(The) Know-It-All: #A-Z Challenge

“I remember being annoyed when a book came out a couple of years ago by a guy who drove cross-country with Einstein’s brain. Einstein’s legendary brain. Enough already. ‘I’m going to write a book about driving across the country with Darwin’s pancreas,’ I told Julie at the time. ‘And after that, I’m taking the bus with Newton’s lower intestines.’ “

The Know-it-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs

We’re almost halfway through the A-Z blogging challenge. I hope my posts are living up to my claim of being Snack-Sized Wow Notes for the Woman’s Soul. There is certainly lots to be thoughtful about at midlife and beyond, lots of changes in who we are and what we want. But in the midst of all that seriousness, let’s not forget about laughter.

5 Kinds of Laughter

  1. Spontaneous–maybe from reading Jacobs’ quote?
  2. Stimulated–i.e., being tickled
  3. Induced–chemical, from inhaling nitrous oxide at a dentist’s office
  4. Pathological–uncontrollable and excessive, often mixed with tears, and usually associated with brain damage
  5. Voluntary Simulated–making yourself laugh

5 Benefits of Laughter

  1. lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones

    Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.

    Victor Hugo
  2. connects us with other people and improves communication
  3. helps us keep problems and concerns in perspective
  4. improves our ability to concentrate
  5. elevates mood

5 Ways to Bring More Laughter into Your Life

  1. Watch funny television shows, movies, or YouTube videos.
  2. Watch someone else who is laughing because laughter is contagious.

3. Force it. Start with three short ‘ha’ sounds. Remember something that you found funny.
4. Give Laughter Yoga a try.
5. Read something that makes you laugh. Molly’s Shallow Reflections blog does it for me every time, as does Gary Larson’s The Complete Far Side .

What makes you laugh? Do you laugh as often, more often, or less often than before (however you define before)?

Join the tribe:


  1. Great post, Karen, and not just because you’ve linked to my blog, but thank you for doing so! I appreciate the 5 benefits of laughter and it is my mission to help others appreciate them, too. The video is great. Laughter smooths out life’s rough patches. I love to watch funny TV shows. I have not forced laughter but can see how it would be helpful if having difficulty getting started. And now I have to look up laughter yoga. Now that might be my kind of yoga!

    1. Oh yeah, and I love A. J. Jacobs. I’ve read, “My Year of Living Biblically,” and “Drop Dead Healthy” – both hilarious. I must read the book you’ve quoted from, too.

  2. You are most welcome for the linking, Molly. I truly enjoy your sense of humour.
    I’ve also read both of the A.J. Jacobs’ books you mention and personally find The-Know-It-All to be the funniest of the three. Besides, you can learn lots of little-known facts that you can then use as fodder for both your flash fiction and regular posts. Although not saying you need that, Molly. You have a quick and insightful mind.

    1. I’ve got to read the Know-it-all book! Right now I’m reading Richard Russo’s ‘Everybody’s Fool’ and I’m laughing out loud, as I did with his other books. He weaves a lot of humor into his stories.

  3. No question, I laugh much more now than I used to – and I define ‘used to’ as before I started running, cycling, etc.

    It’s hard to say whether an active lifestyle helped lighten my mood and perspective on life, or whether it was simply that stage in my life when I didn’t have the overwhelming demands of small children combined with a challenging career anymore. I still had the challenging career, but suddenly I had a sense of humour and I could laugh at myself.

    I guess it’s one of those rare – VERY RARE – benefits of getting older 🙂

    1. Hmm, that’s interesting, Joanne. It never occurred to me to see if increased laughter correlated to more physical activity. Although it probably should have. I’m feeling very sluggish and frumpy right now, and am not at all amused.

    1. I think we’re similar on the laughing yoga/laughing meditation thing. I’d much prefer reading something that makes me laugh – like the joke you told on your site yesterday.

  4. I love Jacobs! David Sedaris is another. His writing makes me laugh – uncontrollable, stomach cramp, roll on the floor, almost pee my pants laugh – so hard that it confuses the dogs! And I love to laugh…good information, Karen, thank you!

      1. Thanks for mentioning David, Sedaris, Cindy. I’d forgotten how funny he is. And Molly, I’m with you – Me Talk Funny One Day was hysterically funny.
        However I should tell both of you that if you pick up his latest, Theft by Finding, be prepared for a very different experience. I didn’t make it past the first third of the book – what a sad, horrible early life full of drugs, alcohol, poverty, and meaningless or confusing sexual encounters.

      2. I also think Me Talk Funny One Day is his best. My daughters and I went to see him last October, and he was wonderful. He did read some passages from Theft by Finding, and we found them hilarious, Karen, so maybe the first part is not indicative of the whole book. His humor is often based in tragedy, though, so I can see it being difficult.

        1. I should give Theft by Finding another chance. Maybe I’ll just open it randomly for a bit and see what happens.
          I’d love to see Sedaris in person as you and Molly did. I’ll have to check and see if he ever comes to Canada.

  5. My husband and I laugh a lot. I remember an early time in our marriage when he nagged at me about something over and over. I tried every way to shut him up and finally tried laughter. I laughed as though he was funny. That fixed it!

  6. Hi Karen,
    Now laughter is something I know about. I like the quote you started this post off with from The Know It All and I had heard about the bus ride with Einstein’s brain – how bizarre is that? Anyway, laughter has played a big role in my life thus far. Have you ever heard the expression, “if I don’t laugh I will cry?” I am not even sure of who said it or when, or even if I have quoted it correctly but it has stuck with me all these years since I heard it. I figure I have done enough crying in my lifetime so I choose to laugh as often and as hard as I can. The best laughter is with friends and loved ones but I will take funny YouTube videos or comedy shows by people like ventriloquist Jeff Dunham any day. I don’t think that laughter yoga would work for me. That is not to say that it wouldn’t work for some folks but for me personally, I would rather watch comedy in the forms I mentioned than try to fake it until I make it kind of laughter. I have always believed laughter is the best medicine (ala Reader’s Digest).

    1. I’ve got the book about Einstein’s brain and it did indeed travel cross-country in the trunk of a car. But what I remember most is all the time it spent in closets of various houses. Not a funny book, but a very funny and quirky concept. I’m thinking of writing about it for a Wow note someday.

      Laughing instead of crying, and laughing after doing too much crying, both sound like a plan!

      1. That’s right, I remember now, his brain did spend years tucked away in closets. I would love to see a Wow note on that whole thing someday. Knowing you I will learn something about it that I never knew before. You do amazing research!
        Laughing can make you tired too but the tiredness that comes from crying is much worse. Laughter is always better in my opinion. 🙂

  7. Thanks for this Karen — my plan is to reflect on laughter tomorrow for my “L” day — so this is a great prelude to reflect. I am certainly going to check out Laughter Yoga and Molly’s Shallow Reflections…

  8. I never thought about how many types of laughter there are. We definitely laugh a lot in our home. And the type of laughter changes, depending on who is part of the joke. My favorite thing is to see my family members laughing, whether it’s my girls sharing a joke or my husband laughing at a show, so hard he gets tears in his eyes. It is good for the soul.

    1. That’s the ultimate reason for laughter, isn’t it, Heather – it is good for the soul.
      Your family goes through some pretty tough times. It’s a tribute to all of you that laughter is a big part of your life.

  9. Hi, Karen – I agree that laughter is a wonderful medicine. Molly’s Shallow Reflections blog also makes me laugh (sometimes uncontrollably). I need to be very careful where I read it!
    Thank you for joining this Challenge – I am thoroughly enjoying your snack sized Wow Notes.

  10. Thank you Karen – I didn’t realize there were so many ways of laughing or that there are so many benefits to laughter. For me, spontaneous laughter is the best – whether shared with someone or just sitting by myself reading a funny book. I think back to the old Lucille Ball show, and the episode where Lucy and Ethel worked in a chocolate factory. I remember laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes, and to this day can still laugh just thinking about it.

    1. Oh, that was a great one, Anna! I have the DVD of that show. I bought it and used the chocolate factory clip frequently when I was travelling and working with groups. We used it to talk about what goes wrong when change is foisted on someone and they are not supported but it also, and undoubtedly more importantly, was great for several minutes of healing laughter.

  11. I am not one for funny shows and there are some in the family that dispute whether I have a sense of humour – but I do love to laugh and if I feel it has been too long without a good session I have a dear friend who lives 3 hours away and I will go visit and we laugh together . it is cleansing and refreshing – I can well imagine that it is an excellent medicine.

    1. That’s so interesting, Sandra, and not at all what I’d expect. I get that funny shows don’t do it for you (I have to be in exactly the right frame of mind), but you seem to me to be a woman who appreciates life’s quirky moments, who enjoys life to the very fullest. I’d imagined laughter to be a big part of that for you. I’m glad you have a friend you laugh with.

  12. What a funny laugh that man has! He certainly set me off. I think overall I laugh more but I probably laughed harder when I was young – fits of the giggles at inappropriate times. I’m glad to have grown out of that…

    1. I’d forgotten about that kind of laughter, Anabel. I guess I’m ‘sort of’ glad that I’ve grown out if it, but it really felt fun and free. If only we could laugh that way now at completely appropriate times!

  13. There are family stories that all my sister or brother has to do is mention the story and we start laughing. It’s great that we can laugh at ourselves and the funny things we did growing up.
    I also thought I’d mention that when I travel, I travel with a Claude Monet finger puppet. He has been living in my suitcase since my first trip to Paris many years ago. I’ve not traveled with a brain… Oh wait, that doesn’t sound right… haha…

    1. That’s hilarious, Cheryl. Claude Monet? And when you travel with Claude, what does that look like? Does he speak to the waiters or is that only if you’re in France since that, I assume, was his only language 🙂

  14. One of the benefits of us dining out with our “compatible couples” is we often end up laughing at the absurdities of life together. Laughter is also a big part of my marriage… we often laugh at life together. Or sometimes I do something silly and hubby laughs at me…in a good way. I can’t imagine life without laughter in it!

    1. It sounds as if dinners out are lots of fun, Pat. I have this image of someone – not you – snorting wine through their nose because they are laughing so hard. But I guess that image is a leftover from Anabel’s comment on the uncontrollable and inappropriate laughter of our youth?

  15. I laughed out loud at the idea of driving around with Darwin’s pancreas and Newton’s lower intestines. Good ones.
    Your posts are more than living up to early outline. I may have missed some, but enjoyed every bit of what I’ve read. And laughter — oh, so important, you’re right. In whatever form, forced, if necessary. Here’s to laughing and being happy. My visits here help in both cases. Thank you, Karen.

    1. Thank you so much, Silvia. I really appreciate your comment. I am thoroughly enjoying your posts too, and hope we can continue to connect after the A-Z challenge is over.

  16. I love to laugh and, fortunately, I have a husband who routinely cracks me up. I remember a video that went viral a few years ago of a baby who was laughing uncontrollably. Her dad kept tearing up pieces of paper and she thought it was so darn funny. It was impossible not to laugh with her when watching it.

  17. It’s strange how humour and what makes us laugh is different for all of us. My husband loves Funny Home Videos of people and animals slipping over and falling down slopes etc – all I see is injury and pain and visits to the Emergency Dept in their local hospital. He hates toilet humour and my family loves it. Fortunately I prefer laughing with my friends – we tell bizarre stories of what happened in our days and crack each other up (small things amuse small minds 🙂 )

    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
    L for Love Yourself

    1. I’m the same as you, Leanne. Physical, slapstick type humour makes me cringe and imagine the worse. I can’t watch The Three Stooges even knowing that it’s all put on and no one is being injured.
      My go-to form of humour is comics, particularly The Far Side and Peanuts.

    1. I figured you must have a good sense of humour, AJ. That’s the only way you’d be able to make your A-Z theme be about serial killers. Absent a sense of humour about life, the serial killers theme would make a researcher/writer want to slit her wrists!

  18. I read The Know it All a few years ago with my book club and loved it. I honestly don’t believe the power of laughter can be overstated. And I love the absurd humor of The Far Side, too!

  19. To me, laughter resembles happiness. Even if it’s just for one moment. When I think back about my life, I realize I laugh the most when in the company of really good friends. Since that doesn’t happen often anymore, because of our lifestyle, I certainly was happier and laughed more before now. When times are depressing, for whatever reason (work, the season, health issues, things going wrong, …) laughter is absent in our lives.

    Everyone’s sense of humor is different, but there might be videos that get everyone to smile, if not laugh out loud. Not sure about your benefit example of laughing “improves our ability to concentrate”. If anything, when I laugh, I can’t concentrate. 🙂

    1. I’m sorry to hear that laughter is sometimes absent, Liesbet. Hopefully when you have the break that you are needing, laughter will return to your life many fold.
      I think the research of laughter improving our ability to concentrate means that laughter relaxes us and destresses us and we are then able to concentrate better on whatever we are doing. Not concentrate while we are laughing because you’re right – that’s really tough, probably impossible, to do.

  20. My best friend of more than 50 years is a naturally funny person. With her quick wit, she has a way of deflating the emotional impact of overly serious topics and threatening events. Being around her also brings out my (usually hidden) funnybone. It is just hard to take yourself too seriously around her. Really funny people are a gift to the world, and I think that they are not always appreciated and recognized as much as they should be.


    1. That’s a great way to express it, Jude – “a gift to the world.” I feel that way about Molly of Shallow Reflections. I’m so glad she has been nominated for a blogging award. As you say, those with a great sense of humour need to be celebrated.

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