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On Humor and Laughter

by Izzy Kalman (August, 2004)

I lecture a lot about the importance of humor. On several occasions, seminar participants commented that I don’t practice what I preach because I hardly laugh at the seminars.

Laughing and having a sense of humor are not identical. If the person hearing a joke doesn’t laugh, he may be lacking a sense of humor. But the one making the joke does not have to laugh, only to make others laugh.

Laughter is contagious, and you can easily get people to laugh at the lamest jokes if you laugh at the same time. Laugh tracks are added to TV comedy shows to take advantage of this phenomenon. But to make others laugh without you laughing at the same time is a far greater challenge. It means that people are laughing in response to your humor and not to your laughter.

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