I have a vivid memory from my elementary school days: a little me, standing before my older siblings, trying to make them laugh. I was probably doing some silly impression or contorting my face with my fingers1. Anyway, while doing this, one of my siblings eventually turned to the others, and with their hand cupped to the side of their mouth, playfully whispered, "Maybe if we laugh, he'll go away." Talk about a tough crowd! I bombed. I got no respect. I’m sure I was a little embarrassed at the time, but I do look back and it makes me laugh. My siblings were funny and I wanted to be funny like them, but in their opinion, I wasn't ready yet — and they were not about to pretend otherwise.
Making someone laugh is no small feat, but when it occurs, there's nothing quite like it. Sometimes that moment catches you off guard. A clever remark, a lightning-fast observation, a facial expression, and suddenly, the room bursts into laughter. In those moments, you might identify with George Costanza and consider making a swift exit because it's hard to top. There's nothing quite like triggering a genuine, hearty guffaw. Whether it's making a grown man giggle or causing someone to shoot milk out of their nose — it’s a magical achievement.
We've also all experienced some version of a sympathy laugh. You're aware of the risk when sharing a cheesy dad joke, but you go for it anyway, only to receive a quiet chuckle, a polite smile. And then, of course, there's the seemingly humorless individual, an anomaly among Homo sapiens. This person might have appeared in your life in the form of an elementary school teacher or a DMV employee. Most attempts to make this kind of person laugh will be in vain.
Whatever constitutes a laugh, humor is a mysterious and powerful human emotion and an integral part of life. The world can be excessively somber, and we often take ourselves too seriously. As the G.K. Chesterton quote goes, ""Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” So this month, Grotto invites you to be like the angels and start heaven a good time (sorry). We’ll be exploring the topic of laughter and comedy, asking questions like, “Why is comedy important?” and “Is laughter intrinsic to being human?” and “Is laughter really the best medicine?” We hope you follow along!
—Fr. Brendan McAleer Associate Producer
1 You know what I mean, right? If not, thumbs inside cheeks pushing back to the molars, pointer fingers pulling down the eyes and with one free pinky finger, coming around to make a pig nose. Try it out.