It’s harder to make people laugh than it is to make them cry. People are always on the verge of tears. — Fran Lebowitz
There are few things in this life I love more than laughter and hilarity. From belly laughs and chuckles to guffaws, snorts, and giggles, I am typically a connoisseuse of laughter in all its forms.
For most of the past year, however, I lost the ability to laugh with wild abandon or, indeed, much at all. This wasn’t the first time my funny bone went missing, and likely won’t be the last. A major bout with depression robbed me of humor and delight in one fell swoop and laughing felt like an insurmountable, brutal effort — like forcing air out of lungs gone flat and cold. Instead, I would say “That’s funny”, and force a smile whenever social etiquette called for a response.
The dull, humorless woman who stared back at me from the mirror was not me. I lost myself and didn’t know how to come back from the living dead.
And then one day, when I was sufficiently recovered, I went on a treasure hunt of sorts. I decided to look for humor in the everyday and to find mirth in the mundane.
One of the first places I looked was parenthood.
Then, like a snowball rolling down a hill of hilarity, my laughter gained momentum. I found endless humor in my son’s imagination and little boy behaviors. I found laughter in grocery stores and pharmacies and even in sequential car accidents. I found power in the ability to flip catastrophe and disaster on their evil little heads and laugh in their faces. And it felt amazing. It felt empowering. I was back.
As I started to write it all down, I found that the more I created, the more I found to delight in and to share. No matter where you fall on the funny bone spectrum or how mentally healthy you may be, consider giving humor writing a go.
To Crack Yourself Up
As Captain Obvious once said, the same things aren’t funny to the same people. My husband doesn’t like Seinfeld. I know. I married him anyway. I think a whole lot of things are funny, but far fewer things tickle his funny bone.
Even if you’re the only person laughing at what comes crashing forth from your cranium, writing down your version of funny is worth every syllable. I can stand, typing at my desk (yeah, I’m one of those people) and laugh like a loon. Even if my writing never sees the light of day (or publication) I win because I’ve found joy.
Try it for yourself: Search the shadows of your life. Shine a flashlight on the things that frustrate and even grieve you. It may sound like poppycock, but if you look closely, humor awaits and abounds.
To Try Something New
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an exquisite show about a wife and mother who discovers she has a talent for stand up comedy. Through sheer grit (and yes, a boatload of natural talent), she succeeds, but not without fear, second-guesswork, and trepidation.
I had never really tried writing humor before. I know what tickles my funny bone, but putting it down and sending it out into the world is something else entirely. One day, though, I booted up my laptop and wrote something just to make myself laugh. From there, I kept the momentum going and yes, a few of the good people here on Medium applauded. I’m no literary Mrs. Maisel, but if I can make even one other person laugh, it’s worth it to me.
Try it for yourself: Letting others read your writing is scary. We fear judgment and ridicule and falling flat on our literary arses. Writing something outside of your wheelhouse can feel scarier still, but you never know whether you’ll succeed unless you try.
To Challenge Yourself
Writing humor isn’t easy. It takes trial and error and the willingness to fail. And as with any writing, every piece is a new chance to bomb — or to sail on the sweet, sweet wings of triumph. If you define yourself as strictly a poet or journalist or fictionista, dipping a toe into new waters can improve the writing you do within your comfort zone. It can add spice and new flavor. And it may even prove to be something else you can love.
Try it for yourself: Write fake product descriptions. Write funny poetry. Write about anything and everything that makes you laugh. As with physical exercise, the more time you spend strengthening that laughter muscle, the stronger it becomes.
We all need laughter. Even if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety or any and every other mental illness they’ve come up with a label for, I know this to be true — humor heals.