On Laughter (out of place)…

Why do we laugh?

Because it’s funny… because we’re happy… because we are entertained… we laugh for all these great reasons.

We laugh when we are uncomfortable, hurt, confused, and angry too. We laugh when we don’t know what else to do.

I remember often laughing too hard and my mother reminding me that “smart girls don’t laugh for no reason.” Our cultural etiquette reserves laughter for the hysterically funny or hysterically unsettling experiences. It was not uncommon to hear someone tell a morbid joke and be greeted with fits of laughter: “Oh! How unfortunate to die in a car accident in this country. There are so many more creative ways to go about it!” Ha. Ha. Huh?

When I was in University, my Anthropology of Latin America class introduced me to other cultures that experienced this phenomenon. “Laughter our of place,” by Donna M. Goldstein, told the story of Brazilian women living in favelas, urban shantytowns, and described laughter as a tool for coping with the horrors they experienced. Dark jokes, creatively humorous responses to bad situations, and laughter amongst chaos… I could identify with all of that. I am, after all, the girl who laughed hysterically in an auditorium of 100+ people the day one of her best friends was faced with a shocking tragedy. I am the girl who, upon receiving news of her close friend’s death, put her phone down and laughed aloud in a busy restaurant and implored God… “why do you not take the bad people instead?! There are so many options!” How else can one react to the madness of this life? Ha. Ha.

The spectrum of human emotion is so incredibly complex, and yet our most joyful and most heartbreaking moments are often treated in the same way… with laughter, or with tears. Do you cry when you are happy? Yes. I am that girl too. I also cry when I see other people rejoicing. Just give me a YouTube video of a baby laughing and you will see the tears dripping off my chin pronto. My husband asks me what’s wrong and, 9 times out of 10, I will say “nothing! I’m so happy!” But I don’t cry when I’m sad. I laugh. I’m conditioned to do so. It’s no wonder the poor man is so confused.

I see that people also often laugh when they’re nervous, uncomfortable, lying, or don’t want to accept something.

“Oh, you think there are other forms of life out there? Ha. Ha. Hahaha.”

“People who believe in God are so ridiculously silly! Ha. Ha. Hahaha.”

“I am not racist! Haha. Hahahahaha. Ha. Haha. Ha.”

Yeah. OK.

“I totally agree with you… Hah haaa! Hah haaa!”

“I have SO many gay friends! Hahaha!”

“Do you want to go for… haha… like… ha… dinner or something?”

“I am the expert here! I know what I’m talking about! Hihihi!”

Thought of a few people? Do you trust them?

Me neither. Although, who am I to distrust laughter…? I am, after all, the one laughing at funerals!


Watch your laughter trends. What do they say about you? Are they aligned with your intentions, or do you need to make some adjustments? Share in the comments section below!

And remember… we design our own luck!


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