The fine art of a fake laugh

A little pretence can save the day

fake laughter

THEY say laughter is the best medicine, and it really is. When it is genuine – a deep belly rumble that leaves you feeling all fuzzy inside. The euphoria lasts for a few minutes, and you cannot help but feel that all is right with the world, even if King Charles has cancer and Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are headed for splitsville. A good laugh is as therapeutic as a salted caramel cone, and much cheaper than a session with your shrink.

But that’s a genuine chuckle. The fake kind? It just leaves you feeling a little drained. But there is no denying it: learning how to fake laughter is an essential life skill. Can you imagine the awkward silence every time your boss made a seriously unfunny joke and you did not laugh? The blasphemy. I mean, why place your promotion in jeopardy when the problem is easily solved with something as simple as a pretend-giggle?

As important as learning how to fake laugh is learning how to recognise it. Remember David Shore’s popular show House, where Dr Gregory House diagnoses seemingly impossible conditions by assuming the simple premise that ‘Everyone lies’? The same is true of fake laughter. EVERYONE fake laughs. And yet, we underestimate how common it is.

Most of us think we are funnier than we really are. And unless we can discern genuine laughter from fake, we will live in the deluded Disneyworld of our own fake greatness.

How do you discern between real and fake laughter? That’s a subtle and highly sophisticated art. You can, however, learn from the greats. For example, the way TV host David Letterman laughed at what some of his celebrity guests said? So fake. By the way, it is a truth universally acknowledged that celebrities have an all-access pass to the Hall of Humour. They even sound genuinely funny. I remember laughing at something actor Emily Blunt said about her husband, John Krasinski. But later I mulled it over and realised that it was not funny at all. If my mother had said it, I would have rolled my eyes. The truth is, celebs are so cool that everything they say becomes part of the Holy Grail of Comedy.

And then, there is the premature laughter before the punchline comes. Personally, I am a frequent victim of this. Move over, Murphy, I have a law of my own to propose. The more you want to please someone, the less likely you are to do so. I have experienced this several times. A good looking guy comes along and tells me a joke. I am so eager to please him that I hang on to his every word. But then I become anxious: What if I find the joke unfunny? Or what if I don’t get it? I try to focus so much that I lose all focus. There is only one remedy: Try to guess the timing of the punchline.

Law no.2 – if you try to anticipate the punchline, you will always get it wrong. He tells you about walking down a street and watching a goat cross the road, and you laugh like your life depends on it. He looks a little bewildered and you realise that your laughter was premature. But by then, it is too late. The joke – if it was a joke in the first place – is dead. And so are your chances with Mr Gorgeous.

So, to sum it up: Fake laughter can take you places. But only if you know when and how to wield it. And if you want to take lessons on Fake Laughter 101, just observe the exuberance with which our prime minister hugs the UAE president. Now that’s a master who has chiselled his craft to perfection. Watch and learn.

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