It would be hard to describe the human experience, without talking about comedy. In fact, the recognition and experience of humor is so important to humanity, that we are born with the innate capacity for laughter (Riem et al., 2011)! While jokes, comedy, and laughter may seem like a frivolous expenditure of energy, the fact that humor is present in every existing human culture highlights its evolutionary significance. I invite you to join me as we break down the important role that comedy plays in our social, psychological, and biological health.
From a social perspective, humor is incredibly important to interpersonal relationships. Since laughter is innately rewarding it can reinforce positive emotions associated with others. This is valuable for the purposes of collaboration and the reduction of aggressive behaviors (Polimeni & Reiss, 2006). In more recent times, humor has even been used for the purpose of social change. Political satire usually has the goal of poking fun at current regimes in an effort to “awaken” the public to gross inconsistencies between the ideals and actions of a government (Davis et al., 2018).
On a psychological level, humor plays a role in coping with stress. Through the use jokes and comedic interpretations of events, individuals are able to reapraise negative experiences through the positive lens of comedy. Not only does this buffer the distressing effects of a stressor, but it also serves to endear you to others, increasing access to social support. In fact, studies show that people with good senses of humor tend to experience depression and lonliness at lower rates (Sliter et al., 2013).
Biologically speaking, laughter causes all sorts of positive cascading biological events. In the short-term, laughing causes the release of endorphins in the brain as well as relaxation of your muscles. In the long-term, laughter has been shown to improve immune function (through the reduction of stress hormones) and reduce the sensations of pain (through the consistent production of endorphins; Mayo Clinic, 2021; Vrticka et al., 2013).
As you can see, humor plays crucial role in one’s health and wellbeing. It seems to be perfectly suited to positively impact all sectors of life. It is no wonder, why laughter is seen as the best medicine!