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What's So Funny ?

December 4, 2015


I’ve been hearing strange sounds at Casa Chatterbox, the sounds of babies laughing. I’ve yet to make a thorough check, but to my knowledge no babies currently reside under our roof. The source of these sounds is Mrs. Chatterbox; lately she’s become addicted to YouTube and Facebook videos of laughing babies. I’ve watched a few and I’ll admit they’re contagious, but I’m left wondering what it is these babies find so amusing.


I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor. As a kid, I developed my sense of humor to survive an overly dominant parent—my mother. My brother had challenged her authority head-on and never won a battle, much less a war. He’d get grounded just for projecting a challenging tone. When I became a teenager, I took on the role of court jester, a tactic that allowed me to say just about anything with impunity because I wasn’t taken seriously. Cowardly? Sure, but this tactic has enabled me to retain a relationship with my ninety year old mother, unlike my serious-minded brother who Mom hasn’t spoken with in nearly twenty years.


As a student at UCLA, my friends threatened to hogtie and deliver me to a Hollywood comedy club on open mic night. I sometimes wonder how different my life might have been if the thought of standing on a stage with a microphone in my hand hadn’t terrified me enough to puke on my shoes.


Even though I failed to become a professional comic, I hold comedians in high regard. They’re exceptionally bright people, and it takes intelligence to twist everyday occurrences into universal situations that most of us can laugh at. Bravery is an important ingredient in the makeup of a comic. Every sense of humor is different with people seldom laughing at the same things. I can imagine few circumstances more terrifying than standing alone on a stage with sweat trickling from your armpits as you try to make an audience laugh. When comedians fall shy of the mark and end up offending their audiences (Michael Richards of Kramer fame comes to mind) I tend to cut them some slack because of the precarious position they put themselves in just to entertain me. Famous comedians like Margaret Cho, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have recently threatened to stop performing on college campuses because today’s students are so politically correct and too easily offended.


Lately, I’ve been pondering the issue of humor and wondering if it requires intelligence or understanding, the ability to be in on a joke. I’m inclined to say yes, but what understanding do babies have? I recently watched a video of a dad slowly tearing up a rejection letter received in response to a job interview. The baby dissolved in laughter with each tear. But what did that baby find so funny?


It would seem from these videos that the desire to laugh is written into our DNA, and intelligence/understanding is not necessary when it comes to humor. An in-depth study of our need to laugh might provide the tools we need to combat violence and destruction, providing mankind’s salvation in these troubled times.


Until that salvation is found, we should all imitate babies by setting aside our differences and  laughing for the pure joy of it.


This might help:





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Laughter is good for the body, soul, and mind. I guess those who don't laugh much are wound rather tight. I don't blame those comedians for not performing at colleges. Chill, kids - it's just a joke. Now, what do hyenas find so funny...?
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on December 4, 2015
I'm constantly amazed at the parallels in our lives (yours and mine). My mother was a strict disciplinarian when we were younger too and my older brother Often came out on the short end, but with humor, I deflected some of the wrath. Good piece Stephen.
By: Rick Watson on December 4, 2015
It would be comforting knowing that humankind could find the doorway into a child's sense of wonder and be stimulated to laugh freely without issue of any kind.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 4, 2015
Ah, I too love laughing baby videos ... and laughing babies. I've been told I should be a stand-up comic. The idea is absurd; I can tell a funny story and come back with a funny comment, but to carry through a performance. No way.. And, like you, I would also throw-up on my shoes.
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 4, 2015
I often think it's plain old excitement.So much is new and great to babies, isn't it?
By: Jenny Woolf on December 4, 2015
Puking on your shoes would probably have gotten some laughs.
By: pt dilloway on December 4, 2015
LOVED the laughing babies video!! Has anyone found out why laughing (like yawning) is contagious?
By: fishducky on December 4, 2015
my siblings and I were blessed with a forgiving and loving mother- but our father was judgemental beyond reason. Unfortunately our mother died at the young age of 65 and our dad lived to be almost 95. Only the good die young. I must admit my wacko sense of humor has kept me sane! Cheers! and laugh on baby!
By: Kathe W. on December 4, 2015
Laugher is the best medicine. Unless you have diarrhea. I think it would be a lot better of a world if we could all set aside our differences and have a nice laugh. It would make for boring headlines but it sure would be nicer to see that another mass shooting. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on December 4, 2015
I'm sitting here grinning ear to ear after watching the video. I remember the one with the dad tearing up a piece of paper first came out shortly after my boss became a first-time father. I emailed the clip to him, telling him he needn't worry about buying expensive toys. A piece of paper would do just fine.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 4, 2015
We take ourselves to seriously and back ourselves into a corner and then we start fighting. Yes, we need to lighten up.
By: red on December 4, 2015
I'm not good with babies, but my life in the classroom is a whole lot easier because I can sense when and how to make my students laugh.
By: Val on December 4, 2015
My children laughed a lot. They laughed at silly songs I sang to them and the way I helped them clap their hands. Then they talked and giggled. Somehow they had their own jokes. Being funny and being a stand up comic are two different things. On stage, one needs a well-honed routine. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 4, 2015
Enjoyed! Thanks for that. Have you seen the practice of deliberate laughing in order to feel better? There are people who will go in front of a group and lead this exercise. Before long the fake laughter becomes real and actually does make you feel better. Amazing how contagious it is and the endorphins it releases.
By: jenny_o on December 4, 2015
I love the video--I could listen to that laughter all day. I Also think that you would have made a great stand up comedian!
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on December 4, 2015
What wonderful joy there is in that laughter. Maybe it is there is lot they don't know-- that we do, sadly. Or maybe they are just closer to the bliss that book ends this life. Nice post-Delightful to see.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 4, 2015
I think sometimes the baby is frightened and laughs as a release. At least that is true in some of these videos that I see. Regardless, a baby laughing is food for the soul.
By: Tabor on December 5, 2015
I've often wondered why, when I do something stupid, it's just stupid. But when Kevin James does something stupid, it's funny. Laughter is a mysterious thing.
By: Tom Sightings on December 5, 2015
There is often a fine line between what is funny and what is offensive, it must be an especially difficult time to be a comedian. Chris Rock rocks!!
By: cranky on December 5, 2015
We are made in the image of G-d, and G-d has a sense of humor. Only a Creator with a sense of humor could have made ostriches and the platypus.
By: messymimi on December 5, 2015
I'm a great believer in a sense of humor. Ever since watching Carol Burnett when growing up, I've loved clever comedians. At home, I joke a lot. I also put lots of funny pics & vids on my FB page to entertain people. In this day and age, laughter is precious.
By: Lexa Cain on December 5, 2015
Thanks. I needed this post and the ensuing laughter. We're all prone to laughter, if only we'd permit ourselves to go there. Parents need to laugh in front of and with their kids too. And stand up comedy is something I'd never have enough layers of skin for.
By: Robyn Engel on December 5, 2015
I so agree with you. Humor has gotten me through the darkest times in life and I love to laugh. It's in my DNA. Ray is natural and I've told him he should have done stand up because he's quick and just too funny. I laugh daily. Must be the artist/comedy thing about you
By: Bouncin Barb on December 5, 2015
Hey, if I took a dump in my britches, knowing somebody was gonna clean me up, I'd laugh too.
By: Al Penwasser on December 5, 2015
My wife laughs at me quite a lot. Sigh.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on December 6, 2015
squeak toys... :)
By: TexWisGirl on December 6, 2015
There's nothing more deliciously infectious as a laughing baby.
By: Hilary on December 6, 2015
People do need to chill and take a pill. I find people get so bent out of shape from something that is just not that important when compared to something that a death of a loved one. Even then, death can be funny. I can find humour in almost anything. I bet Foster Brooks would never make it now because he always played a drunk but, to me, he was one of the funniest at the Roasts. Young people get so upset and offended but I just think the people who are so politically correct are looking for ways to be offended.
By: Birgit on December 7, 2015

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