skip to Main Content

And Now, for Something Completely Different…

What?! Are You Laughing?

What?! Are you laughing?Having written nearly 100 articles in this blog, I’ve covered a lot of topics related to how buildings work. Just in the past two weeks, for example, I’ve written about attic kneewalls, heat pump water heaters, why house wrap isn’t usually an air barrier, and the scary things energy auditors see in homes.

Having written nearly 100 articles in this blog, I’ve covered a lot of topics related to how buildings work. Just in the past two weeks, for example, I’ve written about attic kneewalls, heat pump water heaters, why house wrap isn’t usually an air barrier, and the scary things energy auditors see in homes.

There’s one topic, though, that I think you’ll agree has been noticeably absent. When you discuss people and buildings, it actually takes great discipline to write nearly 100 articles and avoid letting this subject slip into your list of tagged words. That’s right. I’m talking about laughter.

Seriously! Buildings and laughter go together like Abbot and Costello. They’re as intertwined as the words ‘wreak’ and ‘havoc.’ (When have you ever heard of anything besides havoc being wreaked or of havoc coming into existence except by wreaking?) And, as crazy as it sounds, buildings and laughter have been around longer than Brett Favre’s streak in the NFL (and will be around long past the end of Favre’s streak this month).

So, why do people laugh in buildings? Why do we laugh at all? What the heck is laughter? Some say it’s a way to relieve anxiety. Perhaps that was the case with this Dutch TV host:

Had he been at home watching the man with the high-pitched voice be intereviewed by someone else, he might have made a remark or had a little chuckle, and that would’ve been the end of it. As the interviewer himself, though, he couldn’t do that. Laughter was socially forbidden in that situation, which made it all the more irresistible once it arose.

You could tell he didn’t want to laugh, that he knew it was offensive to the guests on the show. Like countless kids in classrooms throughout the history of schools and like the Roman Centurions in Life of Brian, though, he just couldn’t hold it in, despite the effect on the people who spurred it and the consequences he must certainly have paid.

I went through something similar at a silent meditation retreat in 2006. The night before we were to break silence, I was sitting in the dining room having a cup of tea, along with a dozen or so other silent meditators scattered around the room. The retreat had been a powerful, emotional experience for me, and I was feeling quite energetic that evening. As I looked around the dining room, I noticed one of the other meditators sitting over his tea with a big grin on his face.

That was it. I started to lose it. Every time I looked his way, I’d have to stifle a laugh. He also was starting to lose it, and after a little while of the two of us trying to quash the laughing monsters inside us, he got up and hurriedly walked out. The door hadn’t even closed behind him when he erupted in huge guffaws in the courtyard.

That’s when I really fell apart. I got up and practically ran outside, where I, too, let loose in a fit of laughter like I’d never experienced. I ran out to the front of the retreat center and lay down on a bench in front of the retaining wall and just laughed and laughed and laughed. It lasted somewhere between a half hour and two hours.

So, maybe that’s it. Laughter is our connection to spirituality. It lifts us up to another realm. That’s certainly the message I get from this little film, one of my absolute favorites on YouTube:

Of course, in both of these videos you can see the dark side of laughter. That is, if someone feels that they’re being laughed at, they feel excluded. I’d argue that in the latter video, if the person who got on the train in the middle of the laughing spell felt excluded, he could have gotten past that and joined in the fun. It’s like a good friend of mine so often says, “I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing near you.”

OK, I don’t really know what laughter is or where it comes from. I know that I like to laugh. I read the New Yorker for the cartoons. For years I subscribed to the Funny Times and laughed my head off for hours on the day it arrived in my mailbox. People have even told me about my nocturnal laughing tendencies, which I’m occasionally aware of myself, as I wake up laughing from a funny dream.

In the end, though, it’s really all about buildings. It has to be, you know, because more than 90% of all laughter occurs in buildings (just as 81% of all statistics are made up on the spot) and because buildings are what I write about.


This is another article in the Let’s Blog Off sensation, and my second contribution.


This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Okay – I am 92% sure that the
    Okay – I am 92% sure that the first video made me laugh really hard. I didn’t think the guys voice was all that funny but I really did enjoy laughing along with the moderator and his inability to stop laughing.  
    So great – thanks for the laugh

  2. Yeah, it’s funny to watch him
    Yeah, it’s funny to watch him squirm and try to suppress the laugh monster, kinda like watching someone trip (but not hurt themselves) or to think about someone giving a scathing book review to a person they don’t realize is the author of the book they’re demolishing. Every time I see that video, I wonder what was the purpose of the show and why those people were invited to be on it.

  3. Is there a way to hear that
    Is there a way to hear that first one in English? Great post!

  4. I’ve only seen this version,
    I’ve only seen this version, but if you find one with subtitles, let me know. It’s funny even without knowing what they’re saying, but I’m always curious.

  5. What a crazy video, didnt he
    What a crazy video, didnt he know who he was interviewing?!! Apparently he was the only one that caught the laughter bug. what a terrible moment… laughters supposed to be fun! You’re right tho – sometimes its cruel.  
    Spirituality, eh? hadnt put that together, very insightful. it does make us human. well said. thanks for posting this.

  6. Well, you certainly elicited
    Well, you certainly elicited a chuckle from me with your comment about the relative co-determinism of the words “wreak” and “havoc”! And I agree that there’s just something essential about laughter and the ability of laughter. Your outbreak at the retreat was, in my opinion, no sign of disrespect to what was going on at the retreat. Probably much more an expression/culmination of it. Thanks for the posting!

  7. Yes, Cindy, I think it was
    Yes, Cindy, I think it was quite painful for him. Thanks for commenting! 
    Johh, I’m glad you liked it. I like your description of my laughing attack as an ‘expression/culmination’ of the retreat, and my experiences there. You can find out a little more about what was behind it by reading my comment in Steve Mouzon’s contribution to this blogoff.

  8. Ahhh, another fan of New
    Ahhh, another fan of New Yorker cartoons. I too laugh in my sleep and have had similar fits of laughter experiences at silent retreats. I think we may be leading parallel lives. You’re right about all of this, laughter’s an integral part of what it is to be human.

  9. I think I need to spend a
    I think I need to spend a little more time around these parts, not necessarily because you write on stuff I am interested in, buildings, but it seems you like to get your laugh on. a good quality I assure you. The bit on stats too — that definitely conjured a sideways smile. thanks for posting.

  10. Thanks, Paul. If a sleep
    Thanks, Paul. If a sleep walker is called a somnambulist, what’s the technical term for a sleep laugher? 
    Welcome, jb! A sideways smile is a good thing!

  11. Super thanks for vid #2!
    Super thanks for vid #2! Funniest clip I’ve seen in a loooong time! 
    Yeah, home performance & laughter!

  12. Debra, I’m glad someone
    Debra, I’m glad someone finally praised the second video above. As I said, it’s one of my faves on YouTube.

  13. That’s a good one, Ben. I was
    That’s a good one, Ben. I was trying to figure out how I knew that actor the whole time and found out afterward that he’s one of the stars of the show Bones, which my wife liked for a while.

  14. Technical term for sleep
    Technical term for sleep laugher? Well the latin word for laughter is ridentis, let’s call sleep laughers somridentalists. I like the sound of that one.

  15. Oh Allison, what a gift. I
    Oh Allison, what a gift. I’ve just experienced numerous emotions simultaneously. Thank you!

Comments are closed.

Back To Top