MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week is the first ever Minneapolis Comedy Festival. The lineup includes comedians like Seth Meyers, George Lopez and Bob Newhart.

All of this comedy got us wondering: What makes us laugh?

It’s the happiest noise in all the earth. And everyone has their own execution.

As one of the contributors to this week’s comedy festival, writer Pat Proft tells WCCO, “there’s nothing like being in a room and the whole room laughing, it just fills you with joy, it’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

Pat Proft knows that feeling well. The Minnesota native wrote Naked Gun, Hot Shots and Police Academy. He says people love physical comedy and they love absurdity, “that’s what comedy is, it’s a surprise, they can’t see it coming.”

There’s no doubt comedy leads to laughs but it turns out jokes and comedy only prompt about 10 to 15 percent of laughter.

The nation’s leading expert Robert Provine spoke to us from Baltimore saying what primarily makes people laugh is playful encounters with others.

Laughter he says is rarely about words, it’s about play. Laughing started as a social behavior amongst our primate ancestors as a way to communicate that their rough and tumble play was friendly.

Laughing is a subconscious response, similar to crying, but oh so much better.

Because what mostly makes us laugh, is playful banter, Provine says the best way to laugh more, is to socialize more. Laughter rarely happens when people are alone.

Provine is one of few experts on this subject, he explains it in detail in his book, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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