In this jobless recovery, I’ve been very grateful that I have a job. You could say I got pretty smug about it. I assured myself that people always need to laugh, especially during hard times. But then like workers everywhere, I started hearing rumblings.
I really started to worry on a visit to New Delhi. At 5 a.m. in the Lodhi Gardens, I had seen Indians of all ages—gu’mint men with their entourages and women in their workout saris and Adidas—sweating, whipping their arms around, and forcing rhythmic ha ha ha breaths out into the already humid morning air. By then, I knew what I was witnessing. Yet despite relentless evidence of global economic connectedness, I hoped it would not migrate to America.
When I began reading articles about an Indian doctor, Madan Kataria, known as the Guru of Giggling, I knew my worst fear, worse than a Palin Presidency, had come true. Like tantric studies, tamarind chutney, and Bollywood movies, Laughing Yoga had jumped the oceans. Tata cars are next.
As publisher of a lay reader’s digest of medical advice, Kataria published an article called “Laughter—the Best Medicine.” In it, he discussed the health benefits of laughing and postulated that the body can’t tell the difference between voluntary or involuntary laughter. He then tested his hypothesis by asking random passersby if they wanted to laugh with him. With nary a punch line to provoke it, they laughed together and claimed to feel better. Thus did Dr. Kataria become like AA’s Dr. Bob and found a burgeoning movement of non-centralized laughter clubs.
For years I have heard “Comedy Clubs”as a vaguely Neanderthal statement of fact, especially after feeling bludgeoned by a lineup of misogynist, racist, gross routines. Laughter Clubs sounds a bit kinder. But still. Who needs a punch line worker to produce the joke, burnish the bad pun, and weld the the one-liner widget when a group of people can gather together and just start giggling?
I was getting frantic about my job. But as I have learned to do—in (non-laughing) yoga actually—I took a deep calming breath. In with the good air, out with the bad air.
Perhaps this laughing yoga will be the passing fad that Michael Bloomberg thinks teabagging politics is and it will just fade away. But there’s thinking and there’s hoping, and I take the teabaggers as seriously as a Dick Cheney heart attack.
So I’m not waiting. I’m sharpening my skills, updating my resume, and reviewing my data. Based on my studies, the body can absolutely tell the difference between real laughter and faked laughter. See also: real and faked orgasm. Most people can also tell the difference between the real tears and faked tears of the crying guru, Glenn Beck.
The poet Ann Herbert said, “We can cry for a thousand years or have an accurate laugh.” People do need a real laugh now, if only to be released for a moment from their worries and practical concerns, to feel the physical pleasure of laughter. While I am a bit jealous of how easy it must be to open with a “Namaste, ho ho!” I am heading out to my shed, popping down my welding mask, trying to solder together bits about environmental degradation, capitalism v. democracy, sex trafficking, and religious fundamentalism into something that will cause an accurate laugh.
Just doing my job.