Happy National Tell A Joke Day everyone!
According to several websites dedicated solely to keeping track of random holidays, August 16th is the hallowed day for making others laugh with your best – or, depending on your tastes – worst comedic material.
Though the origins of this occasion remain murky and are not tied to a particular historical or religious event, there are plenty of good reasons to can your cynicism and join in the fun. First and foremost, the holiday has achieved the rare feat of filling Twitter with positivity and lightheartedness. A search through posts with the trending hashtag #NationalTellAJokeDay reveals that many side-splitting gems and eye-roll-inducing bad puns have already been shared.
Secondly, scientific research supports what we all anecdotally believe to be true – that comedy makes life more tolerable and allows us to connect with others. Studies by psychologists and anthropologists have confirmed that humor is an inherent facet of human nature, present in seemingly all human groups and cultures because it is hardwired into our brains. Though there is an ongoing debate as to why we evolved the neural structures that form this behavior, one prevailing theory is that it serves as social lubrication, communicating emotions and dispelling tensions in order to maintain the harmonious dynamic that is essential to the survival of group animals. Support for this idea comes from observations that our ape cousins – chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas – also engage in social laughter. Recent research has also suggested that rats and dolphins, other intelligent group animals, have a sense of humor too.
Another theory, which is not necessarily mutually exclusive with the former, is that of “incongruity-resolution”: the idea that humor is how our minds cope with absurd or unexpected events and information.
Switching back to the benefits (because it’s unlikely we ever truly know why we are the way we are), past investigations have indicated that people with a good sense of humor are better equipped to deal with the psychological and physiological stress of aging, and that comedy can help people cope with anxiety over death and living with chronic injuries or disease.
So, for the sake of your health and well-being, take a minute to enjoy some great jokes today, and make someone else laugh by sharing them. We’ll get you started with some of our favorite nerdy and science-related ones: