And while we’re on the subject of mental health and keeping sane during this time of year, let’s have a quick chat about laughter, shall we?
Like cat’s purring, laughter itself is the manifestation of a physical state of being, is the body’s release valve, allowing for the pressure within the body, both good and bad. But we’re mostly concerned here with the good, and the joyful, and the ridiculous.
This season is one of gathering-together, of socializing (forced or otherwise…), and of making new acquaintances. And believe me, I know how stressful these kind of things can be. The presence of food helps. I have found some of my best holiday-party discussions have taken place over and around the quality of cheese being served. But the injection of laughter is a guaranteed way to make things better.
As ever, there are scientific studies to back-up this claim. It has been proved that laughter can bring people together by synchronizing the brains of speaker and listener, creating an empathetic bond. Not only that, but laughter releases chemicals in the brain that can provide a sense of well-being and reduce tension. It is also contagious. The laughter of another person makes our bodies want to laugh, too. It turns out that laughter is also an immunity booster, which is critically important when you’re shaking hands and rubbing elbows, particularly at a time when everyone has that unpleasant cough that’s going around.
My favorite line from the study referenced above explains that everyone should be accountable to another person, and hold other people accountable for laughter: “It is important that people can check in with others from time-to-time, on ‘whether they have had moments of laughter’ or not.”
So this is me, checking in with you, beloved patrons, and making sure you’ve had your daily dose of laughter for the day. If not, then go on and make yourself laugh. You may sound like a creepy Bond villain for a few moments, but after that…see what happens. And if you need a little more incentive, then have a look at the selection below for some suggestions to get you giggling. And be sure to share that laughter with others.
It’s also been proven that laughter can reduce blood sugar. So have some more pie while you’re at it!
Mystery Science Theater 3000: This may be my favorite TV show. Like, ever-ever. The premise, though outlandish, is pretty simple: an evil scientist, bent on world domination, sends a hapless everyman to a space station (known as the Satellite of Love), and forces him to watch bad movies in order to monitor his mind. Said Everyman (in this case, Joel Hodgson, the show’s creator and first writer), creates two robots from parts found on the satellite to keep him company. Why? Who cares? The result is comedy genius as these three compatriots endure some of the worst films ever released. Joel was replaced by Mike Nelson in the show’s fifth season, but this in no way detracted from the quality of the show–in fact, for many, it actually enhanced it. I dare you to watch these films, and listen to the jokes told about them, and not giggle, just a little. Best of all, this show was designed to air on prime time in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, which means it’s almost entirely safe for family viewing…making it the perfect way to distract family members and friends alike. The NOBLE network has a bunch of different episodes of the show, too. Check out the list here.
The Gallery of Regrettable Food: Ok, so this may hit too close to home for some this holiday season, but for those of us who at least have a pizza delivery place on speed-dial in case the worst should occur, James Lilek’s book will keep you in stitches. Lilek began snarking on mid-century cookbooks when The Internet was just getting started, and hasn’t stopped yet (any why would you, when you have such comedy gold as these photographs? Particularly the photos of meat). This book brings together some of his best work, in chapters with titles such as “Glop in a pot” and “Poultry for the glum”, which are guaranteed to give you a chortle or two, especially around the Dinner Party time of the year.
Gavin and Stacey: Sometimes, the funniest things are also the most profound, and this is never more true than in this BBC comedy about a young couple falling in love, their best friends, and the utter hilarity of real life. Gavin and Stacey work for different branches of the same company, and, as a result, talk on the phone every day–but when they at last meet face-to-face, what began as a simple flirtation will become a relationship that will change both their lives–and the lives of their friends and family–forever. This show manages to be both utterly hilarious and unforgettably emotional, often at the same time; though a bit more adult in terms of content and delivery, it is still a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Additionally, fans of late-late night television will recognize James Corden, who now hosts on CBS, in his first role (he also co-wrote this series). Those in need of a real binge-watch can also check out Season Two and Three, as well!
I Am America (And So Can You!): Harken back to a simpler time, when we could mock blowhards and bigots for the fools that they were. Stephen Colbert’s first book, written in the voice of his Comedy Central persona on The Colbert Report is made even funnier by his over-the-top delivery and now-familiar bombast. Like his show, this book is a series of utterly absurd opinions, unsupported declarations, and wacky conspiracies, all woven into a fictional biography that is so outlandish it can only be heard to be enjoyed properly. The addition of special guests and special asides make this recording even better–and makes those Extra-Opinionated Holiday Guests just a little more bearable.