LAUGH WITH ME
If you're as old as I am you may remember the song I Love to Laugh from the original Mary Poppins movie. In that scene, Mary's Uncle Albert can't stop laughing, causing him to float to the ceiling. Mary, Bert and the kids try to help him but wind up laughing just as hard and join him up on the ceiling. Uncle Albert sings:
more I laugh,
The more I fill with glee,
And the more the glee,
The more I'm a merrier me.
No matter how many times I watch that video it always makes me laugh. I dare you to watch it (it's on YouTube) and try to keep a straight face. Nostalgia aside, why does a fifty-seven year old movie about other people laughing still make me laugh? I'll tell you why: laughing is contagious, but in a good way. If you see people laughing at a joke that you can't hear you'll smile automatically, even if you don't realize it. Your brain responds to the sound of laughter by preparing your face to do the same.
Laughter makes you feel good and it's good for you. Studies show laughing decreases pain, boosts immunity, and lowers stress hormones. Hospital patients who utilize laughter have shorter hospital stays and faster recoveries. It's also enjoyable to make other people laugh. Jerry Seinfeld's father was a salesman and a funny guy. He would take young Jerry with him on sales calls and brag, "Watch this, I'm going to crack that face."
Here's something funny, your brain can't tell the difference between real and fake laughter. It's true. If you force yourself to laugh, even when there's nothing to laugh about, you still receive the health benefits of a genuine laugh. Happy endorphins are released and stress hormones are reduced. If you need assistance adding simulated laughter to your life there are laugh yoga and laugh therapy groups. I swear those are real things and I hope I never need them. But never say never.
Way before the pandemic, in the before time, I went to a comedy show with some girlfriends and laughed until I cried. I remarked afterwards how I couldn't remember the last time I'd laughed so hard. I realized then what was missing from my life, the joy of laughter. I used to take laughing for granted, before I started taking everything so seriously. Life is serious, no doubt about it, but you still have permission to laugh.
So, what's funny? People disagree. Women prefer wordplay and humorous stories while men more often like one-liners and slapstick. Physical humor transcends cultural differences. Back in the seventies, my husband's grandparents were the first people to own a TV in their village in India. Every afternoon, they would turn on the TV and open the window. You could hear people all over the neighborhood beckoning each other, calling out Lucy! Lucy! before gathering at the window to watch I Love Lucy and laugh uproariously. Keep in mind the show was twenty years old and depicted a life they knew nothing about. They were uneducated laborers who led hard lives--and spoke no English. Yet, day after day, they rushed over to watch the show and share a laugh. Isn't that remarkable?
Humor writer Dave Barry says the secret to writing humor is to put the funniest part at the end, something unexpected and ridiculous. I try to channel Dave whenever I write humorous essays. One of my favorite reviews was from a man who wrote: this book really cheered me up when I was down. That made my day. Here's an excerpt from my essay book A Smidge of Crazy. I hope I can crack that face.
Can a brief encounter with a stranger change your life forever? Of course it can. You're rolling your eyes, I can see you. Well, let me tell you about Howard Parks…
This isn't the tale of an unsung hero--although, for all I know, Howard Parks has rescued people from burning buildings, performed the Heimlich maneuver on dozens of choking victims, and saved countless texters from oncoming traffic. Anything is possible. I'm not saying Howard Parks isn't heroic and inspiring, he is. If he weren't, my husband and I wouldn't speak of him so reverently; we wouldn't use his name in times of crisis; we wouldn't ask each other in hushed voices, "What would Howard Parks do?"
Twenty-four years ago, long before Equifax spewed your personal data into the world, including the name of your first pet, Hammy the Hamster, and long before Facebook gave away all of your secrets, right before they gave away all of your friends' secrets, Howard Parks was vigilant. I imagine he slept with one eye open as his brain conjured the many ways that things could go terribly, terribly wrong. He was British, which gave him an air of credibility. He was calm, which made him seem reasonable. And he was insistent, a quality many people found annoying, but which we found endearing in the extreme. It's why we love him.
Just remember, a good time to laugh is anytime you can.
About Malice in Miami
Reluctant family law attorney Jamie Quinn is loving life--and why wouldn't she? Her boyfriend Kip is back from Australia, her long-lost dad finally has his visa and she's about to start her dream job at an art foundation. But it all falls apart when Jamie is accused of stealing priceless art from a rare book collection. If she can't find out who framed her, she can kiss her dream job good-bye--and her law license too. Meanwhile, Kip has problems of his own. Now an environmental activist, he uncovers a deadly secret--one that just might get him killed. Jamie's in trouble, Kip's in danger, and Duke Broussard has gone AWOL. How could Jamie's favorite P.I. abandon her at a time like this?
Jamie is up to her usual antics in this addition to this cozy series. She is hearing up for a career change moving to run an art foundation which she had always dreamed of doing. Her boyfriend is back from his latest adventure and life is looking good. Then she is accused of stealing priceless art putting her dream job at risk. Then Kip has some issues of his own. Add in a dead body to make things just that much worse. Jamie jumps in full steam ahead to fix things leading to one interesting investigation. Makes for a fun quirky read as the details all play out. Sure to delight cozy fans. I really liked it so I give it 4/5 stars.
About Barbara Venkataraman
Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and author of the award-winning Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery series, as well as Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person, Quirky Essays for Quirky People, and A Year of Shorts: Flash Fiction. Her books have won numerous awards including Indie Book of the Day, First Place in the 2016 Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition, Gold Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Contest for Memoir, and Two-time Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. She also co-authored Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four with her son Josh about his four-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for The Groveland Four.