24 August 2012
For a few hours this week, the number one story on the BBC website listed the 10 funniest jokes featured at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. This in the same week that a grandfather and granddaughter drowned in Portugal; fighting continued in Syria; police shot dead 34 miners in South Africa; and a 14-year-old boy was raped in a busy shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon.
Sometimes, it all feels a little bit too much, doesn't it? This world we live in is clearly broken. Bad things – horrific things - happen too often. As a former newspaper journalist, I know that bad news makes good newsprint. I see the value in the media holding up a mirror to the society in which it lives, reflecting back on it its true colours. Its colours are too often dark blends of evil, hate, violence, and tragedy.
But sometimes we need a little comic relief.
Which is why it's great to celebrate those things that successfully make us chuckle. Incidentally, the winner of Dave's Funniest Joke of the Fringe Awards was comedian Stewart Francis, who came up with this cracker:
"You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks."
[I laughed again when I typed this. Tee hee]
Because I love to laugh. It's definitely one of my favourite things to do. Some of my fondest memories have been laughing with friends and family so hard that I could not breathe, tears streamed down my face and my belly ached. Some of my favourite people are the ones with whom I laugh the most.
The not-so-funny philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
"Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter."
Yes, laughter is a glimmer of light in the darkness, which is why it's a method employed by writers and film-makers to break up relentlessly dark storylines.
But I just don't think laughter is something we made up. Think of how difficult it is to fake laughter. Real laughter bubbles up from somewhere deep inside; an outpouring which can't be contained. And it rarely happens in isolation from other humans. I don't recall ever tipping my head back and belly laughing when I've been on my own.
Because laughter gives us a glimpse into the divine and reminds us of the joy that can be found when we live and laugh with others.
In The Last Battle, CS Lewis describes a joyous Great Reunion in the heavenly New Narnia:
"And there was greeting and kissing and handshaking and old jokes revived (you've no idea how good an old joke sounds after you take it out again after a rest of five or six hundred years)."
Sounds like it will be fun.
When I was little, I used to think that, like Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, if I laughed hard enough, I would float up to the ceiling where I would have to stay, until hearing a sad story would bring me back down to earth with a bump. The joyous bubble burst.
Because that's what inevitably happens. As King Solomon observes in the book of Ecclesiastes, there's a time to laugh, but there's also a time to mourn, a time to be sad, to cry, to be angry.
I hope that this Bank Holiday weekend you'll take every (appropriate) opportunity that comes your way to laugh, heartily, with those you love.
If you need some comedy help, try these rib-ticklers:
- Ten funniest jokes at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival
- Top five tastiest cathedrals
- Ban on 'degrading' dances for dogs
- Dogs dressed as bumble bees
Chine Mbubaegbu, editor, Evangelical Alliance