Inappropriate Laughter….is Hilarious!

I’ve learned a lot about laughing at times / situations when most adults don’t laugh and/or when it’s considered inappropriate by social norms theory (ie at a fail video such as a person falling down or getting hurt).  Social Psychologists have developed many possible reasons that can be attributed to this phenomenon along with fully developed theoretical paradigms, “Relief Theory” and “Social Superiority Theory” are two that often come up.
There’s likely a Dash Theory as yet to be developed.

As a long time member of society who has frequently suffered  enjoyed uncontrollable fits of laughing at inopportune moments when my laughter is probably the least aligned behavior with the context, I have my own ideas as to why this occurs – at least with me. No, I’m not one of the 2 million Americans who genuinely suffer with a fairly recently identified Nuerological Disorder.  Known as the Pseudobulbar Affect (aka PBA) those who have this disorder have sudden outbursts of laughter or crying at inappropriate contexts which can cause distress and interruption in their daily functioinging (Ahmed & Simmons, 2013).
I think my condition is less serious.  The clinical term for my condition is immaturity, and despite my natural propensity for empathy and for being highly tuned in to the well-being and moods of others, at least my laughing fits are limited to those times when I am not aiding others or in contexts where it would truly present as selfish and lacking basic regard for others.
So, it’s less of a condition and more of a circumstance.  One that keeps me young and most of the time prevents me from taking myself and the things that aren’t truly important all too seriously.  Laughter is healthy and given the times we live in, it is arguably as important to our day to day livelihoods and happiness than it has in quite some time in modern society.
Having said all this, I was watching the great Tom Segura and his wife Christina’s highly entertaining (and less mature than yours truly) Podcast, “Your Mom’s House” and found I couldn’t stopping laughing at this video.   For those unfamiliar with Tom and Christina, you’re missing out.  They are both accomplished comedians who host the above daily Podcast, and oh yeah, they’re married to each other.
Tom has been doing standup since college and has been at many of the world’s biggest comedy festivals as a featured performer along with having released 3 comedy albums, all of which debuted at the top of Billboard and iTunes Comedy Charts.  Also, he has 2 very popular Netflix specials and recently filmed a third.  Tom’s wife, Christina has been writing for television for many years, recognized for her comedy writing and diverse contributions to a wide array of Neworks and Shows.  She began performing standup only a few years ago, as well as just recently filiming her first Netfix Special.
Recently, on their podcast, Christina has increasingly expressed her concern about Tom’s inapporopraite laughter, speculating earlier today that he is perhaps a psychopath due to his excessive bouts of laughter upon seeing another individual get hurt as well as many other juvinelle precipitants.  He has a repuation for being a super nice guy and a genuine guy at that.
This first clip is a great represenation of Christina’s gripes with Tom’s laughter at the misfortune of others.  It’s much better watched than explained by me.  Do yourself a favor and watch this clip.  Let me know if you find this as funny as I do and if you can relate to the issue of laughing when contextually it’s out of our social norms.  ound it as funny as I did.
Tom’s impersination of his the star of the video is amazing and had me laughing each time he did it.
To further understand the conflict among this hilarious couple, I edited a few minutes of today’s episode and it truly speaks for itself:


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I can’t help but relate to Tom as I can’t begin to speculate how many times throughout the years a girlfriend, my ex-wife and even my daughter has looked at me laughing (and let’s not BS each other, often times they were laughing too), and asked me quite seriously, “What’s wrong with you?”
The answer to that question was best expressed by Danny Zuko in response to Sandy asking him the above question, when he responded to a question with not just one question but two; “What’s the matter with me, baby?  What’s the matter with you?”
It was an unfortunate moment, but realistic even for a movie like Grease in which the high school students were played by actors as old as 30 (RIP Jeff Conway).  [Note: I don’t condone his succumbing to peer pressure forcing him to act like a douchebag, so take the Zuko quote with a grain of salt and lighten up.  Putting down someone else alone or in a crowd isn’t cool, but generally speaking Zuko redefined the Cool Meter, so I choose to disregard that transgression.  Plus, was there anyone better than Travolta at playing a coming of age male from a lower middle socio-economic status, who lacked an emotionally supportive and healthy support system amongst family and friends, despite his unwavering loyalty.
Don’t get me started on Tony Manero.  Saturday Night Fever remains a fantastic piece of film-making with themes far deeper than Disco, such as searching for one’s identity, and the struggle to overcome the fear of  shedding  the environmentally required emotional armor, and therefore allowing himself to be emotionally vulnerable which paralyzes him with fear in the face of knowing that if he can’t make himself vulnerable, he’ll never have a real emotional connection and likely grow up to be a version of his bitter father, always the victim, who never took an emotional risk or tried to truly connect even with his own children:
Tony: “Guess what happened today?  I got a raise at work.”
Frank: “How much?”
Tony: “Four Dollars.”
Frank: “Four Dollars?”
Tony: “I don’t see them handing out any raises at unemployement.”
Frank: “Four Dollars? You know what four dollars gets you today?  Four dollars doesn’t even buy you three dollars.”
Tony: “Go ahead.  Shit on it.  You know what a raise means?  A raise means you’re good. This raise is them telling me I’m good.  You sure as fuck never did, asshole.”

Frank (to himself as Tony stormed out of the room): “Four Dollars???”
*Note on Accuracy:  I wrote the above dialogue from memory as I haven’t watched Saturday Night Fever in a couple of years, but that’s gonna change.

Ok, no more tangents.  Watch the clips, weigh in on the inappropriate laughter and have a great weekend!
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PS. “I don’t look like Al Pacino.  Yeah, I could be Al Pacino.  Alllllllllll Pacino!  Attica!  Attica!  Attica!”
Ahmed, A., & Simmons, Z. (2013). Pseudobulbar affect: prevalence and management. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 9, 483–489.

Dugan, D. O. (1989). Laughter and tears: Best medicine for stress.
Nursing Forum, 24, 18–26. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6198.1989.tb00814.xToda, M., Kusakabe, S., Nagasawa, S., Kitamura, K., & Morimoto, K. (2007). Effect of laughter on salivary endocrinological stress marker chromogranin A. Biomedical Research, 28, 115-118. doi:10.2220/biomedres.28.115White, S., & Winzelberg, A. (1992). Laughter and stress. Humor, 5, 343-355. doi:10.1515/humr.1992.5.4.343


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