“Funny You Should Say That: The value of humor”(This story is by Margie Culbertson, an AARP Mississippi volunteer and freelance writer. Her photo is on the left.)

Costello:          Hey, Abbott, tell me about our ball club. I hear they’re really good.

Abbott:            They are, Costello.

Costello:          If you’re going to be the manager, I’d like to know the players’ names.

Abbott:            Well, you know the ballplayers’ have nicknames these days that are pretty peculiar. They have funny names like Beauty Bancroft, Cool Papa Bell. . .

Costello:          Yeah. So tell me the players’ names anyway. For example, who’s on first?

Abbott:            Who.

Costello:          What are you asking me for?  That’s what I want to know! Who’s on first?

Abbott:            Who.

Costello:          I mean what’s the guy’s name on first base?

Abbott:            No, What’s on second. Who’s on first.

Costello:          I just want to know is who the first baseman is. What’s his name?

Abbott:            Like I said, Who’s on first.

Costello:          Let me put it this way. When you hand the first baseman his paycheck, who gets the money?

Abbott:            Every dollar.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello began formulating this hilarious comedy routine—which they never did in the same way twice—in the 1930s. It is so iconic that The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, has a special “Who’s On First?” room where a video of the routine continuously screens and, in that same room, the Gold Record which Abbott and Costello won in 1956 for the recording proudly hangs on the wall. If you haven’t heard this routine, or if you want to hear it again, click on one of the many YouTube versions.

Humor has always fascinated me. Over the years, I’ve published many humor pieces, as well as a book of humorous short stories**.) And, hard as it may be to believe, I actually studied humor for my doctoral research in Speech Communication. I found that humor research consistently showed that humor not only enhances subjects’ ability to communicate, but it also positively impacts their physical, mental and intellectual, psychological, social, and spiritual lives.

Communication. Extensive research on humor in communication has focused on its value in many areas: advertising, cross-cultural communication, politics, and more.

Physical. According to research, laughter increases cardiovascular exercise, adds oxygen to the blood and brain, strengthens our muscles and organs, and releases “happy” hormones into our bodies. Humor also has healing properties for those with cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, coronary heart disease, asthma, COPD, arthritis, certain allergies diabetes, and many other health conditions.

Mental and intellectual. Numerous articles demonstrate that being exposed to humor leads to better mental functioning. Further, a fascinating article, which studied whether geniuses shared common qualities, found that “A Sense of Humor” was, indeed, one of those qualities geniuses possessed. In another publication, the authors surveyed 40 years of classroom observation research. They state, “Humor in educational settings serves a variety of positive functions beyond simply making people laugh.”

Psychological. Humor has long been associated with psychological well-being. It bolsters optimism, hope, self-esteem, and confidence, and it lowers levels of depression and anxiety. In addition, the Mayo Clinic reports that humor helps us cope with stress and adversity, and it helps people grieve. 

Social. Research shows that those who: laugh easily, have a good sense of humor, and are thought of as funny, are considered to be more attractive, both personally as well as professionally.

Spiritual. Studies have found that humor is an important aspect of a deep spiritual life. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit Priest, believes that laughter, joy, and humor are essential elements of spiritual health. In his book, Between Heaven and Mirth, Father Martin shares a story about St. Augustine who famously prayed, “Lord give me chastity…but not yet.”

Mark Twain once said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” I agree. Have you been blessed today? It’s what the doctor ordered.

(NOTE: In our next column, we’ll focus on “Living Your Life on Purpose.” To contact Margie for questions, comments, or suggestions, or to gain access to her earlier columns, email her at humorandlife@gmail.com . **If you’d like to read some of Margie’s humorous stories or learn about her humor book, go to her website at www.humorandlife.com).