There are traditional venues for humor. Sitcoms with laugh tracks, stand up routines with live audiences, and perhaps the mere entry of a jovial uncle can subconsciously cue your mind and body to oncoming humor. You might allow your muscles to relax, let ease take over.
And the benefits of laughter are well-documented. Crack a giggle or guffaw unabashedly and you might be in for decreased stress levels, improved blood pressure and flow, better glycemic recovery, pain relief au natural, and even a friendly spike in the immune system.
But what about humor in the abstract. Like when we say in no uncertain terms, “oh, that’s funny” without actually laughing. Are the benefits retained? If our mind registers humor without physically acting on it, do we get full points– or is it the equivalent of phoning it in?
I pose this question because I haven’t found enough evidence to support a bet either way. And because I am quickly becoming a fan of the humorist genre— through a run of recent successful audiobook experiences including Sloane Crosley, Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris—and hope to be able to cash in at my next physical along with reports of eating more kale and exercising less erratically.
What I have come to truly appreciate with these authors is a masterful command over their narratives. They are remarkable story tellers. The subject is of the least importance—where Nora had me mesmerized by a meatloaf named in her honor, David captured with his tale of addressing a lisp, Tina regaled with her behind-the-scenes perspective of impersonating Sarah Palin, and Sloane did nary disappoint with her tales of a Paris that seemed to disinvite her and a cookie she fashioned after a weary boss. Instead, it is the ability of these writers to make us care, pin our completely unrelated lives to theirs, and then join them in finding irony and humor in reflection.
I love it most when the audiobook is read by the author. Listening to the personal narration seems to make the universe a little smaller. Suddenly, the passenger seat of the car, whose speakers dutifully deliver the tales from no fewer than 4 speakers, feels occupied by said author. While not enough so to justify taking the carpool lane, enough at least to bring on the subconsciously relaxing muscles and wave of ease—even if it manifests as only the thought—“oh, now that is funny.”