How Many Times Did You Laugh Today?

There’s a commercial that plays on the radio here in the Bay Area, sponsored by a local hospital in its campaign to encourage healthier living, that got me thinking this morning. Apparently, when you’re five years old you laugh about 3,000 times a day. By the time you hit your forties, that number has dropped to 14. (Typing those numbers, I realize one of them couldn’t possibly be correct. That’s the number for the adult. Fourteen strikes me as high. I’m guessing it’s closer to two, and you only get there by counting the grim laugh that escapes from you when you get your property tax bill in the mail.)

Anyway, I thought I’d respond to these statistics by doing a little Laughter Audit today. So far, I’ve counted the following Laughter Moments:

  • three Laughter Moments in child’s school conference. One being a laugh of relief when parents heard child described, without a hint of irony, as a “Scholar and Gentleman.” Second laugh came when parent pointed out that there were six teachers and two parents in the room and that was plain scary. Third laugh, and best of all, came when parent told teachers –ten minutes into praise of child — that they’d better escape while they (and child) were ahead. Teachers laughed at this suggestion, meaning child had managed to get through term without getting in any fights with other children and had basically turned in homework on time. (I’ve just remembered one other Laugh Event: in parking lot after school conference, father of genius child describes him as “fruit of my loins.” Mother laughs and says, “everyone knows genius comes from maternal line.” Father, as I recall, doesn’t exactly laugh. Small smile.)
  • two laughs at conference in chambers at the court where I work. Cannot repeat either, because they were law jokes, and so only funny to an extremely limited number of people, people many believe incapable of ever being funny.

So, okay. That’s five. That’s a bit pathetic, as it’s currently 11:57 a.m, pacific daylight savings time. Obviously, I’ve got some work to do today. I’ll report back at 5:00. In the meantime, go out and look for laughter of your own. Feel free to report back; perhaps a cumulative laughter audit will get us somewhere close to that of a five year old.

Allrighty, it’s 5:30 (PST). Laughing began in parking garage on way home. Odd guy who works in garage was signalling people to the exit by doing funky chicken dance.  A Bay Area moment:  no one can just be a parking lot attendant.  There always has to be something more, because one’s personhood cannot be suppressed by one’s day job.

Home after school, I notice that, with children, many Laugh Moments  have to do with, well, excrement. Several jokes about bodily functions, more than I’ll actually admit, occurred blindingly fast.  No wonder five year olds laugh so often.  Put a bunch of them in a room and the amount of bodily function jokes must be huge.  In our house, there was much laughing after each and every one of these jokes.  And I’ll tell you right now, not a single one of them was particularly new.  However, I’ll admit I do find this sort of thing funny, although it’s my job to act like I don’t. Still, the fruit of my (well, my husband’s) loins apparently were blessed with my humor genes, which is to say we all like pretty much the same really stupid stuff.

Let’s see, oh, a conversation with an older child in which older child complained about younger brother being terribly immature, in a way he was not when he was that age:  “mom, he can’t even tie his own shoes. And he can’t just USE the bathroom, he has to talk about it. A lot.” Several moments of laughter, which I should have suppressed because it’s not nice to laugh at the fruit of your husband’s loins, but really, I’ve noticed these two attributes of terrible immaturity seem to be evenly spread throughout the male line in our household.

In an effort to game the Laughter Audit (and at least see if we can approach the laugh per day numbers of, say, a mirthful young adult), we’re going to watch our netflix movie at dinner tonight. And no, we don’t do that all the time. It’s plain weird having the computer on your dinner table, which is the only way we can watch dvds. It’s like having a super geeky dinner guest at your table.  One who doesn’t eat  but just watches you.   We’ve been on a Sitcoms-From-Days-Gone-By kick, so tonight it’s Leave it To Beaver. We’ll see. I like the Beave, and sometimes watching the parents interact totally cracks us up, so different are they from we.

Happy Evening (or morning or afternoon, depending on your time zone, of course), BL


29 thoughts on “How Many Times Did You Laugh Today?

  1. As I am currently reading Douglas Adams again (The Long Dark Tea Time of The Soul) I laugh a lot, also out loud. I love his books and his weird sense of humour. Apart from that I just went to see an Englishman (a standup comedian) who was very funny, so lots of laughter there too. This is however not an average laughter day 🙂 5 sounds more like it.

  2. I laughed six times during your piece on laughter. Thank you. Very clever essay (and relevant as we get closer to the end of time). (Is it really still daylight savings time out there in San Francisco? My mother, who lived on a farm, explained how daylight savings time was important to farmers, but I never appreciated it, being a city person. Maybe it’s all those farmers markets in SF and Berkeley that benefit. )

  3. The numbers are mounting, I see. good heavens smokey, what an idiot I am. It’s not Daylight Savings Time (DST) — It’s PST (pacific standard time) which reminds me of a joke that begins, “pssst, did you hear the one about George Bush?”

    Jonathan, Glad to hear it. I’ve got a calculator and notebook at my elbow and an eyeshade on.

    Ingrid — I never thought I’d enjoy comedy shows, but I went to my very first one a few years ago (in London, where one of my brothers lives) and it was a huge amount of fun. Perhaps it was the three gin & tonics, but it was very, very amusing.

    Eoin, When the Irish laugh, everyone wants to be in on the joke! I’m glad to hear you have such a policy and no, it doesn’t surprise me one little bit.

    LK — It’s one of those Kaiser ads — maybe, in fact, the kindergartener number was 300 not 3,000. I’m a terribly inaccurate listener.

    Back to my counting.

    xxoo, BL

  4. I think I laughed a lot in class today but I’m not sure how often. That’s not always typical either. It would sure be an interesting exercise to pay attention to how often I laugh!

  5. 14 does sound low. Maybe I have entered my second childhood and so am permitted to laugh a lot more! I have just done a quick audit (I woke at 4am this morning and it is now 9 am) of my five hours today. I have not yet interacted with anyone in person – that will happen soon. Yet I have laughed at seven comments here in the blogosphere, at six comments in my newsgroups and at two emails. Oh yes, then there were the three laughs while reading your post.

  6. That laugh commercial is 200x better than their original “healthy” commercial which told people to eat broccoli and not sit on their couches. I grew to really loathe the sound of that woman’s voice.

    Laughing IS good though. I always laugh when I see my exercise teacher. He’s the biggest goofball on the planet. He dances like a crazy person and nearly causes me to fall off my treadmill. I also laughed at an email and when I saw my dogs falling each other to say hello to me tonight.

  7. i honestly believe laughing makes one look younger – my dad is proof, people could never guess his age. i don’t feel like i’m laughing enough. that means i should start rereading my bridget jones’s and becky bloomwoods, chick lit at its hilarious!

  8. You’ve started me off well for the day, bloglily (it’s nearly 8 in the morning here), but I fear things are going to trail off. I’ve got the day alone writing, and it’s unlikely, sadly, that I’ll make myself laugh. Then there’s a fair amount of homework to get my son through, and a very serious French novel to read. I can see I will have to work on it today! Wonderful post, though – a Bloglily classic!

  9. Well, if I laugh out loud alone in my office, I’ll be carried away, you see. If I laugh in the elevator, people will be frightened. But truly, you are right– we all need to laugh more, and not just the grim sort of tax bill/parking ticket/George Bush is still President laugh. But a real life is good kind of laugh. I will try the Bloglily laugh log method to make more merriment. CU, BL– Marymom.

  10. What a fun post! Coincidentally, I was laughing as I read this… my puppy just found a big, huge, squeaking beetle, and is eating it like it’s some kind of a fine delicacy… the worst part is, the beetle is so big, that it crunches like an apple with every bite! I’m disgusted and tickled all at the same time!

  11. Thankfully laughing is not something I have to think about and most especially count. It’s pretty much my nature to laugh a lot, every day. It helps to be married to a very funny husband who is thankfully blessed with an infectious sense of humour. Having friends who are cartoonists helps, too!

  12. Patricia — I want to have your job! It must be really fun to do those wonderful cartoons. (I love checking them out.)

    Oh Danielle, You’re right about the stress relief. And I’m glad to hear about the smiling too — that definitely counts.

    Hi Pauline, I am proud. In fact, I doubled your addition to the Laugh Audit, just because…

    JLB, That is so Deeesgusting, as we say around here. It is exactly the sort of thing that goes over quite big here at the BlogLily Household.

    It’s true, MaryMom, they don’t like solo laughter. That’s because THEY think it’s about them. And of course it is. Laugh away, baby. I’ll come visit you at the nice bright mental hospital they stick you in.

    Litlove, funny you should mention it, but that homework thing is THE hardest thing I do. May I confess here and now to being a not very nice mother yesterday to my eleven year old during the whole homework supervision ordeal? It’s awful. And it’s only funny years and years and years later, if then. (But if you email me, I will commiserate with you over the horror of having to be the person who has that particular task.)

    Hey Sulz — How lucky is that to have a parent who laughs a lot? And you’ve put your finger on how to get a solitary laugh workout: reading.

    Dear Susan, Thank you very much for your contribution to the laugh audit. (I’m doubling yours too.) The Kaiser I Will Thrive campaign is a little aggressive, don’t you think? I mean, you’d imagine that “thriving” would be a little less bossy.

    My darling Archie — Your contribution has been duly added into the total (I tripled it, and then added six, which I believe is how most audits are conducted.)

    Dorothy — I’m going to go with 7.5 for your inclass laughter totals. And then, I think maybe I’ll add 63 to it. Just for laughs, you know.

  13. Okay, this, “Fourteen strikes me as high. I’m guessing it’s closer to two, and you only get there by counting the grim laugh that escapes from you when you get your property tax bill in the mail” made me laugh, out loud, so I only have 13 more to go before I reach my quota! Yes!

    And I hated those Kaiser ads. That woman’s smooth, knowing voice made me change stations every time.

  14. I think I laughed 3 times reading your post, and then at least 3 more times reading the comments. And, then I thought about your post from a few weeks ago regarding your children’s halloween costumes (I found the twin dressing as his twin a little funnier than the general, but thinking of all 3 trick-or-treating together seemed even funnier). I laughed at least once while talking this evening to 1) my mother, 2) my spouse, and 3) my child — all within the space of about 1 hour. I can remember one amusing laugh at the office today. So that’s 10 for my laugh audit. But, thinking that I laughed that much today and appreciating that your post made me think about laughing must be worth at least that much again. Yes, I think my laugh meter for the day is at least 20! I’m planning on thinking about laughing all day tomorrow — that must make the day so much better than wondering if I was about to burst out in tears from the stress of the overload with a new job.

  15. Lily–All of these comments and your essay seem to be begging for someone to find or invent a wrist watch type counting device that you can punch everytime you laugh. It has to be attached like a watch or you will just lose it or forget which pocket it is in. (Marking your arm with a pen everytime you laugh could be a temporary solution as well as an icebreaker at parties and on the train to work.) Counting up the times you laugh in a day could be like counting points on a Weight Watchers diet. First, enter your height and weight, and then the important things like your gender, age, how many kids you have, how many bosses, how many relatives that you are forced to be with on holidays, time spent commuting, and so forth and a formula that takes all that into account and calculates how many times you need to laugh in a day to stay healthy and sane. And if you are woefully missing the mark, then start Netflixing and watch old Monty Python and Peter Sellers movies, or get another job or situation, etc. until you find and obtain the laugh sources you need per day.

    Anybody got a lead on the wrist band laugh counter?

  16. And then there’s the question begged in Cam’s comment (#19) as to whether we’re talking “laugh meter” or “laughometer” for the instrument that keeps track of our laughs. Needs some research and pronouncements by a brave blogist.

  17. Smokey, It’s quite clear you are going to need to get going on this wonderful invention. And if you could somehow combine it with food or music, all the better. (Plus, I’m thinking you need to start blogging, if only to have a place to record these inventions.)

    Cam and Ella — Thanks to your efforts, I’m going to say we’ve just reached 3,266.

    Ella — I’ve never been able to put my finger on what’s so obnoxious about that woman in the Kaiser ad, but you’ve just done it: the smooth knowing voice.

  18. What an interesting post. It’s sad to see we adults have dipped so sharply below children. Even though parts of me “never want to grow up”, this Peter Pan Woman knows I need to laugh more. One cannot force laughter but creating the opportunities is a great priority. My husband and my favorite choice for movies or TV, both of which are rare activities for us, is always comedy. We know we’re too stressed! We had to cut out our cable service but I remember loving the comedy channel and the old sitcom reruns like “Happy Days” and yes, I’ve seen “Leave it to Beaver.”

    I used to work in the health fields before I switched careers to being an artist full-time. It’s so true regarding the research of more endorphin release from belly laughing. I tape comedy for our family to watch together since our schedules don’t often jive.

  19. Pingback: Laughter the best medicine - available on prescription only « Aphra Behn - danger of eclectic shock

  20. Well, I have laughed several times today already. My dog Ruby and her interactions with my cats are a constant source of amusement. I also laughed at least 6 times while reading this post, and I don’t really know how many times while reading the comments. I like the idea of the laughometer, but I’m afraid I would forget to punch it. Or that it would turn out to be like my watches, and have a limited life span and die on me.

    If you want a chuckle, you might get it by visiting this post:
    but it probably won’t work if you don’t like cats. I made myself laugh while I was writing today’s post:

  21. Smokey, those counters are already in existence. Drop into your local golf store. They are used for counting stokes per hole. They could not be used for counting laughs on a golf course. THAT is a pleasant walk punctuated with disappointments!
    And I recommend hmh’s “Water on the floor”

  22. Archie, I wasn’t sure how high those golf counters go. I’ll check them out. Probably high enough for adult laughs, judging from Lily’s report and all of these comments. In fact, maybe a baseball umpire’s balls and strikes counter would do. Thanks.

  23. Another great post. You have the most imaginative and creative mind. I’m always amazed at the variety and range of things you write about. Thanks for the laughs and the memories of raising boys!

  24. Wow. While I was reading Emily Dickinson, the riddle of how to actually count those laughs seems to be solved. Who’d have thought golf counters might do it??

    GEL — I think you’re right — we need to make room for laughter, and then enjoy it when it comes.

    Jana — That’s awfully kind of you, particularly coming from someone who’s got such a remarkably creative mind! Thank you.

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