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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

A Good Laugh: Why Comedy Can Actually Benefit Our Health

The recent sad news of the untimely passing of the actor Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing in the much-loved 90s comedy series Friends, has sparked an outpouring of grief around the world. The American-Canadian star was described as a ‘comedic genius’ and his fans spoke about how much joy he brought them.

Matthew’s castmates and friends were naturally devastated by the news of his death, but so were millions of people who knew and loved him for his perfectly delivered one-liners on screen. His character was a compelling blend of world-weariness and wit, winning over the hearts and minds of viewers.

Both the neurotic Friends character Chandler and the actor Matthew Perry used comedy as a coping technique and a defence mechanism to help them deal with a world that they did not always feel comfortable in. One quote that seems to say everything about his Friends character is: "I'm not so good at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?"

It’s a perfect way to deflect an uncomfortable conversation and distract the other person by making them laugh. Although the use of comedy to mask feelings of unease obviously isn’t always the answer to our emotional problems, there are many benefits to deploying humour occasionally. It may be a cliche, but laughter really is the best medicine.

According to an article on Psychology Today, making someone laugh or laughing ourselves is associated with greater emotional wellbeing. It can help to combat stress and lift a bad mood, and even make us more emotionally resilient. We can probably all think of a time when we have felt lighter and more energised after a good laugh.

This is because laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. These endorphins help to relax us and reduce levels of pain, boosting our mood and combating the stress hormone cortisol. It can even bolster our immune system through an increase in antibodies and T-cells in the body.

Regularly watching comedy shows or stand up routines can even take us on an effortless cognitive workout, as we use our mental agility to follow jokes, comprehend quickfire punchlines, and see the world from unexpected perspectives. This can make us mentally sharper, more creative, better at problem solving, and more open-minded.

However, it is important to consider the way humour is used. It can be turned into a weapon against vulnerable and isolated groups, and it can be negatively turned against oneself to the point where self-deprecating humour becomes damaging or wearisome. Therefore we should always pause for thought before making a seemingly throwaway remark.

When used in the general spirit of silliness, absurdity, or well-directed sarcasm or satire however, humour can be a great way to boost our mental and physical wellbeing. It can also help bring us closer to other people as we share a funny bonding moment with old friends or establish a sense of camaraderie with a new group of people.

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