Here we are now, entertain us

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER MISZCZAK
Allow yourself to take a breath and be entertained, for the sake of your mental health.

The West Coast is ablaze. Hornets are swarming.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic and there are even riots in the streets. This has not been an easy year at all for anybody. Collectively it’s still very much like the world is holding its breath for what might happen next. The world and everyone in it simply seem very anxious right now.

This is probably why an artist that I follow online said that he was concerned to release a new comic book. He felt that it was not very appropriate considering everything happening in the world right now. What struck a chord however was a response to that concern.

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“We need more comic books in the world right now, we need to forget everything that is happening right now even if it is only for a moment and escape.”

It was this moment that caught me off-guard to the point of self-reflection, overvaluing the things that make us laugh, that divert our attention, that distract us for a little while to escape.

There is a great quote from Pablo Picasso that goes, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” There is a tremendous truth in this statement. It becomes a question about how important the world of entertainment is right now — if not for a moment just to collectively breathe and finally just relax.

“I would agree with that statement,” Mark Kearney said in response to this quote. A lecturer from Western University, Kearney teaches writing for humour. Kearney was nice enough to provide his own insight into the value of making people laugh right now.

“There is probably more value in making people laugh then in any other time. I think that there are a lot of people out there who are stressed. We are living in a relatively safe place here in London, yes there have been a few cases. Compared to the US or other parts of Canada we are doing OK.”

When things get bad, we look to humour, we look for entertainment. I think that people need a laugh right now of just about any kind to be able to get through the day.

If we did not have that art and culture, we would be living pretty basic and pretty boring lives. Some people who do not have access to this stuff are probably really struggling. Humour is a way to explain the world in an entertaining way. Entertainers, comedians, actors create things that are not real but still holds real value. It comes back in a way which comes back to a diversion and reflection of reality. It takes us away from the nastier things that are out there.

If you can laugh despite all the things happening this year. It’s a bonus, Kearney went on to explain.

Usually in any normal year, there are nasty things that go on. But it’s not constant, it’s not so oppressive. Humour is what gives us some of that enjoyment and some of that nourishment that we may not have in other times. Historically, humour is a way of trying to get things back to normal. Often in terrible times, we just must laugh at just how terrible it is.

Humour matters. Comedy matters. It may be considered frivolous, but it’s still an important aspect of all of our lives. We all have sense of humour, we are all funny in our own way. We cannot downplay the role of humour in dark times like this, we need a good laugh. Rollin McCraty, director of research at the HearthMath Institute which is a non-profit organization in Boulder Creek California, even looked into the scientific basis of the positive- emotion-focused techniques to help people sustain a consistent level of how happiness effects us. This essentially showed just how much those positive exchanges alters the way that we see the world and ourselves.

When the parasympathetic part of the nervous system is triggered it can have over-arching benefits for the body, including that massive decrease of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing oxytocin, which is the hormone that makes us feel good. These studies and many others have showed lower levels of cortisol and even resulting in better cardiac functions.

At the end of the day there is value in making each other laugh. This stems to our biological need for de-stressing agents but socially as well. There is a true benefit to diversion, distraction and simply by being entertained. Laugh on my friends, laugh on. We need it right now.