A vaccine called humor

Truth to tell, I had this topic in mind for quite a while now but I held back writing about it worrying that people would find it tactless and inappropriate for the times.

But now that the season of “good tidings of comfort and joy” is upon us, I think it’s safe to come out about this subject. After all, the world needs a little chilling and lightening up, albeit with caveats from health experts to mute the celebrations down.

Humor, after all, is the kind of medicine we most need at the moment, with the vaunted vaccine still out of our reach in the Philippines.

So why not live up to our reputation as being flippant and facetious? We all know that the Pinoy will always find humor in the most horrible situation. It is our way of staying buoyant; keeping us afloat above water so we don’t drown. It’s not in our nature to brood and mope deeply about the vicissitudes of fate. The popular song says it all: Tawanan mo ang iyong mga problema!

But come to think of it, a lot of comedy is based on something going wrong—just look at old Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton films or today’s YouTube “funny fails” or prank videos. They show incidents that are so moronic or absurd they make us laugh. It’s no coincidence that the number of followers and viewers of visual prank videos exponentially went up during the long lockdown.

Some will raise their eyebrows on this but I think we should start re-opening comedy bars, with proper social distancing, of course. Let’s have more comedy movies and TV programs. Why? Because humor is really healthful. According to scientific studies, laughter makes us stronger. A good laugh can boost our dopamine levels and is said to increase infection-fighting antibodies, meaning you may become more resistant to the virus after having regular doses of humor.

As the popular song puts it: I started a joke and started the whole world laughing. Indeed, humor forms a community; when we laugh at the same thing, we affirm each other in a shared experience of a situation. Funny jokes—even funny coronavirus jokes—bring us together and help us to feel connected.

Just like dreaming, laughing at jokes serves as an outlet for what inhibits us, such as phobia or fear of the strange.

So, while we all continue to take the situation seriously, strictly following the recommendations from the authorities, we also need to laugh and to have a few light moments. A few pandemic jokes might just take our minds off apocalyptic forebodings, reminding us that there’s always something to be happy about.

By joking about the pandemic, we break through our bubble of fear and anxiety and thus ease some of the nervousness bottled up inside —consciously or unconsciously.

That’s what the best stand-up comedians do: extract humor out of small, everyday situations by turning the situation on its head and doing something a little different from what we expect. Right now, the pandemic situation has led authorities to issue an effluvia of idiotic and contradictory restrictions ad absurdum that we’re having fun ridiculing them on social media. “Dyan mabilis ang Pinoy: sa kalokohan at biruan,” my friend Del once remarked.

“If you are able to teach people to be more playful, to look at the absurdities of life as humorous, you see some increase in well-being,” said Stanford researcher Andrea Samson and psychology Professor James Gross Samson in a news report.

So, if there is something that needs to go viral, it’s humor. Spread it and together let’s laugh away our Covid fears.

Joke time:

• A guy comes to pay his bills and finds himself at the tail-end of people waiting in line. Unwilling to wait, he coughs loudly and everybody starts to run away to avoid him. Now, he gets to the front of the line.

•  A man with long hair who looks like a hermit goes inside a barbershop and he is turned away because he is mistaken to be an unkempt beggar asking for money or food.

• A child tugs at her mommy and says there’s a line of witches outside a salon. Looking at them closely, the mommy realizes that they are just women who have not been groomed for the past months.

• Heard it on the Covid grapevine: John Travolta has tested negative for coronavirus last night. Turns out it was just “Saturday night fever.”

Mom: Maligo ka na nga. Naamoy na kita.

Son: Mommy, kung naaamoy mo ako, negative ka for Covid. Kasi ang isang symptom is loss of smell.

• Mommy: Sino ang kumuha ng bra na nakasampay?

Son: Bra mo ba ’yon Mommy? Akala ko face mask.

So there, folks. While waiting for the vaccine that’s taking forever to arrive, let us make use of mankind’s old medicine. Let us inject some humor into the conversation around the Noche Buena table and even beyond Christmas. God knows we need to take this “humor vaccine” not in one dose but many doses during our lifetime.

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