Greg Tamblyn's Humor Blog...

Funny Songs, Funny Stories

A Healthy Dose of Co(s)mic Relief

First Laugh Ceremony 

The Navajo have a unique tradition which sums up everything good and noble about us humans. 

When a baby is born, it is regarded as the ultimate, precious gift and must never be abused. From the moment of birth, the child is watched over continuously by family and friends, who patiently wait for the child’s first… laugh. 

Why do they do this? 

See if you can guess the answer. 

(Hint: It’s not to see if the baby is a good future audience for Navajo Comedy Clubs….) 

It’s because the baby’s first laugh marks its birth as a social being. 

That….is beautiful. And so is what happens next. 

Whichever brother, sister, parent, cousin, aunt, uncle, or passing acquaintance is present at the first laugh is deemed to have caused it. (Even if he or she is not commonly considered comical.) The laughter instigator then receives the honored privilege of preparing a special ceremony to welcome the child into society. 

(It’s also believed the infant takes on some of the traits of this person. So all new parents might want to give some thought to “who’s minding the baby.”) 

The First Laugh Ceremony is a party where guests bearing plates of freshly cooked food slowly pass in front of the new, first-time laughing child. They do not do this to tempt the infant with appetizing aromas of fry bread and pinto beans. Quite the opposite. 

The baby (with some help, of course) places a pinch of salt on the food of each person as a symbolic act of generosity. The salt is said to rekindle and sustain the goodness in each recipient, and is considered the first in a lifetime of generous acts by the child. 

This inspiring tradition has a few lessons for us: 

  1. We’re social beings, thriving mainly in the company and support of others. 

  2. Generosity is a noble virtue, best instilled from birth. 

  3. Opportunities to celebrate generosity remind us of and regenerate our goodness. 

  4. An act of kindness raises the endorphins of not only the receiver, but also of the giver, and of everyone who witnesses it. 

  5. Genuine, heartfelt laughter is an act of generosity! 

Celebrating laughter and generosity is a suspiciously healthy activity any time, but especially when the stress gremlins are lurking. 

I might humbly suggest, at the very least, a party.

“Laughter,” said Victor Borge, “is the shortest distance between two people.” 

Update: According to the author of the Worldwords book, the name for the ceremony is “childelgo.”

If I can help your organization celebrate (and de-stress!) with a Healthy Dose Of Music And Laughter, please feel free to get in touch. 

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© 2009 Greg Tamblyn

 

Laughter For Life 

A few days after 9/11, I was scheduled to give a presentation to 200 people. Everybody had been watching TV all week, and their heads were filled with those tragic images. People were depressed and shell shocked. There was no way to ignore it or talk around it. It was hanging over the room like Mount Doom in those Frodo movies. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, having never before given a talk immediately after a national tragedy. So I improvised and shared some thoughts about focusing on what we can and can’t control, using some funny songs to illustrate that. 

To this day, I have never had an audience laugh harder. The amount of emotion released was amazing. In our relief, we realized life would go on and we could still smile. Laughing together connected and supported us. 

At one point, illustrating how we can take responsibility for our own lives, I asked the audience, “If I’m the problem in my life, I’m also… what?” 

Normally they all answer “The Solution.” But this time, before anyone else could answer, one brilliant woman yelled, “The problem in everyone else’s life!” 

It got a huge laugh, so I’ve been using it ever since. 

The truth is we control very little of what happens around us, but we can always choose how to respond. As the author Jessamyn West famously said, “A good time to laugh is when you can.” 

We all know that life is serious.

If we forget, we can just turn on the news for five minutes and get reminded. But let me ask you, are you like me? Have you ever had the particular gift or talent of making life even more serious than it already is? 

As a kid I was a worrier. I’m still a worrier, but I’ve gotten better at it. I’m a more efficient worrier now, I do it in less time. So I wrote a song about that called Writer’s Block: The Long-Term Positive and Negative Effects of Worry.

It starts with me being worried about not writing, then I realizing I’m worried, and feeling ashamed about that. It hits me that I’m feeling ashamed about being worried, so I start to feel guilty. Then I get embarrassed that my shame could make me guilty. So I get angry at myself because I’m so immature as to be embarrassed. Then I remember how bad internalized anger is for my health, and I become fearful. As I get more afraid about what I’m doing to myself, I realize I’m getting depressed. Since all this negative emotion will probably kill me, that gives me something new to worry about. Since I don’t have long to live, I write it all d?own. But once I write it all down, I’ve got a new song! And everything is fine again. 

(This song is very popular with therapists.) 

Humor is an antidote to worry. We hear a lot these days about the benefits of living in the present moment, about being in “flow.” Worry and certain other emotions keep us stuck in the past or future. The thing is, it’s okay to look at the past or future. Just don’t stare! One great benefit of humor and silliness is they snap us back into “Now.” 

Humor is also a shock absorber for the sometimes rocky road of love.

Perhaps you’ve been romantically or sexually attracted to another person. Perhaps you’ve been “in love.” The feeling is somewhat akin to many chemically induced states. Endorphins get released. A psychiatrist friend of mine calls it “the best drug in the world.” When he said that, I thought, Sure, it’s a great drug, but they never tell you about the side effects. 

This led to a new song about the stages of relationship (kissing, making love, marriage, and even divorce), with each stage being like the need for a more powerful drug. At each level we listed all the side effects, just like the pharmaceutical commercials on TV. People get a kick out of this song because, like a lot of humor, it sets off their truth meter. There are side effects! Plus, they see themselves in these love progressions, and wonder if they’ve always jumped in for the right reasons. It also reminds us that real love is a deeper, more profound experience, and healthy relationships are based on that. 

(This song, Common Side Effects Include, is popular with people who have found relationships to be a growth opportunity. Including therapists.) 

Relationships are such fertile ground that I write more amusing songs about them than any other subject. Before we can grow, we have to know there’s a problem. Humor helps us admit the challenge, and reframes it into a manageable chunk. 

Real love makes a lot of room for humor. Being able to laugh at ourselves and the issues that come up in relationships is not only a survival tool, it’s essential.

Humor is an attitude, like gratitude or compassion.

It can be developed. It just takes a little willingness to shift attention from our “important grown-up stuff” for awhile and have some fun. Like, for example, any or all of the following: 

  • Keep a humor journal of jokes and cartoons.
  • Cultivate funny friends.
  • Be a good laugher. A good laugh is contagious and people love to be around it.
  • Read humor writers.
  • Collect funny or embarrassing stories from your life and tell them.
  • Regularly watch a couple of your favorite sitcoms.
  • Rent funny movies. (Norman Cousins cured himself of a terminal illness by doing this.)
  • Buy silly gimmicks and toys from a toy store and inflict them on your friends.
  • Be unpredictable. When people ask you how you’re doing, say something outrageous, like “Parts of me are excellent!”
  • Find ways to inject surprise into other people’s lives.
  • Honor silliness.
  • Hang out with 4-year-olds. They’ll remind you how spontaneous humor bubbles up from being playful.
  • Play with your pets. Taking time for play is not only okay, it’s suspiciously healthy.
  • Listen to funny songwriters (!) 

 

(The songs in this article can be heard soon right here)


© 2009 Greg Tamblyn

NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: You do not need to "Register" to leave a comment, only to leave your website, etc., and you will also be subscribed to my occasional newsletter.

Greg Tamblyn, N.C.W (No Credentials Whatsoever) is a Humorist, Speaker, Singer, Songwriter, Author, and Musical Lafologist. He performs for organizations of people up for a healthy dose of music and laughter. His CDs and books are available at his website. http://GregTamblyn.com