Want to know a secret?
Want to know what people say when they don’t think what you’ve just said is funny?
I’ve discovered this by saying approximately 1 bajillion unfunny things in the last 35 years. This is not a theory, this is a time tested, bad joke proven law of conversation that most people follow without even knowing it. Here it is, if you say something unfunny to someone, if you tell a story that is funnier in your head than it is coming out of your mouth, this is what the person you are talking to will say:
That’s it. It’s so simple, but it’s perfect. Because if what you just said were actually funny, they wouldn’t need to say “that’s funny.” They’d just laugh. They’d burst out in that wonderful, uncontrolled, God given thing called laughter. That physical reaction to humor and hope and life that we often take for granted, but is in fact pretty wonderful. And when your joke or story bombs, they don’t laugh. Instead they say, “That’s funny.”
I think about silly things like that a lot because I love laughter. Especially in church. I’ve long said that laughter is a gift from God and when we take it for granted it makes him want to take it back, like the unicorns. But recently, in the middle of speaking at church I experienced something I completely forget about:
You’ve never had those. Certainly not. You’re holier than that. But sometimes, in the middle of a service, a wave of unexplained, unstoppable laughter will overtake you. And that’s exactly what happened to a couple of people while I was speaking. I was in the middle of a serious point. I was talking about orphans and homelessness or something of that ilk, and when I looked out in the crowd, a couple on the third row was busting out laughing.
They were dying in their seats. I immediately started wracking my brain to think if I had said something weird. “Did I say, ‘booty, booty, booty’ instead of ‘booty, God, booty?’ Did I say something accidentally inappropriate like that time on Way FM where Wally cut to commercial right after I said it, so it just hung out in the air and we all laughed at my silliness?”
I couldn’t figure it out and so I kept looking at them. Suddenly, they were the only people I could see in the whole building and they were out of control with laughter. I could not stop looking at them. And I forgive them, because once you get the Church Giggles it’s hard to stop. Here’s what usually happens:
1. You either think of something random and funny, like a postcard from an unexpected corner of your brain or the pastor says something unintentionally funny.
2. You start to hear that sentence over and over again in your head. The soundtrack gets stuck on loop. It bubbles up from your toes into your stomach refusing to stop.
3. You immediately try to think about something serious. Like Jesus and foot washing or Moses. That guy had a serious beard. Think about Moses. For the love of Moses’ beard, stop laughing. Come on pull yourself together!
4. And then you win, for about 30 seconds. You stop thinking about it. You move on, but less than a minute later the joke comes back. Like a raptor throwing itself against the fence in Jurassic Park testing for a weakness, it was just laying low so that it could attack you with giggles from a different angle.
5. “Why isn’t anyone else laughing? This is hilarious.” That’s what you’ll think next. “Why is no one else dying right now in laughter?” Church Giggles always try to isolate you.
6. “Oh no, the person sitting next to me is giggling. There is strength in numbers and together we are forming an army of LOL.” The moment you spot a comrade in guffaw you’ve lost all hope for a recovery. They’ve just validated your laughter. You should be laughing!
7. It’s all over. You give up and just ride it out, hoping that maybe the pastor or speaker won’t notice you laughing in the middle of his message about hoboes.
But we do. We notice. I see you Church Giggles. I’ve got my eye on you. And all I can do in response is “put you on post.” It’s like “putting someone on blast,” but a lot less cooler of a phrase. You’ll be on stuffchristianslike.net before the day is out. That’s a promise.
Have you ever experienced the Church Giggles? How did it happen?