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“It is bad to suppress laughter. It goes back down and spreads to your hips.” — Fred Allen

It is a given that laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, we feel a spark of happiness. Not only do we feel better in our guffawing, but research has shown that laughter strengthens our immune system, improves our concentration levels, ups our endorphin levels, lowers our blood pressure, and increases the production of T-cells, that help the pituitary gland to release its own pain, suppressing opiates. Sounds like a plus all around, right? Ever since 1981, when Norman Cousins talked of overcoming a fatal disease by watching Charlie Chaplin movies, in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, scientists have been taking a serious look at laughter!

In Japan, laughter clubs have sprung up all over, and there is even an international laughter championship to determine Japan’s best laugher. Laughter yoga is also on the rise as well. Laughter has the power to work the stomach, chest, neck, and facial muscles which is a work out. The clubs meet in public parks and the sessions are totally free, with voluntary donations. Advocates of this laughter movement laugh off skeptics, noting the increase in their levels of happiness. Sorry for the puns, but I just can’t help myself. Ha, Ha.

Since Peter died I have used humor in my writing and throughout my daily life to help me through grief. I have no guilt about cracking a joke in my grief group. I have no qualms about laughing out loud to get me through this arduous journey of grief. Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning said: “I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable.” Sigmund Freud argued that laughter was a coping mechanism for dealing with the unspeakable pains of life. Laughter isn’t just about comedy. Behind every joke is a temporary tragedy. Who doesn’t laugh uproariously when he sees a man slip on a banana peel and fall?

Peter loved fart jokes. If he was sad, he would watch the bean-eating campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, and he’d feel better. Other cheer-up movie lines for us included; “There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?” from Airplane; “Nice beaver.” “Thank you. I just had it stuffed.” from The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!; “Let’s do what one shepherd said to the other shepherd.” “What?” “Let’s get the flock outta here.” from Lethal Weapon “Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball!” from A League of Their Own; “Thank you very little.” from Caddyshack; and, of course “I’ll have what she’s having.” from When Harry Met Sally.

According to Wikipedia, “Gallows humor” is defined as “witticism in the face of – and in response to – a hopeless situation. It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable.” Gallows humor is a tool used to diffuse a stressful situation. The following joke is an example of gallows humor. It is dark, weird, and yet made me laugh:

A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back into his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard loudly. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says: “OK, now what?”

I know that Peter would not want me to be miserable in my grief. He would be the first person to tell me to laugh as a path towards healing. Laughter is an important tool to use. So, for Peter, I will continue to live by the motto, “he who laughs, lasts!”

Laurie’s Funny Plan of Action:

· Watch as many Mel Brooks movies as possible.

· Listen to Billy Crystal’s autobiography Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’m Going; and Where the Hell are My Keys? Or Martin Short’s I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend.

· Watch Funny British Animal Videos on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aAtFrWft2k

· Marathon binge-watch Will & Grace, Friends, and The Big Bang Theory.

· Look at old photos of myself in high school and laugh at my pathetic hairdo.

· Ask Siri or Alexa to tell me a joke. It will be a groaner!

· Paint my toenails a weird color.

· Watch this video of a baby laughing at ripped paper! This never fails to up my mood! http://www.wimp.com/baby-laughing-hysterically-at-ripping-paper/

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