The Upside of Humor

You know what I realized yesterday? Humor is funny. Really funny.

Let me rephrase that. I’m not talking about dark humor, sick humor, mean-spirited at the expense of someone else humor. I’m referring to your all-purpose humor. The good kind that makes you smile or giggle or even laugh out loud.

It feels good.

Humor has the ability to change your outlook. One well-timed joke, one hilarious anecdote and your mood is suddenly lighter, your day a little brighter.

The best humor lasts and lasts. Years ago, Husband (then Boyfriend) and I went with some friends to see Ellen DeGeneres perform at a local comedy club.

(That should be a tip-off as to how old we are, so consider it a freebie. Just don’t let me catch you laughing.)

At the time, Ellen was an up-and-coming comedian, a rising star. She told the most hysterical story about her closet: what was in it, decluttering it, installing shelves and extra racks, trying to get it organized. I couldn’t tell you a single punch line in the entire ten minute riff, but to this day I can picture her onstage in that dark club, making me laugh so hard I cried.

Looking across the bay toward Valleta, capital of Malta www.adventuresinexpatland.com

Bright, sunny Valleta, Malta


So what prompted my light-bulb moment yesterday?

I was flipping through some photos I’d taken during a trip to Malta a couple months ago.

As I gazed at this picture, taken looking across the bay to the capital city of Valleta, I suddenly found myself with a goofy grin on my face.

The day this photo was taken, our family had been seeing sights together throughout the morning. After a leisurely lunch (BTW, isn’t that the best part of traveling? Being able to use the word ‘leisurely’ to describe anything?), Daughter and I decided to catch the local water taxi back to our hotel while Husband and Son headed off to visit a war museum.

Soon the small boat arrived at the pier. The wizened pilot docked the bobbing boat, then rushed to help the few passengers getting off. When it was our turn to board, he looked up at me, smiled and offered his hand.

‘Be careful young lady, don’t fall in,’ he cooed. ‘The sea is very wet today. Wetter than normal.’

Maybe you had to be there. But it cracked me up then, and it cracks me up now.

I realize that not everyone is naturally funny by nature. Some people just have the knack of being highly amusing in their thoughts, words and/or actions.

You know what I’m talking about. The friend who is never at a loss for a wry (not to be confused with sarcastic or derogatory) comment about the current headline in the newspaper. Your cousin who never fails to greet you with his latest joke. That guy in the accounting department who always has a funny story to tell about his neurotic cat.

Ever listen to a young child tell a knock-knock joke?

Child: Knock, knock.

You: Who’s there?

Child, stifling laughter: Orange

You: Orange Who?

Child, practically doubling over with mirth: Orange you glad I’m not a banana?

It doesn’t matter how silly or ridiculous the joke may be: I defy you to not find humor in a child’s effervescent delivery, tripping over their words and struggling to contain their giggles before they get to the punch line.

Looking for the humor in situations also helps build and maintain your personal reserves of emotional resilience, making it a little easier to deal with challenging situations.

Take your friend who seems to tell the most amusing tales about her everyday adventures. Besides offering you friendship and making you laugh (two terrific benefits in their own right), she’s modeling emotionally healthy behavior. Right before your eyes. At no cost to you.

You see, that’s the point. She may be talking about the simplest, most inane activities: shopping for school clothes with her children, the time she first tried escargot/sea urchins/tripe, renewing her driver’s license, the broken sink requiring three visits from a hapless plumber to fix.

But she sees them as adventures, so when she regales you with the details, you see them as adventures, too.

Here I am, two months later, still thinking about that silly line from the flirty water taxi pilot. It continues to have the ability to make me smile, brighten my day.

Pretty powerful stuff, don’t you think?

Come to think of it, the next time I see Catarina, my nine year old Dutch neighbor, I’m going to ask her whether they tell knock-knock jokes here in Nederland.

What funny joke or story sticks in your mind?


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