Social scientists seem to conduct more provocative (yet still ultimately useless) studies in Great Britain than in the United States. The latest example is research that concludes that people pretty much lose their sense of humor at age 52, become grumpy, and laugh less and less. By the time they are in their 60s, most Brits apparently can barely manage a mild chortle once in a while, even when viewing the subtle comedic offerings of Benny Hill. And with the grey, rainy weather that is characteristic of that Sceptred Isle, who can blame them?
As a 53-year-old American, I like to think I still have a pretty good sense of humor and ability to laugh. In fact, I don’t think certain baseline characteristics of my sense of humor have changed much since I was a kid. I’ll always laugh at physical comedy and sophomoric stuff like the Three Stooges. I’ve just built on that solid foundation of pie-in-the-face, shot-to-the-groin yucks to incorporate an appreciation of irony, sarcasm, and more highbrow comedic stylings.
I don’t have any doubt that laughter makes you feel better and more youthful in outlook. My grandmother loved to laugh — at herself and others — and she was a delight to be around. Mom will still laugh hard at, say, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The key, I think, is to reserve some time to do those things that make you chuckle. Maybe it’s time to make a date with a DVD of Animal House?