Laugh Lines

 Who is your favorite comedian? What makes you laugh? Do you have a special friend that you laugh with? When did you last laugh out loud? Do you consciously seek laughter? Why? Why not?

By now, most people in New Thought know that laughter helps you to be happier and healthier. Scientific studies are always extolling the virtues of a good belly laugh. It is excellent exercise for body and spirit. On Sunday, our pastors remind us, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine”.

New Thought encourages a light heart and plenty of laughter in our lives. I am a teacher and student of New Thought with a background in psychology. I have even written some comedy during my long career as a writer. Yet, I don’t laugh every day unless I make it a conscious choice.

On most days, I do my own spiritual practice then I talk and pray with my prayer partner. After that, I work on my writing, pay bills online, play AARP memory games and make phone calls. I might meet a friend for lunch or run some errands. I finish my day by watching the news and a movie or reading a book.

My days are pleasant and I enjoy life it but they tend to focus on helping others and work. Sometimes I forget about how funny life is. Why is it that?

It would be wrong to say nothing funny happened. Truth is, I just need to pay attention. Or make some other choices. Mostly, it’s a matter of choice and habit. We are not stuck in our habits of thought if we think about it a bit.

New Thought is all about learning to think differently. We choose to look on the bright side and that choice does become habitual. That’s what I teach and what I live.

For example, I’ve consciously developed an attitude of gratitude. When I rise in the morning I make my gratitude list and that sets the pattern for my day. Over the years, it has become second nature to look on the bright side of life.

I’ve also quit drinking and smoking and cut down on silly eating. These addictions were triggered by habits of thinking that I erased. I’ve changed my thinking in so many ways, I know I can make laughter a habitual response to life. I can change my thinking and change my life.

A long time ago, when I took a graduate seminar in comedy, I discovered I was very confused about what passed for comedy. My thesis was supposed to answer the question, “Is Kafka Funny?” I said no but it turned out the professor had written a book on Kafka’s comedy. He thought I was wrong and I thought I was right. We did agree that the C minus he gave me wasn’t funny.

I still don’t think it is funny when the hero wakes to discover he’s turned into a bug, which is what happened in Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis. When I read that famous short story, I felt sorry for the poor bug. Cruelty and pain are the edgy part of some comedy and that doesn’t make me laugh.

That’s what happens to me- even in movies. I react with empathy instead of laughter. I just don’t think it’s funny when the fat lady slips on a banana peel. I always hated those cartoons where the rooster got flattened by a hammer and then would spring up again. I looked to me as though that hammer hurt the poor rooster a lot.

But I do love to laugh and I do believe it is good for us. Many years ago when I was in chemotherapy for breast cancer, I decided to choose only “happy, happy, happy” stories and I have stayed with that habit. It is a part of my spiritual practice and it works for me.

My comedy choices avoid ridicule, sarcasm and violence. The old movie Sullivan’s Travels makes a perfect argument for the value of comedy and I agree.  However, the prison and poverty scenes are not funny. I actually preferred the modern take off Oh Brother Where Art Thou. George Clooney and the music are fabulous.

What I like best is surprises. A total surprise is always good for a belly laugh from me. I laughed out loud when my six-year-old nephew poured coke on my friend’s bald spot. I laughed out loud when the hero stepped off the silver screen into real life in Purple Rose of Cairo.

Seinfeld is good on surprises. Cary Grant and Woody Allen have perfect timing when it comes to prat falls and other site gags. I love also a good site gag.

One of my favorite movies in the whole world is The Lady Eve. I like it when Henry Fonda falls over and spills stuff at the formal dinner party. He then changes his clothes and proceeds to fall and change several more times. I have seen the movie at least 25 times and I always laugh out loud at Fonda’s tumbles.

I learned to love screwball comedies from the 30’s and early 40’s during chemotherapy and they are still my best laughter flicks. Others on my best laughs list are My Man Godfrey and Bringing Up Baby.

Whenever anyone is down in the dumps, I suggest, “Bring in the clowns!” Danny Kaye was brilliant for a lot of reasons, including his marvelously responsive face. Lucille Ball’s TV show offers that same flexible reflection to life. She is the world’s best clown. Woody Allen came much later but he’s also a great clown and comedian. Have you seen Hollywood Ending?

The movies aren’t the only laugh triggers but they are easy because you can rent them. It’s more difficult to rent friends. And friends you can laugh with are treasures to be nurtured. I have a couple of friends who are always good for a laugh or two. The ones close to my age are the best. We are now getting to the place where we are so delighted to still be here that we think life is a great, big, wonderful joke.

Real laughing friends are wonderful. Imaginary movie laughter is also great. You can also be your own best friend if you put your mind to the funny things in your journaling. There’s nothing that says a memoir has to be about the struggles you’ve overcome. It can also include the laughter and fun you’ve found.

Your thoughts can be trained to include observations of the funny things are in life. I can make myself laugh out loud right now just by thinking about how things have changed.

My sister and I sometimes talk about our high school algebra teacher. Mr. Baker walked up and down the aisles, shaking his head and saying it was a shame we girls couldn’t just learn to bake biscuits instead of math. He was certain we would soon be married and our husbands would take care of all those nasty bills. I have been widowed twice and self-supporting. My sister has been a widow for many years and successfully manages her estate. Mr. Baker’s opinions always good for a laugh.

Of course life is no joke but laughter is good for us so it’s smart to seek out the light and bright stories in our days. We can decide how and where to send the light of our consciousness.

There are times when a good laugh is the true healing we need most. Our ability to laugh may also help people around us. I thank God that I can look at my own life and see that the laugh is on me.

Ask Yourself

What made you laugh today?

What makes you laugh generally?

What are your favorite comedians?

What friends make you laugh?

Would you like to laugh more?

How might you add laughter to your life?



6 Comments on “Laugh Lines”

  1. Jane Pool says:

    Thanks for another great essay. I laughed as I read it for it evoked memories of so many good old movies and radio shows. Remember how whole families gathered around the radio for Jack Benny, Fred Allen, etc. I still watch and enjoy the TV reruns of the Bill Cosby show too. One way I get my daily kicks is by recording Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Craig Ferguson. Then I look forward to watching them when I crawl into bed the next evening and often lie there laughing out loud. I really like Colbert some better than Stewart and I enjoy the zaniness of Ferguson and his silly horse. Sometimes I am out and about when Car Talk comes on the radio on Saturday mornings and Tom and Ray Magliozzi make me laugh out loud and I’ve learned more about car care as well. I’ve often wondered if passing cars wonder what,that crazy lady in the car by herself is laughing about. Maybe they get a laugh at me – and that would surely be a good thing.

    • janeclaypool says:

      Hi Jane,
      You constantly amaze me. I thought I was the only one who watched Craig who was over the age 30. I used to love his skits when he played Prince Charles the best. I also love it when he gets to talking about esoteric intellectual things no one expects a comic to know. I laugh at everyone you mentioned, I even like the car guys.

  2. Ellen Sheive says:

    What a delightful subject matter!! I am one of those people who laugh easy and often. There have been times in my life when that has been “frowned upon” by some other types of folks. However, once the “art of laughter” takes hold — noone and nothing can take it away from you. Believe it or not, my predisposition to seeing the humor in just about everything, actually helped me – A LOT- to survive with my positive spirit intact even when my beloved son was suddenly murdered. My mother was a disappointed and mostly unhappy person – except when the I LOVE LUCY show was on!!! She worked at never missing that show!!! It definitely helped her inner balance.

    I have one personal revelation – because I’m a person who has seen and still sees “spirit people” (this includes angels…) – reading or hearing stories from (or about) other ordinary people who have also had these experiences makes me “cry” in the most happy way — it keeps my spirits up just as good as a good laugh!!! So…….to me this helps further prove that laughter truly is a connection to the God Force – joyfully.

    Love Hug, Ellen

    • janeclaypool says:

      Thanks for sharing Ellen,
      I do appreciate your insights and ideas that make a great contribution to this blog and I hope you are passing the address on to your friends and family. You are a dear.

  3. Matti Dobbs says:

    Your blogs are insightful and fun. Thank you for your wisdom. Love, Rev. Matti Dobbs

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