delores? He replied, “Oh, an easy answer.  Dinner out twice a week.  A romantic meal, soft music, a slow walk home.  Delores goes out on Tuesday and go out on Friday!” 

 



Humor is a nuanced art. While dissecting it may seem to rob it of its charm, understanding its mechanisms can deepen our appreciation. Humor often arises from the unexpected, from nonsense, and sometimes from subtle innuendos. Among the various styles of comedy, affiliative humor stands out for its ability to unite us, to soften our edges, and to help us embrace life's absurdities with tender benevolence. That’s the one I like the most. 


Humor can go wrong. I remember a man in a workshop once who was joking around, poking fun at his wife who was sitting right beside him.  The wife was not amused. The jokes landed with a thud; the guy was shunned for the rest of the day.  I’m not sure where he slept that night.


In these times when we often seem at odds with each other, the importance of affiliative humor cannot be overstated. Let’s give it a go. April is here. It’s a month synonymous with foolishness, let's embrace the spirit of playful humor. Whether it's indulging in harmless pranks with grandchildren (I am quite sure they were searching for fake poop to put in my bed) or enjoying a few episodes of Young Sheldon, let's celebrate the joy of laughter.


And if all else fails, as a friend suggested to me several years ago, there's always the option to relish and revel in the art of being a curmudgeon.


It's been cold and dark, let's come out into new life this month. How might we inject a bit of foolishness and playfulness into our April? Dare to experiment and let's journey together to The Good Life!



(Got any jokes, playful pics? Here is John horsing around with some of our gkids - you can barely see his head, he is covered up in kids)

 

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