Does anybody know why we laugh?

I suppose that's a question many of have never really thought about. Most of us are mainly concerned with other things like getting enough to eat and keeping a roof over our heads. However, I think the question does bear some consideration, given the uniqueness of the situation.

Human beings are the only animals on this planet that laugh. (If any of you are planning to write and tell me that I'm wrong, citing the "laughing" hyena as an example, you'd better save the postage or the email time. The "laughter" that you hear from a hyena is actually a type of bark. When I say humans are the only species that laugh, I mean laugh because of humor.)

Anyway, it's obvious that laughter is unique among humans. While it can be argued that some animals can be happy or sad, only people have the gift of humor.

Not only is laughter one of our greatest gifts, it is also one of our greatest weapons. Humor is used to take the edge off of sad or even tragic situations. Laughter is never derived from happiness. Think about it. When Bill Cosby goes into one of his routines, he doesn't make us laugh by telling us how happy his family was when he was growing up. He makes us laugh by telling us how he and his brother broke a bed, then lied through their teeth when their dad asked them how it happened.

One of the reason humor comes from tragedy is become most of us identify with the "slings and arrows" we must deal with every day of our lives and thus makes it easier to take. We identify with Cosby and other comedians because they dwell on familiar ground to all of us. And laughter helps us when it makes us aware we are not alone in our frustrations, that other people experience the same follies that come with living.

And yet, there are some who believe it is wrong to laugh. Although not specifically stated, these people suspect humor in every form. To them, life is serious business, from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.

You've probably seen the type. These are the people who have a frown on their face every time you tell a joke. If there's a comedy on television, they can never understand what's going on. They might ask, "What are you watching that for," then insist you switch to the news. To them, laughter is simply a waste of time.

One of the worst examples of these kinds of people are leaders who can't laugh. During the 1920s in Germany, a popular routine with many nightclub comics was to mimic Hitler and the rest of the Nazi bigwigs. After Hitler came to power, however, these routines stopped. For obvious reasons. One of the best barometers of the tolerance of a particular regime is how often it is the butt of a joke.

For that reason, I always suspect people who cannot laugh at themselves. No matter how serious a person's cause or ambition in life, there's some humor that can be derived from it. People who can laugh at themselves or the situations they find themselves in show they have a tolerance for ideas and causes that are not their own.

We all share an ability unique to the human race. If you think about it, the ability to reason is a heavy burden. In order to help us bear that burden, we have also been given the ability to laugh.

So yuk it up!