The Top Ten Reasons We Need a Good Laugh by Lazarus Barnhill

I needed a good laugh today, and while this post by fellow Second Wind Author Lazarus Barnhill might not have given me the laugh I needed, at least he explained why I needed it. And he made me smile, so that’s a step in the right direction. I hope you enjoy Lazarus Barnhill’s article as much as I did.

The Top Ten Reasons We Need a Good Laugh by Lazarus Barnhill

A couple weeks ago I tried an experiment. For a solid week I turned off my computer at 11:30 and turned on the TV. I alternated daily between watching the monologue of Jay Leno and of David Letterman. My goal was to determine which of the two was the better comedian. I watched Leno Monday and Wednesday and Letterman Tuesday and Thursday. What did I decide? . . . Well, honestly, neither one of these guys is all that funny. On Friday I watched Leno’s monologue and then tuned in to Letterman’s famous “Top Ten” list. That made it official: you can combine the two and they still aren’t funny.

In my judgment (and I realize this is strictly my jaundiced opinion), these two guys are unfunny for different reasons. Leno constantly goes for the quick, easy, often dumb joke. His studio audience responds with regularly timed courtesy laughs, so much so I wonder how they’d respond if he said something really funny. Occasionally he does say something fairly clever, but his delivery is so popeyed and cute that it spoils the gag—like someone ruining a joke by laughing at his own punch line.

Letterman doesn’t really try to be funny so much as he coasts along trying to be hip. His entire presentation is a perpetual NYC insider joke: “I’m too fashionable to do anything but pretend to take this seriously; and if you’re hip, you’ll laugh at this pretense along with me.” The currency of Letterman’s humor is patronizing cuteness. His Top Ten list is an exercise in hipness, a big part of which is making certain nothing really funny ever gets listed.

So what? Well the reason I tried my little experiment was because I needed a good laugh. Ever been there? And what can be crueler than tuning into a TV comedian who gets millions of dollars a year because he’s supposed to be funny and not getting anything like a legit chuckle? I have this burning desire to express a thought to these two guys: you two are paid to make us laugh; we have no desire to listen to your pandering and coasting. Once upon a time, each of you knew how to be funny and you need to find that place again—and here are the top ten reasons we need a good laugh:

10. We need to remember we’re still alive. A good laugh is living proof of living. Among the prominent things dead folks don’t do is laugh.

9. We need to show God we can take a joke.

8. Laughter is free. And it’s free to laugh at people who are at different economic stations than we are. [True story: Year ago I went to an independent film at the ritziest theater in St. Louis. There I saw a well-to-do fellow come up to the kid running the concession stand and inform her that she had to hold his pager during the show so she could come get him if it went off. Funniest thing about it—the guy had utterly no idea why I was laughing.]

7. Laughter is a universal time machine, taking us individually back to our best or worst moments without cost, grief or regret.

6. A good laugh washes away our anxiety; that is, it yanks us out of what we regret (the past) and what we fear (the future) and brings us back to the present, if only for a moment. We see things more clearly after a good laugh, and make better decisions.

5. A good laugh is hard-wired into reality and truth. A spontaneous belly-laugh momentarily cuts through the sham and self-deceit of civilized living like a breath of cool, fresh air in a stuffy, moldy room.

4. A good laugh is spiritual, like a miracle: you never see it coming; it overwhelms you despite yourself; you can bask in it and be refreshed.

3. It’s a presidential election year. Presidential election cycles should be renamed: “the year of living seriously.” When did a political candidate say something funny that wasn’t a dig at somebody else?

2. We need to laugh down the walls between us. Being serious, earnest and worried about our differences hasn’t worked.

1. We all have at least ten things to cry about.

True story: On lucky April 13, 1988, my beloved red Nissan pickup was totaled in downtown Tulsa by a drunk driver who ran a red light and t-boned me. After making sure the other driver (and his drunken girl friend) were not seriously injured, I stood in the middle of the intersection looking at my crumpled vehicle. A tall, earnest fellow hustled out of the Dodge dealership on one corner of the intersection, informed me that he had called the police and said, “This may be a bad time to ask this, but are you in the market for a truck?” For a split second I was furious. And then I laughed, a nice big, curative laugh. I don’t need anymore car wrecks—but I could use a few more good laughs.


Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing.

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