If you ask Julie, this is one of the most important ingredients to a happy family life…and it’s the one we talk the least about. The AllMomDoes Podcast host Julie Lyles Carr shares why laughter is a family value in her family and unpacks why and how you should make it part of yours.
Look, I know it’s a classic, far be it from me to criticize a work that has been on the bestseller list literally for decades. It’s great. It is a book that has changed relationships, it has changed lives, but I am here to tell you that Gary Chapman, when he wrote that classic, The Five Love Languages, he forgot two, at least he forgot two of mine, which are food and laughter. I’m Julie Lyles Carr, this is the AllMomDoes podcast, and today I want to talk to you about a little something that’s kind of unique because it is something that has definitely guided my family, been something really important to me and is something you don’t always hear a lot about when it comes to family life.
I was a guest on a podcast a while back and as we were wrapping up the interview, that podcaster asked me a very unique question, something that I had not been asked before and I’ve been really honored to be a guest on a lot of podcasts and nobody had ever asked me this. She asked me what I wanted my kids to remember about growing up in our home, and like a statement, like just a quick motto, what would be the thing I would want the kids to remember. I was able to say in a heartbeat, I didn’t even have to think about it, with no hesitation I said, “We laughed.” This podcaster was so sweet. In the mail a few weeks later I received this gorgeous package and in the package was a pillow that she had had a friend of hers make for me that said, “We laughed.”
I really have treasured that gift and I’ve thought about that a lot because it just was so right there for me, so primal that that is what I hope my kids take from having grown up here. When the oldest kids were little before we were in those lanes of having to get everybody everywhere to all the places all the time, you know what I mean, when we actually had more of a reasonable evening routine, Mike and I, we made it a habit to sit down before we went to sleep at night and watch something funny. I was just so drawn at the end of a stressful day to something that would make me laugh. There was something in the experience of getting in a good hearty laugh before we went to sleep at night that was such a tonic for me.
I’ve been really fascinated. I knew this with my own babies, but there’s something about watching the Next Gen that it reminds you of things, it makes you notice things and appreciate them afresh in a really new way. So since this new grandbaby has come into my life, my little Hakari, one of the things that is so cool is watching her start laughing, just seeing her get so tickled when we play peekaboo and whether I’m with her in person or whether we’re over FaceTime and she is just cackling. As it turns out, babies can laugh before they even talk, which I know you probably know, but they start laughing around three months of age.
I think this is just incredible to me that here is this little helpless baby, and before they can say the words, ‘Hey, I’m hungry or I’m too hot,” they can laugh. It’s incredible that God instilled that even an infancy as this thing that we do, this thing that we do to connect, this way to show that we understand what someone is doing. We understand when they are being silly and when they’re entertaining, that we have this ability to laugh even before we can talk. People in every culture across the world, we all laugh, just like we all sneeze. There are different things depending on our culture that we laugh at or we find funny, but there are some things that we may do here in America that people in another part of the world do not do, but laughter is one of the things that we all do.
Scientists say that part of the reason that we start laughing so early, part of the reason that we can laugh over something without even using language, maybe you’ve traveled where you don’t speak the language of the people who live there and they don’t speak your language, but you see something happen together and everyone laughs, responds to it with the same response and it doesn’t even require language to understand when something is funny. Scientists say that they believe part of why humans laugh is that it’s this signal that we want to connect with others. We understand and are having an experience together that is not dependent on us sharing the same language, the same culture, anything. We just know when stuff is funny and we get tickled.
I love that one of the first places we see the word laughter in the word of God is in Genesis 21 and it’s Sarah who talks about it because God has told her that she’s going to have a child. She thinks that’s hilarious because she is already way past the time that she should be having to take a pregnancy test. She is far, far past those days when she thinks that would even be possible. So when Sarah receives this news that she’s going to have a baby, she finds this, understandably, hilarious. But God is good to what he has said he is going to do and he tells her, “Okay, you’re going to have a baby and his name’s going to be Isaac because it means laughter.” Sarah says of this experience, “God has blessed me with laughter and all who get the news will laugh with me.”
Man, I have some other verses in my life that I call life verses that are very meaningful to me that I really love. I am kind of thinking maybe I want to add this one for sure to the list. Maybe this is the one I should start mentioning more often. This idea of God has blessed me with laughter and all who get the news will laugh with me. I just love it. Psalms 1:26 and 2 says our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. Laughter to me when I read verses like this, maybe this is why comedy and humor resonates so deeply with me, when I see verses like this in the word of God, it reminds me that laughter is a form of praise. Have you ever thought about that?
I’m going to read it again. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. That just really sinks deep into my heart to think about those times when I am so tickled and tears are streaming down my face and my kids are being so hilarious or Mike says something that I find so funny that it is this celebration of the goodness of God in our lives, of our relationships, of celebrating the things that he has done. Laughter as a form of praise, that really gets to me.
Now, my kids have certainly learned over the years that laughter is one of my love languages because they know that funny is my kryptonite. Superman would be faced at times with this rock that came from his original planet and it would just sap all of the strength out of him. That is how I am when my kids get funny and my kids learned it young. One of them would do something they knew they shouldn’t, but they knew if they could make me laugh as I was getting ready to tackle them, they knew they would probably get away with it completely or the consequences would at least have a significant reduction because once they made me laugh, my ability to really put on warrior mom status was completely gone. Funny is absolutely my kryptonite.
Some of my favorite episodes on the podcast through the years have been with people who know how to make us laugh. I’ve been really honored to have been on a television show with Michael Jr., the comedian, and then I’ve been around him a few times. He was on the podcast back on episode number 40 early on and I’ll have Rebecca tag some of these episodes so you can go back and listen because I have three or four people I want to mention here who I think are just hilarious. Michael Jr., man, we were cackling in that episode and he had some really poignant things to say about why comedy has been this beautiful medium for him to be able to speak truth in a way and some really hard truth and yet people are more receptive. They’re able to take it because it’s funny and they see themselves in it and they understand more the point that’s being made than if you were to just point a finger at somebody.
Michael Jr. is just brilliant at that and I would love for you to go back and listen to that episode. Then my good friend Jen Fulwiler, she’s been on a couple times in the past. I’ve been on her show. In episode 16 I had her on, that was the first time that she was on back in those early days in that first season of the podcast. She has gone on to become a standup comedian. Her methodology for how she puts this together is, oh, it’s completely fascinating. Jen is my spreadsheet girl. If you don’t think that humor and comedy is something of a science, then you haven’t chatted with Jen because she takes a spreadsheet, she lists all the jokes down one column and then across each of those columns she actually times and takes a look at the volume of the audience laughter when she uses certain jokes, she looks at the timing between jokes.
She considers all of this and she takes note of where something really landed and people laughed and they laughed a long time and they laughed hard. She takes a look at the jokes that didn’t land. She crafts her entire show around taking this algorhythmic look at audience response. It’s absolutely fascinating. Her tour is going all around the country. It’s so exciting to get to see her do this thing that she’s wanted to do for such a long time.
Of course, we’ve had Anita Renfroe on and she’s the best. She agreed to be on the podcast when the podcast was a tiny little infant podcast. She was on episode number four. Then Amberly Neese who I just had on, she’s another person in my life who is so incredibly funny and she tours with marriage conferences and does a lot of standup. All of these people have this amazing what I believe is a God-given gift of comedy and there’s just a connection that comes with people that you laugh with. I found this great quote by William Thackeray where he said a good laugh is sunshine in the house. Then of course this one just really hits me in the heart, among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can. All of them make me laugh, by W. H. Auden. Isn’t that so great?
I like a lot of people, I admire a lot of people, but man, the people I love, all of them make me laugh. My mom and dad had home video of my brother Rob who is about 21 months younger than I am. Probably no one in my life makes me laugh like Rob. I mean, it is truly like our twin language. We get together, we get tickled and the wheels just come off. Our home movies from when we were little, there’s this video and I so wish we had audio with it, this was back in the days when you were shooting film and you weren’t always capturing audio, and so it’s just the visual of it. But I am on the side of his playpen and I’m jumping out and I’m kind of jumping scaring him and then he’s falling back and laughing and then I’m tickled at how he’s laughing and then I’m putting sunglasses on him and he’s laughing about the sunglasses and he’s taking them off and he’s throwing them and I’m running and fetching them.
We were tiny, we were little toddlers and we were just devastated by laughter in this video and that is so core deep. That is such a core memory that whenever we’re together now, it doesn’t take a whole lot for Rob and I to just fall out. Then we added our little brother Dave several years later and same kind of thing. We get together and our primary language together is laughter, which means that’s what I carried into our home with our kids and boy have they accelerated the curve on that. I’m telling you, I live in a house full of comedians. We really have cultivated a family culture of comedy.
Now, there are all these wild benefits to making humor an important part of your family life. First off, God knit our very biology for laughter. As we talked about earlier, even before you have language, you have laughter. When we laugh, these amazing things happen in our very physiology. First of all, laughter releases all of these endorphins and those endorphins are what help make your body feel really good. When you come off of laughing really hard, think about it, you have this sense of feeling good and you don’t notice the aches and pains or that knee that’s been a little swollen. It just kind of goes away. If you laugh like I laugh with my brothers, it’s practically like a long distance run. I mean, you are gasping for air at the end of it, which actually is fantastic.
You actually increase your oxygen uptake when you are laughing really hard. It gets your heart going. It gets your lungs going. It makes your circulation work a little bit harder. I like to think that I have burned a lot of calories in my day by laughing and laughing hard instead of just going out and running some miles. So that’s how I justify watching comedy shows and all the rest. This is my cardio, right? Think about it, comedy cardio. It’s not just that God wired us so that we would have a physiological response to laughter, although that is a big one. Because we also have this impact on our sense of wellbeing, on our sense of mental wellness. People who have the opportunity to laugh a lot and to make each other laugh, it brings down our stress hormones, it takes our cortisol levels down, and along with increasing these endorphins, it also is increasing things like dopamine and serotonin.
Those brain chemicals are responsible for things like our overall mood, how we perceive our happiness levels, things like that. It also drops our anxiety. For me, that may be one of the reasons I’ve always been so drawn to things that are funny. I would’ve never told you that I was someone who was grappling with anxiety a lot because my way of coping with anxiety is just to get busier and busier and busier. When you’re super productive, you don’t often understand that a lot of that productivity is the jet fumes of the anxiety that’s driving you. If I start feeling anxious, I just throw stuff into high gear.
I’m one of those people if I’m stressed out because I have so much to do and I’ve got a big book deadline and I’ve got a media client who needs me to get some content out to them, I’m the girl who for no good reason it seems will go out and decide this is the perfect time to clean out the garage and hit the book deadline and get the content to the media client. It’s taken me a very long time to understand that it’s my anxiety that’s fueling a lot of that production, but I can also see now that a really healthy way that I’ve managed anxiety, now that I’m willing to call it that, took me a long time to be willing to say that’s what it was, but now that I understand that’s what that is, I can see that in times of high anxiety, I was very much drawn to making sure that my comedy diet was high.
I would take a pause, I would go watch something funny, I’d read something funny, I’d call a friend who’s really funny, and that has been my way through the years even without realizing it, that I was helping drop my anxiety levels. So if you’re someone who is grappling with nervousness, with a sense of being overwhelmed with everything that’s going on, if you feel yourself drifting into that anxiety lane, rather than going to some of the things that you might do like doomscrolling or procrastinating or eating the sugar or the things that I certainly have also done, I want to encourage you to think about going and listening to something funny, finding something funny, and see what it does for your anxiety levels.
Some of my very favorite summer memories are when I would go to the library during the summer as a kid and I would just sit myself down in front of an aisle and just pull book after book after book, doing all kinds of reading and dreaming and researching. That is something I still carry with me to this day. There’s just something about getting into the library and taking some time to peruse the aisles, look at different things, let my mind go in different directions. Guess what? That’s we want you to do with the King County Library System because this summer there’s a summer reading program for all ages. You can earn prizes for reading. You can enjoy different programs and activities at the library all summer long.
This free summer reading program is open to children, teens and adults. Here’s the goal. Your goal is to read 20 minutes per day or you can set your own reading goal if you want, through August 31st. Any kind of reading counts. So this includes reading to someone else out loud or listening to an audio book or taking that little summary to the pool while you play in the sunshine. So be sure and visit your community library to pick up a reading challenge log or go to kcls.org/summer. That’s kcls.org/summer to get started. So book it, see what I did there, to your King County Library System and be sure and sign up for the summer reading program.
Now, another way that professionals tell us that comedy, that laughter, that humor is really good for us is that it builds our resilience. I can tell you that some of the times I have laughed the hardest with my brothers have been at some of the hardest times we’ve ever experienced. I know that sounds strange. I know that sometimes we can use laughter as a deflection, but there is something so epically pure about being in tears, being in a posture of grief and also finding things that are funny alongside the people you love. I think about when my brothers and I went to clear out my mom and dad’s house, and if you’ve not had that experience, it is rough.
My dad had passed away very suddenly due to a medical error. At his passing we realized that my mom was starting to grapple with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia, which as long as he was around, we weren’t necessarily seen, but once he was gone became very evident and then her symptoms became quite full-blown. So it was on my brothers and I to go clear their home after we got her situated in a memory care situation. Going through their home was so hard because you’re looking at the physical reminders of what is now gone, what is over. This home where we had made so many memories for the previous decade, we knew we were going to be putting on the market, it’s just rough. It’s just rough all the way around.
There were lots of tears and lots of really big complicated feelings over those three or four days that we were going through their home, but there was also so much laughter. We would get so tickled. We were doing stuff to play and to tease and to lift some of the heaviness. In the doing, we became more and more resilient. We could acknowledge fully that we were doing something that was so difficult and challenging while at the same time we were still delighted to be together and so thankful for the relationships that we had between the three of us. Laughter allows me to span emotions that don’t seem to fit together. Does that make sense? I want to say it again. Laughter allows me to span emotions that I would not normally put together or would think would in any way be a coordinated mental outfit and yet laughter allows me to hold space for both.
So when we’re going through hard stuff, we can feel like to do something that’s funny or to say something that’s funny would be “inappropriate”, but I would propose that those are the times that we often need it the very, very most. When you are walking through tough seasons, of course surround yourself with those people who know how to be compassionate, who know how to let you cry, who aren’t afraid to sit with you in your emotions, and they’re not trying to truncate the heaviness of it. We all need people who will let us be raw. But that rawness can also include laughter. That rawness can also include dark humor that comes up in these kind of moments. Don’t be afraid to let the slats of sunlight of something funny come into your heart when you are in a place that is dark.
God gives us laughter in those moments for a really important reason. You will walk out stronger when you allow yourself to also see the things that bring a smile to your face even in the depths of a lot of tears. Laughter is this incredible connector and it strengthens our relationships because we are sharing the same experience. When you laugh with someone and you’re both laughing hard at the same thing, there is this sense that we are totally on page. For a lot of us who find ourselves in conversation in different positions or seeing things differently or we have a different way of life or we have different opinions or we have a different belief system, when we’re able to laugh together, all of a sudden it helps mitigate some of the places where the differences can be highlighted and it puts us all in this place of laughing at the same thing.
So laughter in that way is also a great way for reminding us of the place where we really enjoy people, even people we sometimes find to be difficult. Laughter also has this beautiful way of letting off some steam, right? When things get a little heated, if somebody can make a joke, if somebody can make it funny, then if conflict or disagreement is rising, laughter can help bring that back down to level and it has a very important place in a lot of our humor interactions.
Now, like I said, I grew up in a family that truly were naturally funny. My parents were from the Deep South and if you have family members from the Deep South, then you may know that storytelling, hysterical storytelling is just part of the experience. Now, my husband’s family, delightful, amazing, from Oklahoma, not quite the Deep South, my in-laws, the sweetest ever, so fun. Yet while they knew how to laugh together and laugh hard, they didn’t have that sort of innate storytelling that all of my mom and dad’s cousins seem to have. All my mom and dad’s cousins I thought should have all been standup comedians. So when I came into Mike’s family, I sort of became the storyteller and the one telling the funny stories, but then I was able to tease out over time my in-laws and Mike’s growing up experience, they certainly had some really funny stuff that went down as well.
But I love this about my husband Mike. He appreciates things that are funny so much and he would probably tell you that he doesn’t necessarily consider himself someone who’s just innately funny, but he so values it that even though he has been named the world champion of public speaking for Toastmasters, he goes to a Toastmasters club specifically for developing comedy, which I admire so much. Yes, there are those people who are naturally funny and we admire them so much, but being funny, finding humor, trafficking in laughter, it is something we can actually develop. Part of how we’re able to do that is put yourself around funny people. Seek them out.
I have just some kind of homing device for people who are funny. Hang out with them, see how they communicate, see how they are able to say things in such a way that creates this beautiful connection and people walk away feeling lifted and feeling all those great brain chemicals that God gave us that just pop online when we laugh. Find those people because part of that becomes really central to four things I want you to know when it comes to your family. I want to encourage you to cultivate a family culture of comedy. I’m going to say it again, cultivate a family culture of comedy. This is something of a discipline.
When Mike and I have been on the road with the kids and something goes sideways or when we have a holiday and something is not working out the way we wanted or we have a vehicle breakdown or we have an appliance start leaking or whatever, there is a discipline to deciding that you’re going to find the funny in it. Laughter is this beautiful way to push back against the things that are coming to steal our joy. There are those times, you’ve had them, I’m sure you have, where you have planned and you’ve done all these things and it just is not working out. The flight gets canceled or the resources that you ordered in that were supposed to be there don’t show up and you have an option at that point to either continue to focus on what’s missing, to focus on what is frustrating, to focus on what has not gone as you have planned.
Or you can decide that you are now standing in a field of all kinds of grains of comedy that you can develop into a narrative that you’re going to see the joy and the laughter in. Your children will benefit when they see you intentionally look for what can be funny. Now, yes, should we always look for the good? Yes, but I’m talking about something that’s just a little step further in which you find some things to laugh about. That is one of the first places that you can cultivate a family culture of comedy. Why should you be developing a family culture of comedy? Because of the things that I talked about. It’s going to increase the connection between your family members. Even if you have kids who are very, very different, if they can laugh at some of the same things, that keeps connection.
If you and your spouse can laugh even in the midst of struggling with conflict or hard seasons in marriage, it continues to maintain and strengthen your connection. Laughter is this gorgeous glue. You need to have it in your family culture. It is necessary, it is good and it is God-given, so be intentional to look for the things that are funny.
Second thing I want you to know. As you are developing this family culture around humor, as you are making laughter a priority, part of what all people I know who are funny talk about is you’re going to make mistakes with it. Your kids are going to make mistakes with it. Your kids are going to go too far. They are going to tell a joke at Thanksgiving that has you just clutching your pearls because now they’ve said this in front of your great aunt and everybody knows that your great aunt is very straight laced, and now your kid has just told a joke that they should not have told. Hey, that is part of it. We don’t need to shame our kids when they come to us with something that they think is funny that may go too far.
We can take that pause. We can take it as a teaching moment. We can tell them that we appreciate that they’re wanting to make us laugh and what a gift that is, and here’s a way that we can make sure that everyone in the room is able to laugh. Here’s a way that we can say something funny and not make someone feel concerned or off. But your kids are going to blow it. You are too. We’ve all tried stuff that we thought was going to be really funny and sometimes it’s as simple as it just doesn’t land, but sometimes it really isn’t something that’s appropriate. So until you experience it, it’s tough to learn. So just know ahead of time when you make laughter an important component of your family life, you’ve got to give your kids some room to make mistakes with their humor.
Now, the third thing I want you to know when it comes to developing this family culture of comedy is we have been pretty hard over on not letting our kids’ comedy be at one of the other kids’ expense. These places where there are families who they are teasing and picking at each other all the time, that has a way of devolving very quickly into verbal bullying wrapped in things that are funny. It’s very passive aggressive when this happens. So Mike and I have been pretty vigilant to stay on top of not allowing that to be considered comedy in our family. Now, do we have times that we get really tickled each other or one of us does something and the rest of us fall down in laughter? Yes. I’m not talking about those very organic moments that just happen, I mean, and should happen. They’re hilarious.
But I am talking about this place where someone becomes the butt of every joke, someone becomes the one who everyone else is laughing and you can see it on their countenance that it hurt or it frustrated them or it upset them. We’ve tried to really monitor that with our kids because we don’t want in the development of a family culture of comedy for someone to end up feeling like they were the one who was excluded or they were always the punchline. So monitor yourself and monitor your kids with that. Make sure that you’re veering into lanes that can be shared amongst all the family members, things that are goodhearted, kind-hearted. That’s really, really important.
Then another way that I know this is going to sound strange, but I’m telling you it’s a thing, if you’ve ever watched David Letterman from back in the day, David Letterman had this really unique way of saying something that wasn’t necessarily all that funny the first time he said it, but then he’d say it again and the audience would get a little more tickled and then he’d mention it again and the audience would get more tickled, and over time, by the end of a show, he could say something that seemed so innocuous and so obscure, but within what he had developed is the culture of that audience, it was hilarious.
In our family, we have little statements, certain little words, things that have come up through the years that are part of our nuclear family comedy language. Nobody else would get it when they walked in here. They would not understand. Even us trying to unpack and explain the joke to them probably would not make sense, but because we’ve been doing the Letterman for a long time in this family, there are moments things that we can say, things that if things are getting a little heavy or there’s some kind of debate going on at the house or whatever, we can throw in one of these little phrases or words that all of us have the context for, the inside baseball, and it will absolutely dissipate and bring that connection back. Your family should have some of those moments.
What are some little things that you can identify now that are statements or words that your family says that bring that sense? It is intentional. David Letterman is a comedic genius and he was doing this on purpose because it was creating a connection in that audience every night that was unique. It wasn’t the same joke repeated all the time, but every night he was intentional to create that moment. Create that for your family. Find something that’s funny, repeat it, let it become part of the vernacular of your family in a way that triggers laughter for all of your family members.
Now, I was trying to think about how to end this episode and it just feels right that I should end it with some mom jokes, which you know ahead of time means they’re going to be really punny, super obscure, but we’re going there. I’ve got three for you. Are you ready? Get ready to think. A woman in labor is having a terrible time and suddenly shouts out, “Shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t, can’t.” “Don’t worry,” says the doctor. “These are just contractions.” Okay, that probably is a mom joke specific to homeschooling moms, and in my case, writer author moms, but I love it. Rewind it and listen again. You’ll get it.
Okay, here’s the second one. What do you call a mom who can’t draw? What do you call a mom who can’t draw? Tracey. Okay, I’m not going to torture you for much longer. Here’s the last one. What did the mom broom say to the baby broom? “Go to sweep.” All right, I’m going to let you off the hook. That’s all I got for you. Hey, thanks so much for being with me today. I would love it if you would text the word mom, M-O-M, to 89419. Let’s text mom to 89419. We have all kinds of great links, encouragement, links to this episode that we can send you, so be sure and text me. I’d love to hear from you. Check out allmomdoes.com and AllMomDoes on the socials. You’ll find a great community of women just like you navigating all the stuff, the kids, the husband, the job, spiritual life, all of it. You’ll find that at AllMomDoes, and I would love to see you there.
Also, I’m on the socials, Instagram primarily. You can find me at Julie Lyles Carr all the places. I love it when you come in, tell me things that you noticed on the podcast or when you ask questions or you have ideas for upcoming episodes, all of that means so much. Be sure and leave a five star rating and review wherever you get your podcast because it helps other people find the podcast as well. Show notes, we got show notes. Rebecca puts those together each week and you can find all kinds of links and resources by going there as well. I’ll see you next time on the AllMomDoes Podcast.