Laughter is a Serious Business

By Doug Mayberry Published: February 22, 2010
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Q: I have a golf friend who has a great sense of humor. He is fun, positive and makes us laugh with his unexpected comments and jokes. I am in my late 50s and would like to learn his techniques. Can I learn to be funny, too?

A: There is a big difference between being able to make people laugh and having a sense of humor. To become humorous, one needs social maturity and intelligence. To become empathic, one needs to learn to take a playful attitude toward life. Always be on the lookout for something you believe is funny and make it part of your conversation.

Successful comedians are usually oriented outwardly. You may not know how deadly serious they are.

Wealthy comedians are not as spontaneous as many think. For example, Bob Hope paid for many of his one-liners, worked diligently with his writers to fit the jokes into the news of the day and rehearsed them in front of a small audience before going live on TV. Learning how to innovate, reverse your mindset and be sensitive to the religious, political, and personal feelings of others requires thinking.

On a personal level, comics often direct their laughter to their own inadequacies. Each of us has a different reaction as to what is "funny." If there is no audience response to a comedy act, many comedians quickly learn how to skip over the silence and stay on course. Try this system with your friends. Stand-up comedians can be well paid.

The desire to entertain indicates your friend is comfortable being in the spotlight, enjoys social admiration and believes comedy benefits both himself and his friends.

Today, psychiatrists are doing even more research into how laughter affects our health and longevity.

Are you self-conscious about being the center of attention? If so, delivering laughs can be learned and be great fun. Give it a serious shot. You may soon become competitive with your friend by taking a more lighthearted tact toward life.