Gotta laugh... | John Ryan on using comedy to deal with life's ups and downs

Gotta laugh...

John Ryan on using comedy to deal with life's ups and downs

I am a comedian by trade. 'Have gob will travel' is my mantra. However, I now spend more of my time in offices than I do in comedy clubs. This is because I provide workplace workshops where I use humour to get across messages about health, wellbeing, stress and resilience. 

'But is it appropriate to use comedy?' I am often asked. My reply is always the same: 'If you can make people laugh you can make them listen.' 

I use jokes, anecdotes and stories to laugh with, and not at, whoever is in front of me. And no matter who is in front of me I see the same thing, people who have forgotten how to laugh.

<i>'There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.' ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol</i>

A baby will smile as soon as it can. It is a survival instinct. This proximity-seeking behaviour melts hearts and before you know it you are smiling back. Baby learns to laugh, and adults laugh back. The baby creates a bond and relationships are formed. 

Fast forward to adulthood and Baby is no longer smiling. Baby is now frowning and becoming weighed down by life. Baby may now be in a job that barely pays enough to cover the costs of the housing that Baby sleeps in but does little else due to commuting. It may be a job on a zero-hour contract or on minimum wage or well-paid. It may be a job that they love or hate. Either way Baby is now constantly pressured. Baby no longer smiles, or laughs or has fun. Where did it go wrong? When did life become so serious? When did people forget the importance of a good laugh?

<i>'I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.' ― Maya Angelou</i>

Look around your workplace. Do you enjoy it? Do you have fun? Laughing is great for you. It can help lower blood pressure. Okay you can get medicine that will do that, but a giggle is free and self-administered. When we laugh it makes us feel better, endorphins are released and stress hormone levels are lowered. 

Our T-cells are boosted by laughter and these are a vital part of our immune system. Our cardiac health is improved too. We live in a time when one in four adults experience anxiety or depression. Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under  50. The UK has the highest rates of self-harm in Europe. Life is tough. Is it any wonder we have forgotten how to laugh?

<i>'Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.' ― Kurt Vonnegut</i>

I am not suggesting that you can laugh away your problems. I am not saying that humour can cure. I am reminding you that when Baby learned to smile and laugh others joined in. Communication started. People cared for Baby. People will care for you too. 

Laughter and humour can be a simple step in creating, maintaining and developing bonds and relationships. I know that it can be hard to find the funny in life sometimes.

That is where we, the comedians, have a role. Comedy is a shared experience and can help get people to listen, to think and to start talking. It can be a lubricant for social interaction. Laughter is habit-forming, you will feel good. You take in deep breaths and that sends lovely healthy red blood cells around your body. Smile and the world smiles with you. Baby forgot to smile and laugh and people forgot about Baby.

Let’s remind each other that we are here and that we care about ourselves and each other. It starts with a simple smile and a laugh. If you can’t start it off, I will, or your workmate will. And when we don’t feel like it maybe you will be able to do it for us. 

Laughing and smiling are infectious. I am not saying we can make the whole world a better place but it will make you feel you are in a better place.

John Ryan tweets at @comedyjohnryan

Published: 30 Jun 2016

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