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The topics for my blog having been rather heavy over the past few weeks, I was looking for something a little lighter.  Then I happened upon this question posed by Jenni Prokopy, the Editrix of the website ChronicBabe.com (a community for young women with chronic illness—their words, not mine): “What’s you favorite laugh?”

An important, but difficult question for me.  Important, because you hear so many anecdotes about people who have cured themselves of all nature of horrible disease with laughter.  Difficult, because much of what passes for comedy these days just doesn’t cut it for me.  I’ve tried the laughter as medicine thing; it hasn’t worked out very well.

But, when I read that question, I found that I really wanted to have an answer for it.  And then, when I started to think about it, I realized I have more than a few favorite laughs.  Here’s sampling:

When my mother says “meow” because she hasn’t understood what I’ve just said.

The whole of the play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), but especially the bit where the guy playing Ophelia complains about not wanting to put on “dry, boring, vomitless Shakespeare”.

The website http://icanhascheezburger.com/ (thank you Lisa!)

My three-year-old niece telling knock-knock jokes.  She’s probably the funniest person I know, and such a master of laughter, she doesn’t need a punch line.  “Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”  We never get further than this.  The ritual itself is funny to her.  She knows she’s supposed to laugh, so she does.  And, although it may be forced at first, it soon becomes wholly genuine.  So, of course, I have to laugh too, because child-laughter is so infectious.

The same niece’s rendition of “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  The answer: to visit her sister.  I’m not sure why this is funny to me, but it is.

A game I used to play with her older sister when she was about the same age.  “Go to sleep!” she would order me.  Obediently, I would close my eyes and begin to snore.  Not more than a few seconds later she would shriek, “Wake up!” to which I would start violently, open my eyes, and make a surprised noise.  This never failed to make her laugh—and again, I had to follow suit.  She continued to command my slumber and wakefulness over and over, and somehow, though I did get tired from my hijinks, the joke didn’t get old.  It actually got funnier and funnier.

When my brother, some weeks after having bought me the book Who Moved My Cheese (don’t ask) for my birthday, inquired if I had located said dairy product yet.  And I replied, “No, but I’m pretty sure YOU took it!” and he laughed out loud.

The fact that tennis player Rafael Nadal and my cat Luna make identical snarly facial expressions.

When one of our resident squirrels climbs a sunflower in our yard and ignores all of the sturdy stalks bearing flowers well within reach, instead choosing to pursue a smaller bloom on a limb far too delicate for its weight and inevitably falls ignominiously to the ground.

When, after hitting the deck, the aforementioned squirrel looks around to make sure nobody is watching.

The part in Dame Agatha Christie’s autobiography where she fends off an Italian Casanova determined to sleep with her by reminding him that she’s British and, therefore, naturally frigid.

When both of our cats look out the window with the exact same posture and turn their heads at the exact same moment.  (Really, pretty much anything our cats do is funny.)

When my mother giggles because I have fast forwarded a video tape too far so that I have overshot the beginning of a TV show, and I have to rewind footage of people walking downstairs so that it looks like they are going up backward really fast.  (She likes horses going backward too).

When my sister and I, as children, used to stare at each other across the kitchen table and dare each other not to laugh by saying these words: “You made me laugh.  Do you know what happens to people who make me laugh?”  I have no earthly idea from whence we got those lines or why we found them funny, but invariably one of us would bust up—thereby being the loser of our little game.  But I think, even then, our objective wasn’t competition.  It was simply to laugh.  As though laughter were not, as my adult-self would have me believe, simply an incidental part of life, but a worthwhile and even necessary pursuit, all on its own.  Perhaps laughter is not optional in this life; it’s mandatory.

In a way, it’s funny (weird, not hah-hah) that I have spent so much time looking around for comedies and such to make me laugh, when perhaps really what’s needed is simply an opening of my laughter chakra (I just made that up—I have no idea if there is such a thing), a cultivation of the willingness to laugh.  To not sit there like the queen with a hard mouth, daring the court jester to impress me.

There’s a man at the diner my mother and I frequent who knows all about being open to laughter.  He’s so generous with it that he genuinely laughs at all my jokes—no pity chuckles, no groans—just pure enjoyment.  It’s as though he walks around ready, just waiting to be amused.  He’s like my niece—a laughing master—and a wonderful teacher.

What’s your favorite laugh?

To learn more about interesting, exciting, and vomit-ful Shakespeare go here: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/

To read about laughter as medicine go here: http://www.laughteryoga.org/

Someone who knows how to laugh!

Someone who knows how to laugh!