The Power Of Canned Laughter?

A certain hotel believes in what some German new-ager with a tin ear calls “Selfness”. Don’t ask. One of its courses is about the “power of laughter”, illustrated by a photo of a young man, you guessed it, laughing. To me the photo looks staged, but how could it be different? The photographer could tell the model really good jokes, one supposes, but real people do not laugh at jokes in the way he is doing, beginning to double up. Assuming that he is a professional actor, I was moved to wonder whether his artificial laughter has the same effects as those the “selfness” course leader attributes to the real thing. Do the multifarious benefits flow from the outward behaviour, the muscular and respiratory phenomena, or from the inward phenomenon of finding something funny? Myself, I can enjoy something funny without any outward sign, so I doubt it is doing anything to my blood pressure and all the other sources of wellness. So, if it is the outward behaviour, are comic actors enjoying lots of health benefits? Perhaps they live longer than tragic ones. Enquiring minds want to know.

Canned laughter reminds me of other experiences, in the mountain lodges of rural Austria, which I have to nominate as producing the world’s loudest individuals. Whenever the lodge was reachable by driving or strolling up a road, as opposed to serious hiking, you got small groups that tried to make as much noise as possible. The men boomed and roared, while the women shrieked and cackled like stuck pigs. What was so funny? I can’t be sure, not speaking the dialect; they might all have been desperately witty people, but I just don’t think so. Watching the body language, I tentatively judged that it was a different mechanism. Our culture has long taught that this thing called “a sense of humour” is praiseworthy. If you have grown up hearing this, but don’t actually have one, let alone wit (an urban accomplishment?), what do you do in order to feel good about yourself? Fake it, obviously – roar if male, shriek if female, carefully monitoring the others so as to roar and shriek as much as or more than they do. Now we have a Stadium Effect going; ears may hurt and throats get sore, but self-esteem depends on one-upmanship, on laughing Louder Than Thou. For we are jolly good fellows…

Posted on January 22, 2011 at 13:31 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Monkey Business, Miscellaneous

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