Laughter is the Best Medicine

When’s the last time you laughed – a hearty, can’t catch your breath, rib-tickling – kind of laugh? Maybe it’s been a while. Maybe you just don’t think there’s anything to laugh about these days, during this challenging, tiring, and seemingly endless monotony we are living in. Maybe you feel guilty to laugh knowing that people in your community are struggling and suffering, knowing that life may not return to the way you remember. Maybe you are still reeling from the unforgivable atrocity against George Floyd, and rightly so (please see Karen’s enlightening blog post on allyship and anti-racism).

Yes, even with all these sorrows, our collective anger and outrage, we must make room for laughter. Humour can lighten our mental load, provide a much-needed respite from the unrelenting flow of bad news, and help us cope with this new world in which we find ourselves.

We have much to be grateful for. Many of us are surrounded by a loving circle of comrades who are enduring quarantine right alongside us. We have seen so many of our community members dedicate their time, resources, and energy to help those less fortunate. And we have prevailed, finding new and innovative ways to connect, exercise, relax, and nourish our souls (#TogetherVaughan). We are gonna get through this!

I’m here to tell you that laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s a scientific fact! Laughter decreases stress hormones, increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, and thereby actually improves your resistance to disease. Take a moment to let that sink in. Laughter, yes, plain old-fashioned heart pumping laughter, is actually a disease-fighting superhero!

Below are some of my tried and true favourites to ease the doldrums, put a smile on your face, and warm your heart. Most are available in digital form, however, if you prefer a physical copy, Vaughan Public Libraries has you covered with curbside pickup at select branches.

Funny, You Don't Look Autistic

Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic has been getting a lot of buzz recently, and it is much-deserved! Twenty-two-year-old Canadian comedian, Michael McCreary, takes us through his adolescence as a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Diagnosed at age 5, McCreary uses his sense of humour to share the often hilarious side of growing up with hypersensitivity and sensory issues, while not shying away from the painful aspects. McCreary’s comical look at life with ASD will inspire youth of all abilities to overcome adversity and pursue their dreams!

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

At first glance, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? may seem like an unlikely choice for this list. The premise – a middle-aged woman describing the quirks of her aging parents and the trials of caring for them in their last years – sounds all but downright depressing. But I dare you to give this one a shot. What I like most about this graphic novel is how it takes a subject matter we are all desperate to avoid – something we all want to pretend will never happen to us – and turns it into downright laugh-out-loud, raw, and relatable content. There’s something about this memoir that really speaks to the soul. I couldn’t put it down.

Meet the Patels

It’s a predicament many of us face eventually. All of a sudden, we are cracking on in an age and we find ourselves at a critical juncture in lives. The big questions demand answers. Do we want marriage? Do we want kids? The predicament is even more amplified for those who come from traditional cultural backgrounds. Like so many other Indian Americans in his cohort, Ravi Patel is feeling the pressure to pair up and start a family. In Meet the Patels, Patel, a 30-something small-time upcoming actor decides it’s finally time to let his traditional parents intervene in his dating life. The results are nothing short of hilarious and heartwarming. A sweet and charming look at modern romance!

Laughing All the Way to the MosqueIn her memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the Canadian TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie, takes a comical, light-hearted look at what it means to embrace many identities. With candor and wit, Nawaz shares her experiences as a young Muslim woman growing up in Canada. From her ‘arranged’ marriage – to her struggle for gender equality in the mosque – to the unique bathroom rituals of Muslims, Zarqa’s memoir is rich with spirit and humour! Her optimistic and joyous approach to life is both entertaining and inspiring – a celebration of love and happiness.

The Rosie Project

I will never stop singing the praises of The Rosie Project, #1 bestseller, and debut novel from Graeme Simsion. Socially awkward genetics professor Don Tillman can’t seem to figure out women. He’s tried lots of times before but to no avail. It’s not just women; Don has a difficult time making connections with anyone. Perhaps it’s because he’s always saying the wrong things. Or his standards are too high. Perhaps it’s his extremely rigid personal schedule. To solve the riddle, Don devises the Wife Project, an intricate and detailed questionnaire designed to filter out the wrong candidates and lead him to his perfect match.

What ensues is an unconventional and utterly engaging romantic comedy. The perfect book to cuddle up with this summer! And if you end up loving it as much as I did, you can follow up with Don and Rosie in The Rosie Effect and The Rosie Result.

I Suck at Girls

Justin Halpern follows up his #1 New York Times Bestseller Sh*t my Dad Says with I Suck at Girls, a book tackling his trials and tribulations in the dating scene. Sprinkled throughout with funny quips from his father, Halpern’s memoir holds nothing back. Sharing every gritty detail of his dating life, Halpern reminisces on a childhood crush gone awry, late-night exploits with shady waitresses, and his final brave attempt to hold on tight to lasting love.

In one word: HILARIOUS! This book flew by as I finished it up in two days. Each sidesplitting anecdote had me laughing out loud and finding bits of myself in the shy and terminally awkward Halpern. A must-read for those with a sarcastic sense of humour!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging

You may wonder how a teen novel published in 1999 has found itself on this list of humorous titles. I’ll tell you how. It’s simply a delight from start to finish! Admittedly, I did first read this as a teenager, so maybe I’m a little biased, but there is nothing more pure and funny than this novel, the first of ten in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. Georgia is going through all the familiar ups and downs of adolescence with a charming band of sidekicks: her 3-year-old grubby sister Libby, precocious cat Angus and best pal Jas. And of course, she’s dealing with a massive crush on Robbie (aka the “Sex God”). Louise Rennison was a visionary writer in the world of young adult fiction and she will be missed.

On a final note, one of my favourite radio stations for great music and a good laugh is Energy 95.3. Every week, radio host Young Jeffrey takes a popular song and turns it into a witty parody. Last week’s entry was “Hopeful” based on Lorde’s “Royals.” Give it a listen, have a chuckle, and reflect on how no one person can do everything, but everyone can do something.

I hope you’ll take the time to include a little laughter in your day. Stay safe and be well.