Laughter is Good for the Soul
About the Guest
Heard on FamilyLife Today®: Comedian Tim Hawkins reminisces about his childhood and his mother’s unique ways of disciplining him. Joining Tim by phone is his mother, Nelda, who dispels any fibs Tim might have told about her mothering techniques.
Heard on FamilyLife Today®: Comedian Michael Jr. talks about his feature film released in October 2018 called, “More Than Funny.” While the movie is indeed funny, Michael explains why this movie is more than just a way to be entertained. He hopes it will serve to motivate viewers to use their gifts to serve others.
Laughter is good medicine, healing to the soul. Our guests, Michael Jr., Tim Hawkins, and Kristin Exton, explain how laughter is therapeutic, even on a spiritual level.
Michelle: People like to laugh; in fact, we like to laugh so much that we will pay people to make us laugh. Here's comedian Michael Jr.
Michael Jr.: [Applause] Thank you so much. You guys are awesome; you guys are fun. It's going to be great! Tonight, we're just gonna bring the jokes for the folks—a couple samples. I'll talk about my kids. I got five kids, man! And I travel a lot, you know, so I can see them all; you know? [Laughter] It’s comedy! It’s comedy; okay? Calm down. Christians start praying: “Lord, just bless him, God. [Laughter] He don’t know what he’s doing! [Laughter] He don’t know. He don’t know.”
What else are we gonna talk about? Well, we just had a new baby—just had a new baby. Did you know ultrasounds come in color? Did you know that?—which is ridiculous—I know it was a black baby. [Laughter]
So I think—like, I've never done this before—just so you know, I've never done it before. I'm just tripping. I'm on a boat, and then they told me they was having an auction in the Plantation Lounge. [Laughter] That’s a little weird. I don’t know, but that is a little weird for me. [Laughter]
So look, I'm Michael Jr. We’re gonna have a really good time tonight, and it'll be fun; so I'll see y’all there. I appreciate you. I love you.
Michelle: That was comedian Michael Jr. on a FamilyLife®Love Like You Mean It® cruise.
We're going to talk about laughter today. We're going to talk about why we laugh; we're going to talk about the purpose of laughter in our lives on this edition of FamilyLife This Week. I'm sure you've heard that laughter is good for the soul; and according to the Bible, a merry heart is good medicine.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I love to laugh; don't you? It kind of makes you feel better on those darker days; right? And it actually adds something even on the lighter days.
I read an article, a while back, that said genuine Christians should actually laugh more than other people; because we, of all people, should laugh—we should smile; we should be joyful—because God has been so good to us. We do have a reason. In Psalms, David wrote these words: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” Isn't that great? We do have a reason to laugh.
So, today, we're going to talk about laughter. And one of the things that I've heard is that the sign of a confident person is the ability to laugh at themselves. That means that, well, there must be a lot of confident people around here, at Family Life, because we tend to laugh at ourselves. We laugh with others, but we also laugh at ourselves.
One of my favorite moments—in fact, I was in the studio, and I remember when this happened—is a moment with Max Lucado. I want you to listen to the laughter that ensued after Max got mixed up about a certain book that he wrote.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Max: But I looked up and, across the table, the father winked at me; and the mother smiled at me; and they reached over and they petted me. And he thought, “I may be in a place called home.” They adopted him, and he went on to grow up in that home and to lead a wonderful life. He gave his heart to Christ and became a great Christian man.
And the whole reason I put that story in the Bible is because that is a picture—
Dennis: —in your book—in your book.
Bob: —not the Bible. [Laughter] That would not be a good idea!
Dennis: We’ll save that outtake for NRB! [Laughter]
Max: The reason Moses, and Paul, and I collaborated on that book—[Laughter]
Keith: [Beep] Take two.
Max: The reason I put that story in the Bible is because that's the story of the great—
Dennis: You did it again. [Laughter]
Max: Someone in heaven is laughing right now. [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, yeah, they are!
Keith: [Beep] Take three.
Dennis: Okay; now try.
Max: I got it.
The reason I put that story in my Bible is because that's a—oh!!!
Bob: Now, you're stuck on putting that story in the Bible.
Max: Now I’m stuck!
Dennis: Say, “book.”
Dennis: Say it again!
Keith: [Beep] Take four.
Max: The reason I put that story in my book is because that's a picture of grace. That is a picture of grace that we have been adopted. In fact, that’s biblical language; isn't it?—that we have been adopted into the family of God—that God has made a covenant with us to bring us and let us sit at the table and spend eternity with Him.
Bob: It's a picture of grace that God didn't strike you dead for putting a story in the Bible. [Laughter] I just thought I’d throw that in! You can cut that out too. [Laughter]
Michelle: We can usually make ourselves laugh around here, and that's a good thing. But sometimes we do need others to help us laugh.
Of course, Michael Jr. knows how to help other people laugh. He believes it's part of his bigger purpose in life. He sees that laughter—well, it helps to open people up to other things, like maybe the gospel. He is known as one of today's most-gifted comedians. He's appeared on The Tonight Show and Comedy Central; Jimmy Kimmel Live. And he's been a guest performer on several FamilyLife Love Like You Mean It cruises. He's married and has five kids.
In his chat with Dennis and Bob, he shared about the moment in his life when he knew that his comedy had a transcendent purpose.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Michael Jr.: This is my theory: “Reading the Bible's like paying bills,”—hear me out. You don’t pay attention to everything; but when they show up with some red ink, you better do something—right?—before your lights get cut out or something. [Laughter]
Anyway, so I finished up reading the Bible; and then I remember going to the altar, like during the announcements at church. I say: “Hey, look; I want to do this earlier instead of later. I'm ready.” And from that point on—after receiving Jesus—I understand that it's—I'm not just funny—like, I'm funny for a reason; there's purpose behind this funny. And it feels phenomenal just to know that—to be able to walk in purpose and be funny—to go on The Tonight Show or Comedy Central and know that there's a reason why I'm there, as opposed to just because I'm funny/I make people laugh.
Bob: And talk about that reason. What is it that you think God has set you apart for?
Michael Jr.: He's clearly called me to comedically inspire people to walk in purpose—I mean, He just absolutely has, without a doubt; and I'm all about that. I'm all about His business and what He wants me to do.
Dennis: Your life radically began to change at that point, when you met Jesus Christ; and you were aware of what He wanted and what He expected of your life.
Michael Jr.: Wow. Are you narrating, right now, my life? That's amazing! [Laughter]
Bob: But that's what happened; isn’t it?
Michael Jr.: No; absolutely; yes. Because before, I didn't even know that something was missing until I received something. And now—no matter if I’m doing The Tonight Show or if I'm doing a homeless shelter—I know—like I know I'm supposed to be there, because God has a purpose for me to be there; whereas before, I was all about just getting laughs from people.
Dennis: And so, to that person, who's listening right now, who has said: “That's me. Something is missing.”
Michael Jr.: If you know something's missing—I mean, you can always tell when something is missing. This is how I kind of refer to God—here’s how I kind of tell it—it’s kind of like we're all a house. God literally gave this to me—and I talk about it on stage—it's like everyone's a house. You’ve got to just bear with me for a second.
Outside of the house is Jesus Christ, and He wants to come in. Now, He'll never force His way in. He wants you to invite Him in. A lot of times, people are okay with just having Jesus outside the house; because that way, we can open a door, talk to Him when we need to, and then just go back in our house. But He really wants to be invited in.
A reason some people won’t invite him in is because their house is a mess, and they think they need to clean it up first; but you can't clean it up. And Jesus knew it was gonna be a mess before you messed it up. The only way to clean it is to allow Him in so He can clean it. But sometimes we just won't do that. And while your house is a mess, He’s standing at the door, wearing an apron, with a bucket in his hand; because He's the only one who can clean it.
And then, there's people, who used to have Jesus in the entire house; but we just move Him to one room in the house. You ever been in a house with a good room?—like you got that one clean room that looks all nice? A lot of times, that room is the one, right up front, with the big picture window; so when people walk by, they can be like: “Wow! That's a clean house. That's nice! They got Jesus.” But Jesus doesn’t have him; He doesn’t have access to the entire house. He wants full access.
Or sometimes, maybe Jesus is in the house, but He can't even sit down. You won't let Him do dishes; you won’t let Him make your bed. You feel like you've got to do a lot of work, because He's there; but because He's there, it's just the opposite—there's no work for you to do. You just need to release and let Him do it—simply by saying: “Jesus, I need You in my life. Forgive me for my sins. Please be my Lord.”
Dennis: —and open the door—
Michael Jr.: Yes.
Dennis: —and let the King of kings and Lord of lords come in; and let Him do what He does best. He has been doing this for years. My life was transformed by a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It sounds like yours was as well.
Michael Jr.: Absolutely; if you would just open the door. And in case—there's always two people, who are not quite getting it—the house is your heart. They both begin with “H”—I was hoping you would make the jump. Anyway, so you just open your heart and say: “God, come in. I need You.”
That's where everything changed for me in a ridiculously large way. I’m a better everything as a result of having a relationship with Jesus—I'm a better father/a better husband. I'm just a really—I'm a better comedian, for sure; for sure!—like me and God will be writing jokes together. [Laughter] I'll be writing a joke; and He’ll be like, “Mmmm,”—you know, maybe the joke will be a little on the edge. And sometimes, God will be like, “Dude, that's not even on the edge!” I mean, He might not say “Dude” to you, but He says it—[Laughter]—He’s like, “That’s not even on the edge!” I’m like—
And then there are some other ones that looked perfectly clean—absolutely. And God’s like, “No; not that one.” I just feel, in my spirit, that's not the one to do; and I don't even know why, but I love throwing them away; because when I do, something better comes along.
Dennis: You were on the cruise with us, and you heard the messages that were given there.
Michael Jr.: Yes.
Dennis: You came up to me at the end, and you said, “Dennis, God has used this in a strategic way in my life to redirect me around family.” Do you remember that conversation?
Michael Jr.: Absolutely; yes, because He was already showing me that what I'm doing, comedically, is really, really about family. Any comedy that I'm doing—whether it be on The Tonight Show, or whether it be Jimmy Kimmel, or whatever I'm doing—it should be used in a way where it's healing and building the family. If it's not, then I'm just off—I'm not doing what I’m supposed to do. It should heal and build families in some way, no matter what it is—no matter what—that's really what I'm about.
Dennis: And you believe that comedy is a gift from God for us, in the journey of life; because life is a challenge/life's tough, and He does give us the ability to laugh in the journey.
Michael Jr.: Absolutely! The Bible, as you know, it says in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart is good like a medicine.” Well, sometimes, we get a little under the weather; and we need some medicine. And I'm just glad that God has given me a doctorate degree to administer the medicine He's given me, so absolutely; yes.
Michelle: A man who knows how to laugh, and who deeply loves Jesus—that's Michael Jr.—who had a conversation with Dennis and Bob a while back. If you would like to listen to that entire conversation, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. Again, that's FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, we're going to take a little break; and when we come back, we're going to continue talking about this laughter thing. I'm going to call up one of my closest friends and my therapist, and we're going to talk about the importance of why we have laughter in our lives. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are talking today about laughter. We've heard it said that laughter is good for the soul; it's medicine—it makes us—well, it makes us happy; right?
I had this question about how this is good for our soul: “Does it make us happy, or what really is going on there?” I knew who to call—my good friend and, also, a therapist—Kristin Exton. She's a licensed clinical social worker out of Colorado Springs. We talked about, well, laughter. Here's a part of that conversation.
[Previously Recorded Conversation]
How is laughter good for our mental and emotional health?
Kristin: Well, actually, Dr. Michelle Fleming said that God provided us with two great healing avenues. I love quoting from her, because I totally agree with this. She had said that, number one, healing is through laughter; and secondly, we get strength through the joy of the Lord.
And, you know, even research shows that those of us who laugh easily often live longer than those who do not. So maybe laughter is good for the soul, and maybe it's also the best medicine.
Michelle: So why does it seem to be contagious? Because if someone starts laughing, even if they haven't shared a joke, another person can easily start laughing. Have you noticed that?
Kristin: I definitely have. You know, this is because the brain responds to laughter and really preps like our face muscles to join in when we're smiling; and we begin that whole process. And one research—a neuroscientist named Sophie Scott, at the University College of London, had done some research on this, saying that they played sounds that triggered responses such as laughter and found that positive sounds like laughter were more contagious than negative sounds.
I really interpreted this to mean that it was really common for someone to respond to a positive sound, such as laughter, where it really wasn't contagious at all for someone to respond to a more negative sound, such as a scream.
Michelle: That is so interesting; but I love the fact that, with laughter, that's what sticks with you; and that's what your brain is going to follow.
Kristin: Exactly; and you know, it takes more muscles in your face to frown than it does to laugh. You know, God has really blessed us with that in making laughter contagious and allowing us to have that as a means to just really, you know, decrease our anxiety and calm down. It's just a beautiful thing, and I can't imagine life without laughter.
Michelle: Well, and it also shows just how great our Creator is. He did create this; because if our bodies, and our faces, and the muscles react to laughter, it just shows you how awesome He is/how great He is.
Kristin: Now, some researchers disagree with this. There haven't been a whole lot of studies; but let's face it, no researcher believes that laughter is bad for us, physically, spiritually, or emotionally; that's for sure.
Michelle: So how can we put more laughter in our lives?
Kristin: Well, I think that there are tons of ways to bring more laughter into our lives, and this is something that I certainly utilize in my practice daily. I came up with about seven ways that I could think of. I think, first of all, a great way to bring more laughter into our lives is to share something silly about yourself.
Now, Michelle, you know, I have no problem doing that; because the good Lord has given me much ammunition in that respect. [Laughter] So certainly—
Michelle: —against me?!
Kristin: —sharing something silly about myself is not, you know, too far for me to go. That is just something we all can do; I believe.
Another one, I think, is to do something like even play with kids. You know, I mean, really, who can provide more entertainment than children? They do silly things all the time, you know, with the funny things they do or say. I think playing with kids would definitely be a second way to bring laughter into our lives.
A third way, similar to that, would be to play with pets; because I think, second to kids, pets are doing something silly all the time, which is a lot of fun.
The fourth way I see—and I encourage my clients to do this all the time—is to watch a comedy. You know, what we do or see often stays with us—that's what we put in our mind. And why not focus on putting positive, funny things in our mind? It just makes a huge difference to us, you know, emotionally and behaviorally as well.
The fifth one is to laugh at ourselves. I mean, God gave us laughter, and He wants us to be humble; you know? Let's be more light-hearted and humble. I think laughing at ourselves is a good way to do that. Again, Michelle, you know—not a problem for me—so that's an easy one to do.
The sixth one is, I'd say, to help others laugh at themselves. It's best not to take ourselves too seriously. I think, too many times, our problems are caused by being too serious about things. Definitely, I'd say, “Help others laugh at themselves if possible.”
And the seventh one I found, which may be a little bit different, but I'd say to find humor even in something more serious. Obviously, as a psychotherapist, I need to support others to do that daily as well. We know the Lord has given us so much mercy and grace upon us that, hopefully, even in the struggles we have—for whatever reason and even through those tough times—He tells us to rejoice—to rejoice in the good times/to rejoice in the struggles. I definitely think that the seventh one—to find humor in something serious—is applicable and, I think, will glorify God in many ways.
Michelle: So will there be laughter in heaven?
Kristin: Oh, you know it, Michelle! [Laughter] I would say so. We obviously don't have all the answers to those questions; however, being with Him in glory, I would think, no matter what it looks like, it's going to be perfect in every way. It certainly is going to feel good, that's for sure.
Michelle: That's part of my helpful conversation with Kristin Exton about our time in glory and just laughter that's going to be happening there.
You know, in the Bible—in the Book of Ecclesiastes—there's this famous passage. Actually, if you know The Byrds—the Byrds made it famous—because it goes like this: “There's a time to laugh and a time to mourn.” Recently, my family experienced a death within our family. The person, who is in Jesus’s presence now, was greatly loved; and we cried hard. One thing that somewhat relieved us of the pain that we were going through was being together and laughing. We laughed through many tears at the memories that we had with him, and we laughed at each other. But as we laughed, parts of us felt better; and that laughter was healing for us.
That's what Tim Hawkins has said. He was in the FamilyLife studios to talk with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. Of course, Tim is one of the most in-demand comedians. He's a funny, funny man; and he has a very unique view about the art of comedy. He says that there's an important piece of our spirituality that is about laughter.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Tim: I go further—I think it's very holy thing. I think it’s as holy as a sermon, or a song, or anything out there. I think God totally created it, and I'm just glad to be a part of it—that's just something that I love to do.
I call it real-time ministry when I'm in front of an audience. You know, sometimes, when you write a book, you may not know until later how your book affected someone; whereas I'm able to experience it right then. If somebody's laughing and having a good time—in ways that they haven't laughed in a long time—you know, it's awesome. It really is. Some of the emails I get—I really I can't believe it—just how comedy helps people.
Bob: What was the first time when you sensed that maybe what you were doing was going to catch on with folks?
Tim: You know, it's been really kind of recent that way with the internet—with a lot of YouTube, and videos, and things.
Bob: You have become a YouTube celebrity.
Tim: It’s changed everything; because in the old days, it was just so hard, unless you sold your soul to some record label or someone like that. Now, just with the internet—and with networking sites, and Facebook®, and YouTube, and all that—it's increased so, so quickly.
And there are little subcultures of people: so if I do a song about homeschooling, you’ve got a homeschooling subculture; if you have a, you know, a group that likes to go to, you know, a certain restaurant like Chick-fil-A®—I do a song about Chick-fil-A—and then you've got all these lovers of Chick-fil-A.
Bob: Okay; grab your guitar for us. Will you do that?
Tim: Oh, sure; yes.
Bob: If you were with a group homeschoolers, what kind of a song would you do?
Tim: Well, I don't know. I don't really have a homeschooling—so I did have a song called—[Laughter]—it’s called The Homeschool Family. It's like it was a parody of The Addams Family—
Tim: —because we're homeschoolers—my wife and I homeschool. You know, it's not that we don't like public school; it's just, Dennis—that's just—you know, it's just really early, and we don't want to get up and take them. [Laughter] The response from, you know, the homeschooling community is just unbelievable; because there are just so many people that are doing it.
Bob: Do they turn angry on you?
Dennis: Do they stone you?
Tim: No; they don't! They're awesome—they're awesome people. I mean, yes.
Dennis: So they can laugh about themselves?
Tim: Yes; they make their own clothes, but they're also very cool people. [Laughter] And they make their own soap and—you know; but that's—you know, that's just one of those little subcultures.
Bob: And then you mentioned you wrote a song about Chick-fil-A.
Bob: And I saw this online.
Tim: Yes; I'm a celebrity over at the Chick-fil-A now—at the home office.
Bob: You've been down to the headquarters; right?
Tim: Yes; I talked to Mr. Dan Cathy, who is the President, the other day on the phone. He loves it. He plays—actually, the video on YouTube—he plays it before he speaks all over the country. So I might get some free chicken sandwiches out of it. It goes something like this—[Singing Chick-fil-A song] [Laughter] Everybody!
All Voices: MmmMmm—Chick-fil-A.
Tim: Oooh, that was rough.
Bob: That was pretty awful. [Laughter]
Tim: But that's what I do. I’m a frustrated rock star, I think. I just wanted to start off writing serious songs. It just always turns weird, so I just went with the weird. [Laughter]
Michelle: Funny, funny man—Tim Hawkins. Wasn't that great?
You know, now that we've had our fill of laughter—oh wait; wait. We can never have our fill of laughter. In fact, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com—that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com—and there we’ll have some links to the FamilyLife Today programs with Tim Hawkins and also with Michael Jr.
Well, next week, we're going to go on a cruise. Yep; you got that right—all-inclusive; I pay for it, because I'm made of money or something—but we're going to go on a cruise. We're going to hear from Laura Story and, also, Gary Thomas and Voddie Baucham from the Love Like You Mean It cruise. It's going to be a great show. Oh, wait; no—they're on the cruise; you're just listening. It'll be fun; I guarantee it. I'm excited about it; I hope you are too.
Hey, thanks for listening. I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Bruce Goff and Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer and Meghan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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