Why Are We Laughing

Posted by John Category: Home Demos
People laughing

People laughing

This is another old home demo. It is slight but I quite like it. I am plucking stuff from my vast, vast collection, not quite at random but almost — I am not going to randomly select a song I find embarrassing (which I am now noticing is a good few of them).

If I had have used just one “vast” to describe my collection, I would have perhaps come across boastful and lacking in self-awareness. The epizeuxis, however, lends the sentence an ironic air, rendering me knowing and sound in the eyes of a discerning public ready to hate me. That last sentence may have just undone all my good work, though. That last sentence could have rescued me, though.

I have to mention that these are home demos in case people mistake one of them for Tigers of Tin Pan’s latest single or something silly like that. Never underestimate the internet’s capacity to overwhelm people into making lazy assumptions. I assume you were not already aware of that. (That line doesn’t really work since it’s not the internet that’s overwhelming me into “assuming” that.)

Oh by the way, please don’t judge me musically on these demos… they are just sketches, usually written/recorded in a matter of hours. They are also becoming jumping off points for the sort of rambling blog I again appear to be embarking on. A rambling blog that is neither honest enough to be moving or clever enough to be funny, you might say. Sorry for the tiresome putting-yourself-down schtick — it’s just that was the cleverest, most honest thing I could think to say.

Most people will judge my music on the first 10 seconds they hear, so it may as well be 10 seconds of something I am truly proud of. That is unless they haven’t already judged me by my irritating name and/or face and/or personality, which they probably have. Not that I am truly proud of anything I have done, either.

Ok I’ll stop that now. Sometimes I just like to grab hold my mind as I would a wet J-cloth, and squeeze out every last drop of filthy self-hatred, allowing it to collect on the page or in the ears of a luckless confidante. It’s purifying… maybe. Yeah… let’s say it’s purifying. Actually it’s probably just a reflex designed to get people to like me. A reflex that doesn’t seem to work all that well, surprisingly enough. Maybe I should squeeze harder. I could squeeze a lot lot harder; the water in the cheap plastic basin could be a lot lot filthier.

“God John, couldn’t you lighten up a bit?” asks an internal voice representing positive people who hate and avoid negative people. “Don’t take my self-loathing away from me, it’s all I got, I am utterly useless without it,” I reply. Ha! See! I just proved my point. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just further irked this internal voice. Maybe this internal voice has just unfriended me on Facebook, and is posting Dalai Lama quotes on its wall to detoxify itself, and strengthen its resolve to never befriend my type again. Yes, you can make friends with the voices in your head now.

Not sure that whole J-cloth/basin metaphor works to be honest. I am not going to the trouble of thinking of another metaphor.

I haven’t much to say regarding the theme of this song, probably because there probably isn’t any. Something about laughter, I guess. What is laughter? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as…


Joe Raposo

I amusingly cut short that last paragraph based on the assumption no one would be interested in reading the dictionary definition of laughter, since everyone is already familiar with the concept. That said, I am suddenly nagged by the notion that the definition of laughter, in all its crystalline, unsuperfluous glory, may be far more interesting than anything else I write over the course of this weblog, or maybe ever. I am aware the word “unsuperfluous” is both not a word, and superfluous. I cannot bring myself to omit it for some reason.

Musically, I suppose this song has that sort of naive, Joe Raposo feel I often go for. I can write this sort of tune endlessly, have written lots of them, and often have to physically restrain myself from writing any more. Do I really want to be sitting on a thousand of these tunes when I am eighty, stiff, and dying? The phrase “hill of beans” springs to mind, though I expect beans would be of more use in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. “Hey there gang of degenerate ravenous bandits! I offer you a collection of self-composed tinkly ditties on a memory stick in exchange for you not torturing, killing, and eating me… can’t say fairer than that!” “BEANS… BEANS… BEANS!” the bandits reply in chorus.

The trouble is, for me, writing songs that contain a lot of major seventh chords and inverted bass notes, coated in laid-back, airy melodies, is as mindlessly pleasurable as Tetris. It is probably even easier than doing nothing, and I find doing nothing pretty damn easy.

There are only so many times one man can riff on “Had to Phone Ya” though — I have to learn to accept that. I am going to listen to “Had to Phone Ya” now, probably because I like to imagine someone reading this and doing the same. I enjoy vicariously living out the lives of those non-existent persons who silently obsess over me, it would appear.

I may as well look up the definition of laughter now…

“The expression of mirth, pleasure, derision, or nervousness with an audible, vocal expulsion of air from the lungs that can range from a loud burst of sound to a series of quiet chuckles and is usually accompanied by characteristic facial and bodily movements.”

Wow! That is a comprehensive definition — so damn unsuperfluous too — dictionaries never let you down! Its prose is clearer and more precise than anything I could ever manage. Are there any laughter-causing emotions those essence-capturing lexicographers forgot? Speak now Susie Dent, or forever hold your peace. I wonder has Susie Dent ever been tempted to intervene at a wedding? Come on, focus John! What about the laughter that stems from being tickled? Is that a laughter of fear? The definition didn’t mention fear, or perhaps fear can be filed under nervousness?



Did I read somewhere that tickles measure a person’s primal fear? Or did I just imagine that in the same way Einstein imagined the whole space and time thing? Am I, in fact, a genius? I could be a visionary — the first person to (correctly) posit a theory stating the extent of a person’s tickles is directly proportional to the extent of their fundamental mistrust of humanity — fundamental, in this case, meaning the mistrust one is born with, or perhaps that which partially evolves during one’s unremembered infancy.

Fundamental, too, in that it denotes a broad fear/mistrust of humanity as a whole, not of specific individuals. In other words, your mother, who you probably trust, is no less capable of tickling you to death than the allegedly reformed but clearly still deadly “Tickle-Killer” currently out on probation (legend has it he has feathers for fingernails). Your brain may perceive your mother as the lesser threat, but your body or “tickle-vessel” is not to know that. Tickles don’t discriminate. The only person who cannot tickle you is yourself, whom your body trusts entirely. To sum up, tickles measure your fear of other people in general. I am going to stop talking about this now; I picture myself recoiling from the howling depths of a tickle-themed wiki-vortex; I like these blogs, and my life in general, to be ill-researched.

A man tickling a woman

A man tickling a woman

Let’s talk more about laughter. I rarely laugh on my own. I could easily sit alone through an entire series of I’m Alan Partridge, probably my favourite comedy, and not laugh once. I would laugh out of respect for its quality, to acknowledge my love for it, but this laughter would be no more involuntary than the laughter I use to ease the tension between someone I feel uncomfortable around but still want to get along with. It is unconscious yet voluntary, if that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t make sense. Maybe it makes me sound like a pompous charlatan.

I suppose an advantage of spending a lot of time alone and therefore very rarely laughing is I develop slightly fewer lines about my face than someone of my precise genetic makeup might, had they the opportunity to regularly hang around warmhearted, funny people — the sort who make one feel good about oneself irrespective of how rapidly one’s face appears to be ageing. Either way, my face is ageing.

I suppose a downside of a laughter-free life is your brain is perhaps not releasing all the endorphins it ought to be. That may explain your nagging depression, provided, that is, the whole laughter-releasing-endorphins-that-make-you-happy theory isn’t a load of bullshit, which it probably is.

That said, I literally laughed out loud watching Limmy’s “cannae see” sketch, earlier. It was definitely involuntary and I was definitely alone (I have decided against classifying the voices in my head as “friends” — they don’t therefore qualify as company). Maybe I do laugh more than I realise, or more than I am letting on. I am going to watch that sketch again now. I already explained why.

Come to think of it, I am also one of those people who frequently laugh to themselves when something funny occurs to them walking down the street. Logically speaking, this qualifies as weird behaviour since I hardly ever see anyone else walking down the street laughing to themselves. It ought to seem perfectly normal, but when I do see another person walking down the street laughing to themselves, they look insane. Keeping on my logic hat, it follows then that I must look insane much of the time, at least when I am walking down the street.

Not only insane; also sociopathic. In the midst of an amusing thought, I might accidentally laugh in some innocent person’s direction, more than likely making them paranoid, or be smiling as I happen to meet the eye of a beggar and come across like some callous Patrick Bateman type.

There are certain things that can make me laugh just by thinking about them. They include: that stupid thing I or someone else said earlier in the day; the ominous tremor in John Travolta’s voice as he says “wickedly talented” (just that mix of him getting her name so wrong with routine Hollywood sycophancy — really funny); Steven Spielberg, the trophy hunter, smiling with inhumane pride beside the triceratops he just murdered; Steve McClaren, gone Dutch, saying, “I sort of knew…” Just cringey, ridiculous things usually, though I should point out I didn’t smile once while writing this paragraph.

At this point, I’m unsure whether I was right to say I rarely laugh alone. What is the average? Maybe no one ever laughs alone. Maybe I am way above the average.

I do tend to laugh quite a bit on the odd occasion I am in the company of other humans, particularly those who I like, or, being honest, who like me. I try to be a laugher, to be a laugh, to be known as a good laugh… well not that last one — that smacks a bit of laddish desperation.


John Travolta

I acquired what may strike many as an obvious piece of wisdom some years back: to laugh is to be kind. Laughter is an act of giving. It puts people at ease, increases their self-worth, liberates them, grants them the confidence to express the madness within. Laughter need not be fake, either; you can learn to laugh naturally. Obviously I mean to laugh with, not to laugh at. Laughing at people is cruel… another singular pearl of wisdom there.

Without wishing to sound all kumbaya, I believe learning to laugh with people is tied up with learning to love people. And yes, I mean love people in that the sort of universal, unconditional way the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and @rustyrockets talk about. Not only that, I firmly believe you can continue to be the confused misanthrope you already are, and still feel this love. It’s a win-win. There, I bet you didn’t think I was capable of such a lame outpouring of optimistic sincerity, did you internal-voice-representing-positive-people-who-hate-and-avoid-negative-people? Will you refriend me now? You can quote me on your wall.

Before enjoying this epiphany, there was a short period during which I was entirely sick of humour, particularly the ritualistic, mild sarcasm people apparently need in order to function in today’s society. Oh you just said something. I must make a joke. You take the idea behind my joke and exaggerate it. Now it’s my turn to exaggerate. HOORAY! WE ARE CONNECTING AS GROWN, CYNICAL ADULTS! WE ARE CLEVER AND POWERFUL. WE ARE OVERCOMING OUR SHYNESS WITH OUR WRYNESS!

Why I would feel so jaded about something as precious as human connection is anyone’s guess. Now I just accept it; we are products of our time, marooned upon this vast isle of innocuous irony, clouded in gentle cynicism. You are a normal human being, you say nice, clever things, you age, and you die. Perhaps in four thousand years, we will live and act differently. Perhaps we shall express ourselves through the medium of “super-sincere-quasi-irony”. It will consist mostly of eyebrow gestures, you will laugh with pain, and the voices in your head shall have have evolved the power to tickle your body, but they won’t act on this power due to the love and trust that exists between you. They shall be your closest friends.