I spent a lot of time laughing last Sunday. And I still have a smile on my face, just thinking about it.

A woman in my writers group had just completed a four-week course in stand-up comedy, and invited us to her “graduation” – a comedy club show in which she and others from her class performed stand-up routines.

A number of us from the writers group attended the event, and decided to get together for pizza before the show. Since writers love sharing stories, many lively conversations took place as we ate, complete with the kind of laughter that prompted our waitress to say, “You’re having way too much fun at this table.”

Before the show started, some of us were talking about how brave our friend was to take this class in the first place, and then to get up on stage in front of a room full of people to do a stand-up comedy routine. We already knew her to be a courageous woman, one who has never shied away from the many challenges she has faced in her life. And, of course, the room was filled mostly with friends and family members of the performers, rather than strangers, cynics, and hecklers. That made it a lot easier, I’m sure. Still, we all agreed that it took guts to get up on that stage.

One of the things that most intrigued me was how all of the performers took stories and conversations from their own lives, and turned them into comedy routines. I’m guessing that’s something they learned in class – that the best and funniest stories are the ones that grow out of real situations and experiences. And that people react with laughter not just to things that are funny, but things that are unexpected. That’s what the punch line is for.

A few years back, I learned a bit about the structure of humor – not from a comedy class but from a Toastmasters speech manual about Humorous Speaking. The manual included guidelines on how to warm up the audience, how to make them laugh and keep them laughing, and how to leave them with a smile. After giving a speech in which I followed the advice in the manual, I got a note from someone in the audience that said, “You’re usually much funnier than this.”

So I decided I still had a lot to learn. One thing I do know, though, is that some people are naturally funny, some people learn how to use humor effectively, and some people actually make a career out of making people laugh.

Even if we never go that far, most of us would do well to pay attention to the comedy we can find in our lives if we just take the time to look for it. It’s pretty well documented that laughter benefits us in many, many ways, including reducing stress, alleviating pain, and strengthening our immune system, to name just a few. Plus, people who make us laugh are fun to be around. They can lift our spirits, take our minds off of our problems, and improve our outlook on life.

And that should put a smile on anyone’s face.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published as an online exclusive in the August 13, 2015 edition.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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