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Knock, Knock, It's National Humor Month!

Apr 02 2024

National Humor Month

Well, if the month starts with April Fools Day, it might as well be National Humor Month. Whoopee cushions, salt in the sugar bowl, prank phone calls - all really classic tricks. Such fun stuff! And you can always throw in some corny “Dad Jokes.”

I'm afraid for the calendar. Its days are numbered!

Dads seem to have taken it on the chin lately with the bad joke category. When I was a kid, elephant jokes were all the rage.

Why do ducks have webbed feet? To stamp out fires. Why do elephants have flat feet? To stamp out burning ducks.

And comics came in the morning paper so there was lots of humor to accompany breakfast. We started our days with Charlie Brown, L’il Abner, Blondie, etc.

I was inspired watching the Mark Twain award for humor honoring Kevin Hart recently. Lots of Mr. Hart’s colleagues commented on how difficult humor is and also how important it is and yet is so often dismissed as easy and unimportant. This got me thinking about how right they were. I hate telling a joke. It’s hard to hit it just right so that everyone laughs. And yet, it is so important to get everyone to laugh. Laughing breaks the ice, it lowers our blood sugar and our cortisol levels, it changes our perspective, it calms us down, it lifts us up, brings us joy even in the midst of tragedy. I am always struck by how much laughing there is at funerals and at times of terrible stress. We need laughing.

The Mayo Clinic’s web site lists the long term health effects of laughter as improving the immune system, relieving pain, increasing our ability to cope and improving our mental health and self esteem. Those are huge life saving rewards! We need laughing so much more than we thought we did.

Have you ever watched people engaged in Laughter Yoga? If you haven’t and need some cheering up, that’s the place to go. You can find it online. I challenge you to watch it and not join in the laughter. I don’t know why, but watching other people laughing makes it really hard not to join in. Go ahead, it’s good for you!

There was a time when finances were very tight for me causing me a great deal of stress. I came across the cartoon below by the great George Booth, in the New Yorker. 

“What have you other than your bag of parrots?” I know we’ve all been there. Someone asking us what more we have to offer, when it seems that what we have isn’t what anyone wants. This little cartoon grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and disarmed me with wave after wave of laughing. I really needed something to get me to the other side of financial worry. This cartoon disentangled all my stress. And even better, my 15 year old daughter who didn’t understand my stress or why I found the cartoon funny began laughing right along with me, it was that contagious - both of us joyful for the release that laughter brought. And nothing beats uproarious laughter with your children, especially teenage children. That sort of laughter reshapes our perspective, maybe even reshuffles the cells in our bodies. It’s as though we are shaken like a snow globe, the atoms settling into new formations better equipped to cope with the world. These moments, these paroxysms of laughter, when we are doubled over, abstractly absorbing a funny notion, processing complex and even the most dark and traumatic emotions are priceless. Laughter is a magical mix of physical and emotional release.

Growing up, we begged our parents to recount funny anecdotes from our childhood, from our family. We wanted to hear them over and over. We didn’t ask to hear about broken bones or skinned knees or bicycle accidents. It was the funny stuff that we coveted. The funny stuff showed us that humor, mistakes, failed experiments, are human and that we can be forgiven for missteps, misunderstandings, fumblings. My family had moved into a new house with a bathroom across the hallway at the top of the stairs. My father came home from work one day to find water pouring down the stairs of our brand new house. He ran up the stairs to find my brother, about 5 years old, standing stark naked in the shower with an umbrella over his head. He just wanted to see what would happen with the shower and an umbrella. My father, a grandson of starving immigrants, a Depression era kid who had worked hard and scraped together the money to buy this brand new house, didn’t find his front stairs flooding so funny at that moment, but it certainly was funny in the retelling over the many years! That same brother struggled to tuck in the corners of the covers on his bed and so he got a pair of scissors and cut them off. That story also became funny over the years in the telling. Tell me about the cutting off the corners, please Mom! Tell me about the umbrella in the shower, please Dad! Maybe what was funny was knowing that we could do something that made our parents angry but that they could understand the motivation and find the humor in the situation, forgive us and still love us. The humor is in the love and the appreciation that we are human, we make mistakes and we move on and with time, we can laugh at our mistakes. Humor is about our failings and our humanity and seeing our own failings in others’ mistakes and forgiving ourselves and each other. After all, we are all just human.

In this one page, I’ve already told you 3 little stories about funny things in my own family. I know you have lots of funny stories rattling around in your head. Recounting these stories preserves the stories of our families, shares humor and humanity with each other. These stories reveal truth about life in our world. Our stories are our truth. Share your stories. April is National Humor Month. Help us laugh. It’s good for us. Your stories matter.