The Audacity of Laughter: a salute to the laughter troops

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1. boldness or daring, especially with confident disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions.
2. effrontery or insolence; shameless boldness
3. Usually, audacities. audacious acts or statements.
Synonyms 1. nerve, spunk, grit, temerity, foolhardiness.
2. impudence, impertinence, brashness.

Starting with cave dwellers and proceeding through jesters, wits, and witty fools, there has long been an unconventional cohort of people who have the temerity to assert that the world can be a better place if only we can generate enough laughter and humor. They are not claiming that laughter alone can cure the world’s apparently human-influenced ills: famine, war, hatred, disease, etc., but they do ardently believe that human beings have the power to bring about some pretty significant improvements.

Not only do they have confidence in their belief that they can make a difference in the right direction, but they dare to offer their contributions through laughter and humor. They have done it in the face of rejection, resistance, and opposition and, talk about temerity, they even did it at times when laughter was considered extremely un-fashionable, or when they have to break laws to do it. Take Lord Chesterfield, please! (c. 1770): “I would heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill maners…In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill bred, as audible laughter.”

Seemingly undaunted, they have had the grit to proceed and persist in helping us keep the funny side up.

People have enlisted in this laughing legion from all walks of life, some accidentally, some intentionally. Some seem to be “naturals” while others work hard at developing a talent or craft or strategy. Their initial motivations are quite varied and sometimes difficult to fathom, but they have two things in common: the desire to evoke mirthful laughter, and the nerve, the chutzpah, to fly in the face of traditional and conventional thinking, even defying some religious beliefs that laughter is merely an immature waste of time, juvenile, puerile, trivial, trifling, and unholy.

I like these people and salute these laughing troops. I am one of them. I consciously joined this laughing army in 1984, making it my life’s work.
Some scientific, anthropological laughter theorists contend that we humans have been laughing for about 4 million years; it’s a social thing. In fact, they tell us, we probably laughed together before we had language and could talk to each other. Now, that’s pretty funny.

“I’ve got a million of ’em! Don’t forget to tip your waitress.”

The Philogelos is collection of Greek jokes that were being told 3,500 years ago. And, can you imagine an even earlier prehistoric, pre-linguistic knock-knock joke?
Ungh grmph?
Ooglish urp?
Ooglish hurmph kblemr!
(Yuk! Yuk!)

Through the ages we have gone by many names and played many roles:
Clown (Class, circus, or hospital)
Traveling salesman
Husband, wife, mother-in-law

I salute the kindred spirits who have the audacity to provoke laughter, to embrace laughter, to cherish laughter, and to believe that we can make a difference with laughter.

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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and