Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The anatomy of laughter

While I write this, my husband sits in the adjacent room breathing hard and stimulating his zygomatic major muscle. No silly, he's not doing THAT, he's watching "Evan Almighty" and laughing his head off.

Until this evening, I, a surprising un-curious writer, hadn't thought about the 'act' of laughing. According to "How Stuff Works"

Laughter is the physiological response to humor. Laughter consists of two parts -- a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When we laugh, the brain pressures us to conduct both those activities simultaneously. When we laugh heartily, changes occur in many parts of the body, even the arm, leg and trunk muscles.
The Encyclopedia Britannica describes laughter as: "rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory and involuntary actions." I think it is much easier to do it, than describe it.

The first laugh may have been in response to the passing of danger. A couple of cave men staring up at the gruesome teeth of some hungry dinosaur and then run like hell for their lives. They meet up in a cave, look at each other and in relief, they vocalize, breathe deeply and out it comes. The world's first human laugh. Of course hyenas and most animals have been enjoying a good joke since the first moment they saw that relatively hairless wonder called: Man.

One of my favorite songs not only tells about laughing, but makes those hearing it want to laugh. The whole movie is wonderfully laugh-riddled: Mary Poppins.


Of course the cause of laughter is subjective. My husband loves Mary Poppins, The Three Stoodges, that Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" and any visual prat fall. I don't usually share his choices. But I adore a good joke, especially a woman's insider perspective on men, males, husbands and boyfriends as well as those insider jokes shared by the 'sisterhood.' I like jokes with a touch of truth and irony and allows me to just be me:
Martha's Way: Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips.
My Way: Just suck the ice cream out of the bottom of the cone, for Pete's sake. You are probably lying on the couch with your feet up anyway.
But then, I can see the humor in "Who's on first...." or

The Anatomy of Humor 6: "A guy walks into a bar . . ."


No one knows when the first joke beginning with the six words "A guy walks into a bar . . ." was told, or how it went. Nevertheless, an entire genre of jokes has been created revolving around that opening scenario. Here's a sampling of some of the variants that have sprung up, many now involving animals or inanimate objects:

A guy walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says, "A beer please, and one for the road."

An amnesiac walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Do I come here often?"

A guy with dyslexia walks into a bra.


Ruth D~ said...

Thanks for stimulating my zygomatic major muscle. :>) Laughter is the best medicine.

Rick Bylina said...

Thanks to biology the real trick isn't the laughing, it's the creation of the laugh. I think there is nothing harder in writing than coming up with words on a page that allow milk to shoot out the nose of a reader. Good job of it this morning.