I went to a comedy gig last month, and halfway through the show it occurred to me: I’m happier than I thought. I was watching a Dutch comedian (Samba Schutte) and I laughed from start to finish. I was impressed with his energy, the ease with which he told his story, and the way he played with the audience’s emotions – inviting us repeatedly to indulge in intense peaks of laughter, holding us there for a while, before allowing the whole audience to fall back to earth in the controlled descent of his sombre and serious interludes.
Those breaks in the exuberance – reminders of the more sober aspects of life – offered pause for thought; a chance to reflect on the freedom which laughter offers us in spite of life’s pain. They allowed us to witness and experience in finer detail how easy it can be to access unrestrained joy whenever we want. I sat in my seat for 80 minutes, among a group of strangers enthralled by the artist’s positivity and innocent charm, and I enjoyed every second.
Sat to my right, however, was a man who, I can only reason, must have agreed to go along with his wife as some sort of token gesture; part of a deal, perhaps, which would see her take a greater interest in one of his hobbies than she would otherwise wish. Or maybe it was a suggestion from their relationship therapist. Who knows? All I can say is that this particular stranger hardly laughed at all. It was a shame because such shared experiences can create connections between people; bridges which are more easily traversed than if we were to encounter each other in the street. I looked across at him a couple of times, expecting to unite in a punchline or in appreciation of the comedian’s art, but it didn’t happen.
I had seen the show once before, the previous summer, so maybe I had an advantage. Regardless, I had gone there with a clear intention and the express permission to laugh as loudly as I wanted. I was free to let myself go; and that’s what I did. Furthermore, thanks to the stillness of the man next to me, I realised how much happier I am than I thought. So in future, whenever I get too low, I will look back at this post, think of Samba jumping about the stage entertaining anyone who wants it, and smile to myself because, despite the interludes which sometimes seem to dominate our thoughts and threaten to drag us down, life is rich, and laughter is only a breath away.