Throughout my life, my favorite friends have been those who made me laugh. And I don’t mean a chuckle or quiet giggle. I mean full-out, open-mouth laughter, where the tears are streaming down your face and your cheeks hurt from grinning. The uncontrollable kind that keeps rolling over you every time you think of what made you laugh in the first place. If you’re with several friends, this can last for hours—you’ll comment back and forth and trigger one another into further hysterics. Like one long slumber party.
Over the years, my favorite comedians were always the wildly imaginative, slightly crazy ones like Jonathan Winters, Lily Tomlin, and Robin Williams. Or the deadpan, unexpected-twist humor of Ellen Degeneres and Tina Fey. Then there’s the situational humor of a well-written sit-com with a great ensemble cast like Seinfeld. Or comedy classics like the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. All have made me laugh out loud.
Laugh out loud—LOL, as we write it in our emails or social media posts. We all love to laugh. It’s in those times that we completely let go of our worries and serious opinions and just relax into sheer joy at being alive. We are in the moment, energy flowing freely. Laughter opens us up physically and emotionally and subtly clears resistance to a sense of oneness with others. When we laugh, we are sharing smiles at the silliness of taking life too seriously. If we step back for a minute and look at it, life really is a sit-com. And we are the laugh track….
I have been known to become overly serious about issues of life and death and eternity. I get lost, contemplating the great mysteries of the universe ad infinitum, until my body tenses up in fear and apprehension. My friend, and loving catalyst, Panache Desai once said to me, “Are you absolutely willing to be laugh-out-loud giddy stupid silly funny?” That was his way of getting me to chill out and let go of the seriousness. Of course, I laughed and said yes. He has a gift for making me laugh just when I’m most intent on holding onto my suffering.
My dad used to do the same thing for me. In college, when I was experiencing recurrent late-night fears of infinity, I tearfully told him, “I don’t want to live forever, and I don’t want to be dead forever either! They’re both terrifying.” He visibly struggled for an answer that would comfort me. Finally, his Irish humor broke through, and he said, “Well, you just can’t please some people!” My existential angst was dispelled with laughter—and the love that came with it.
That’s what our friends and family do for us. They crack us up/open and shine the light in with a kind word or ridiculous joke. Laughter breaks the tension. Laughter opens the heart. Laughter is chocolate and pizza and ice cream all rolled into one. Ultimately, life is both a mystery and a sit-com. Sometimes you just gotta laugh out loud at it all!