nerd contemplating the benefits of gaffes

“Laughter is the best medicine, but only because it’s cheaper than an HMO.”
—Buzz Nutley

Our Cheesy Analysis

Are you good for a gaffe? Well, a gaffe is good for you—as long as you laugh about it. Here’s what laughter-based gaffing can bring you:

Success in love. Countless surveys have found that women and men rate a good sense of humor high on the list of the characteristics of an ideal mate. And those prone to gaffing have endless opportunities to prove they have a good sense of humor.

Good health. Gaffe-based laughter can carry a number of health benefits, including a boost to the immune system; a reduction in serum cortisol, a hormone that is secreted when the body feels stress; and an increased tolerance for pain. Norman Cousins, who suffered from a painful spine condition, found that Marx Brothers movies and Candid Camera episodes helped him achieve pain-free sleep.

The ability to cope. Humor has long been widely recognized as a useful coping mechanism, helping people handle emotional conflict and reduce stress.

Friendship. Misery loves company, but it’s more than that. One study found that having a good sense of humor correlates positively with the ability to connect empathically with others. Those who score highly on empathy scales also tend to score highly on instruments that measure sense of humor.

Work productivity. One study found that those who reported having the most fun at their jobs were likely to be the most productive. The researcher postulated that the fun eased the workers’ mental tension, allowing them to focus more intently on their work.

Better abs. Laughter has also been clinically shown to strengthen the abdomen. A good laugh exercises the diaphragm and contracts the abs. So work out with a good comedy show, the Comedy Channel, a good book, or a good humorous friend.

Good fortune. Well-told gaffes can make you rich. Comedians use their own gaffes—real or imagined—as material for their jokes, and the annual salaries of the most successful comedians run in the millions. Rita Rudner serves up an example with, “I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It wasn’t mine.”

Leadership ability. A former dean of Harvard Medical School has identified humor as an essential component for successful leadership. Recognizing the humor in a situation has great value, he told a graduating class of medical students. “[The humor quotient] encompasses the ability to use self-deprecation to accomplish an end, to exude a sense of lightness of being and charisma, of good cheer and hope,” he said. “It is the ability to detoxify a situation by humor or self-effacement, to know how to relax the tension with a comment, a story, or a well-told joke.” Who knew? Even Harvard recognizes the value of a good gaffe!

Fun. Turns out, gaffe-based comedy is entertaining! Watch Charlie Chaplin films, Marx Brothers movies, the Naked Gun series, the Pink Panther series, and any number of comedies. Tune into the Comedy Channel. Go to a comedy club. Read a humorous book. Spend time with friends who make you laugh. Write down the funny things your children say. Write down the funny mistakes you make. Tell stories on yourself!

Peace of mind. Gaffes allow the saving grace of saving face. You can feel shame about a gaffe, or you can spin it into comedy gold.

Wisdom. Gaffes can save us from ourselves and any pretensions we may fall prey to. And every once in a while, we can even learn from our blunders.

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