America could use a hearty laugh right now, but laughter doesn’t come easily because too many Americans have lost their sense of humor.

Humor, says Merriam-Webster, is “the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny.”

We are at our best when we’re amused. Few things can better reduce stress or shed light on truth than a good joke.

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I can’t think of a better time to revisit what some great minds have said about humor’s incredible value – to both individuals and well-functioning societies.

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.” – Dr. Seuss

These words couldn’t be more pertinent to the wackiness of 2021, when half the country thinks the other half should be silenced in all public forums.

“If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you.” – Groucho Marx

Groucho’s words remind me of something that “Saturday Night Live” founder Lorne Michaels said about poking fun at politicians. He noted that when the show pokes fun at Republicans, they find it funny – they don’t take the ribbing as personally as do some with opposite political points of view.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” – Francis Bacon

To be sure, we human beings can be flawed in so many ways – our politicians, who are supposed to reflect our will, even more so.

As some of our more egocentric politicians make trivial matters into large affairs, don’t they risk overlooking genuine problems that their constituents are begging them to address?

Doesn’t a sense of humor – which is one and the same as a sense of humility – offer an antidote to such self-absorption?

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” – William James

Common sense, which Merriam-Webster describes as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts,” is no longer common.

Opinion is what is far too common now – opinion that’s not rooted in much of anything factual, but in everything emotional.

Opinion and sarcasm are closely related – opinion and self-seriousness are strongly related – but opinion and humor are not related often enough.

Look, America needs to restore its sense of humor. We need a good belly laugh for our own health and that of our republic.

“We change physiologically when we laugh,” reports WebMD. “We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.”

What our country needs is no more complicated than this great thought from a common-sense country singer:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” – Reba McEntire

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Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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