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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Trying to understand…

Have you ever seen someone lose themselves in a battle against humor? From what I’ve witnessed and personally experienced, laughter can possess a person. It takes over — distorts the face, makes limbs flail in all directions, dominates your desire to actually breathe properly and sometimes it can even literally bring a person to the floor.

But what stumps me is what exactly distinguishes a joke or scenario from being “funny” or “hilarious.” Something funny might produce an LOL but something hilarious can generate a full-out ROFL.

The answer might rest solely in the reasoning that laughing itself can cause more laughter. Many people say things that are on the verge of “funny” but I think we all have at least one friend that expels this horrific type of noise that is funnier than the original joke, story or what have you.

That friend who bursts into hysterics for no specific reason, leaving all surrounding people entranced, and inevitably causing a chain reaction of crowing.

Laughter, at its simplest, is just a quick and automatic response to something funny, but certain people take it levels beyond laughter. Their responses can be more amusing than the original joke or story itself. I’ve noticed that if one is willing to relinquish themselves of all shame when laughing, then the power will be an undeniable force.

For example, my friend and I could be considered the crazies in any given room, based on the reality that the smallest thing could send us to the ground, laughing on our knees in public, or flopping in a ball on the floor of our room like idiots.

It seems like these types of laugh attacks are involuntary and uncontrollable.

On more than one occasion in the past two weeks, we’ve reached what some might consider public humiliation because of what laughter does to us. I kid you not, the look people have given us seems to read as: “Wow, should I go help those drunken fools out there? They don’t really look capable of biking home in the dark.”

This leaves me wanting to prove my insane levels of sobriety.

Even if a humorous occurrence deserves more than a casual recognition of humor, some people seem to be incapable of escaping the tamed version of self, and releasing themselves into the world of unrestrained amusement.

Does this mean that your ability to ROFL is rooted in how crazy you are in the first place? If so, then sometimes laughter can be a response to the acknowledgement that you are deranged and that you might (unknowingly or not) seek to physically show that through exaggerated sounds and gestures.

Maybe it’s because the people who can shriek and jump for joy at the smallest things are simply the ones who don’t mind that others might seriously question their mental stability.

But really, aren’t we all insane to begin with? The normal people are the ones who truly freak me out.

For those of you who have never succumbed to the force of extreme laughter, the struggle must be real. Because after all, laughter is the best medicine.

So next time you see someone struggling to survive because laughter is consuming them, don’t just stand back and watch — find something to laugh at yourself.

SAVANNAH HOLMES can be reached at skholmes@ucdavis.edu or find (and join) her ROFLing around Cuarto.


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