Medically, everyone’s funny bone is in the same place—the part of the elbow over which the ulnar nerve passes. Knock it and you may experience a tingling sensation running up your arm.
Non-medically, everyone’s funny bone is in a different place. What people laugh at can cover a wide variety of styles and preferences. Some people, for example, like slapstick such as seen in the Marx brothers’ comedy routines. Others like put-down humor as exemplified in Don Rickles’ stand-up performances. Still others prefer something like Gallagher's prop-based comedy, or, Woody Allen’s intellectual humor.
The important thing is not to compare what you find funny with what someone else finds funny. Instead, nurture what, and who, makes you laugh.
So one of your assignments this week is to determine which comedian, cartoonist, or stand-up comic makes you laugh. Then rent and view one of their DVDs, or, in the case of a cartoonist, post some of their cartoons around your home or office.
The other part of your task is to identify your personal humor support system. Which friends, acquaintances, colleagues, loved-ones, or relatives help lighten you up when things get you down?
Recently, I read that surrounding yourself with other happy people can hike your odds of being more cheerful by nine-percent. Happiness, like laughter is contagious. It is much easier to laugh when someone else is also laughing than it is to laugh when you are by yourself. Why do you think they have laugh tracks on television comedy shows? You hear other people laughing and it encourages you to laugh too.
If you want to lighten up and laugh more, you too need a “laugh-track” support system or a “humor buddy.”
One of my humor buddies is my daughter Sarah who is now forty-three-years-old. We have always been, and still are, very playful with each other and laugh a lot together. We could, for example, walk down the street and use the parking meter as a microphone, or, make up a gibberish foreign language and speak it to each other on a crowded downtown street.
Even though I teach humor workshops, Sarah has been a great teacher for me in learning how to lighten up. When I was writing my first book, The Healing Power of Humor, I would close my office door and use earplugs to avoid being disturbed. At the time, my daughter was in her early teens. She would often knock on the door and enter before I could respond. Usually she wanted to talk about something that could have easily waited until I took a break.
After she had interrupted me several times one morning, I put a big sign on the door that read: “Do Not Disturb Unless It’s an Emergency.”
No sooner than I posted the sign outside the door, there was another knock. This time I was really annoyed and shouted in disgust, “Is this an emergency?”
“Yes,” she replied emphatically.
“O.K.,” I angrily shouted back without opening the door. “What do you want?”
She said, “I forgot to tell you I love you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that I was taking my writing and myself too seriously. What irony! Here I was writing a book about humor and I had lost mine.
This week, you might want to find people in your humor support system who will help you take what you do seriously but yourself lightly.
…and remember what writer and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry said:
He who would travel happily must travel light.