Video by Steve Jameson
LAUGHING IS THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE
One of the routines of the comic Victor Borge was to read from obscure books, making guttural or popping noises where punctuation marks should have been. It made us laugh. The Dalai Lama generates his own laughter to punctuate his speech; it helps lighten our
attitude as he lightens his. We can join him and laugh, at ourselves, at situations that seem unresolvable, as an aid to making the universe seem like a more neutral place for us to live in. Laughing matters.
Laughter is one of the defining characteristics of our species: it can be life-affirming even when it is brought on by those who point out our foibles, or even ridicule our existence or are seriously depressed by their own. I think of George Carlin, Woody Allen and Monty Python. We laugh at the silliest things; sometimes we laugh spontaneously and have no idea why we are laughing; sometimes our laughter is ignited by another person and escalates to where neither can stop.
Why have our brains developed this neural mechanism we call laughter? Freud simply referred to laughter as relief from the stress and tension of normal living: we need to laugh. A cliche of country/western songs frequently highlights someone “laughing to keep from crying.” Mel Brooks, Shalom Auslander and Roberto Benigni have all wrung humor even out of the holocaust. We really need to laugh: laughter releases
endorphins, relaxes the nervous system, and joyously indicates a shared human experience. Research continues to prove that the experience Norman Cousins described in his book Anatomy of an Illness was verifiably accurate. Cousins eschewed the hospital for a hotel room and took injections of vitamin C and watched Marx Brothers movies. “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”
Laughing Matters is a display of laughter as seen through another distinguishing human characteristic:
the ability to create. I think this show is a potent reminder of how important both of these abilities are for our well-being. We observe the creative process as it reflects, interprets and presents laughter. We participate and laugh for joy, laugh when and where we can. Laughing matters.
Harvey Brody - Curator