Friday, January 30, 2015



            Do you know what makes you laugh?  No, not a fork. Who am I talking to here? .  It’s your brain that makes you laugh. And though, all but Ernie knew the answer, I must tell you that’s the easiest part of this episode of Learning from Mark. -- Hold on to something.

            Scientists have done much research about laughter. Make that “little” research. I’ve only read two studies. In one study, a technician stuck diodes all over this person and then told him a joke. The joke went like this:

            “This guy is sitting in a restaurant and has to pass gas. He’s listening to the music in the restaurant, and decides to release some gas pressure during the beats of the music. After a couple of tunes he is gas free and feeling so much better, uh, until he noticed everyone staring at him. It was then that he realized that he was listening to his iPod.”

            The guy stuck to diodes didn’t laugh enough to do any good, ‘cause technicians are lousy joke tellers. That was proved in a whole different research grant. Fortunately, the guy finally laughed and the diodes immediately registered brain activity. It started in his frontal lobe and then hurried over to places like the amygobala and the hippocampus, and uh, a few other weird-named places.

            The guy’s heart rate and blood pressure went up and he started gesturing and making ha ha sounds. The same person could also make a “ho, ho” sound, but not during that particular laugh. That’s something else the research showed. You may “ha ha” or “ho ho”, but you can’t do both in the same laugh. Laughter is nuts, you ask me.

            All the findings I read, raised more questions than they answered. There were no tests at all to determine why villains and other mean people laugh while threatening their prospective victims. What’s that all about? – “You’ll never leave here alive! Ah ha ha ha!” Why is that so funny to bad people? It’s certainly not a contagious laugh.

            That’s another thing the laughing lab looked at. Why do you get tickled listening to someone else laugh? It’s all in the neurons. There’s a weird place in your brain that neurons go when you hear laughter... not bad people laughter. The neurons trigger your mouth to make weird noises and your body to shake and your lungs to gasp for air. Ooookay.

            Nowhere did I read anything about bathroom humor being funnier than knock, knock jokes or “a-duck-walks-into-a-bar” joke.  Nor was it determined why a “duck” walking into a bar is funnier than a crow walking into a bar, but not as funny as a priest, a rabbi and a seagull walking into a bar. I can almost imagine what the duck’s gonna do, but the priest, rabbi and seagull are just out there. No idea what’s gonna happen.

            According to the research, it is the “unexpected” that makes your neurons visit the funny places in your brain. Your brain wasn’t expecting to hear the weird occurrence in the punchline, so it summons the neurons to your amygobala. Then they zoom all over the place and you start with gasping and weird noise. According to the research.

            Do you know who laughs the most – men or women? Women, but only when t they’re the one doing the talking. While discussing something, women laugh 126 percent more than men. Yep, somebody pulled that number right out of a lower cavity. The only fault I find in that assessment is that the percentage is too low. I think it’s really in the four digits.

            Another thing that the scientists pulled out of the, uh, air, was why it’s funny to see someone trip or get hit in the noggin or the testicles. One of my best laughs was while watching “The Simpsons.” It was when Homer skateboarded down a ramp into a deep canyon. At first he was feeling great… like he could fly. But during his decent his head kept hitting the sides of the cliff. And, each time he’d yell, “D’oh!” There were about 20 D’ohs on his way down. Then an ambulance picked him up, but his stretcher fell out the back during a turn and he went down the cliff again.. A riot!

            Kay walked in to see what I was laughing at. I showed her the scene and she didn’t even break a smile. Why are women that way? Their brain is just—Whoa! We’re about out of time, so let me leave you with this last tidbit. -- The average person laughs 17 times a day? Where did they find this average guy? I know people who haven’t even smiled 17 times in their entire life. They wouldn’t laugh if I hit myself in the head with a tire iron.

            Which begs the question, why is a tire iron funnier than a rock? Don’t get me wrong. A “bag of rocks” is funny. A bag of tire irons, not so much. But interject a SINGLE tire iron and it’ll get a laugh. Especially from a woman who mentions it during a conversation. -- One hundred and twenty-six percent more laughing? I’m thinking women must have a much larger hippocampus. What I’m thinking. – Next time.


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