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Image by Andreas Blum

Today I’m going to write about something really serious and important.

Laughter.

[insert canned laughter here]

The older I get, the more I realise just how important laughter and comedy is in life. As lame as the cliche is, laughter really is the best medicine.

[insert canned laughter here]

Umm, I wasn’t trying to be funny there.

[insert rolling tumbleweed]

Yet so many people have lost their sense of humour. Some never had one to begin with, while others seem to feel that “growing up” means taking everything really, really seriously.

You sometimes see this “phenomenon” (not to be confused with that awful John Travolta movie…) when people get married and have kids. Suddenly, everything has to be super serious, things have to be filtered, censored, and idiot-proofed, because, you know, “won’t someone please think of the children!”.

Not surprisingly, those kind of parents end up becoming annoying old coots, while the kids grow up to be as unbalanced and unhappy as their parents.

[insert canned laughter here]

But I digress.

[insert applause]

Alright, enough of that!

I’ve always enjoyed a good laugh or a comedy. This love eventually led me to launching my own weekly comedy show on community radio, having a blast, and making other people laugh in the process (I hope…).

Sometimes I wondered what life would be like without the ability to laugh though.

Then one day I found out.

The accident…

Returning home from a fun game of tennis with friends, I was involved in a rather horrific car accident.

Physically I was fine, but mentally I was in shock. It was an absolutely frightening, nightmarish scenario.

The accident managed to close down a major road, as well as attract news crews to the scene (thankfully, to escape the inevitable media circus, some incredibly understanding police officers hid me away in an unmarked police car).

But all I could think about throughout this ordeal was the fact that I had just been involved in a car accident that had potentially claimed someone else’s life. In an incredibly violent way.

One second I was driving along a poorly-lit, quiet road. The next second, out of nowhere, I saw the faint outline of a figure just metres in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes.

But it was too late.

The brakes had little effect at such a short distance, and before I knew it this person smashed across my bonnet, shattered my front windscreen with their head (!), then flew back across the bonnet and dropped lifelessly onto the tarmac. In fact, my first impression was that this person had just been decapitated.

Hardly something to just laugh off. In fact, I was shaking and yelling uncontrollably throughout this horrific incident.

Losing the ability to laugh

In the days and weeks following the accident, what I remember most was losing the ability to laugh.

I would go to bed with one of my favourite TV shows playing in the background – “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”. And yet I could barely muster a smile at the Conan-esque antics that would generally crack me up.

Instead, I would lie there awake, replaying the events in my head, worrying about the other person, and fearing falling asleep in case I’d have nightmares about the whole thing.

And I was scared that I wouldn’t find things funny ever again.

I know that all sounds a bit melodramatic, but it’s how I genuinely felt at the time.

I don’t remember how long this period lasted, but eventually I started to regain my sense of humour.

I returned to my comedy radio show and stepped it up a notch.

I started making plans to film a late night comedy show for community television, which I somehow managed to make happen within 18 months of the accident.

Laughter made things better.

I’m not going to deny that over the years I haven’t thought about the accident a LOT.

Obviously I have. It’s never completely forgotten. Just like most traumas probably aren’t. And I know that many people have to deal with far greater traumas than the one I experienced above.

But I made the choice to not let it destroy me, when it could have done so very easily.

As lame as it sounds, I made the choice to keep laughing.

Don’t take life too seriously

So, I guess that my point in this somewhat personal article is that we shouldn’t take life too seriously.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, no matter what our circumstances are. And one of the most effective ways to enjoy it is to laugh. A lot. Laughter is one of the best ways to be present – to be in the moment at all times.

Put it this way – have you ever met a happy person with no sense of humour before?

I seriously doubt it.