Well here’s a thing.

While consulting a book about something else entirely, I chanced this week upon a little contribution from Theodore Zeldin (of power of creative conversation fame, ‘Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives’ published in 2000 ) about ‘humour’ and ‘anxiety’.

It turns out that humour and anxiety are closer than you think.

Once upon a time they both meant nearly the same thing: an imbalance.

And this snippet of wisdom appeared just as I was wondering about two little happenings.

Happening 1. Last weekend was filled with Shakespearean celebrations. London’s SouthBank saw The Globe Theatre’s amazing series of 37 films – 10 minute essences of each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays – between Tower Bridge and Westminster .

And in front of ‘Hamlet’ I heard something of the conversation between two members of the audience. An elderly gentleman (of London, not Verona) was quietly recalling to his companion how he had once appeared, in his younger days, in a production of Hamlet. It was a young audience, and he remembered now that the sad Ophelia scene, beautifully performed, provoked … ….nervous laughter. And he had always wondered why.

Happening 2. To a team workshop, with a lovely team. But a team with a badly kept secret: the covering up of a longstanding and unspoken frustration that was inhibiting a conversation that really, really neede to happen. In a spirit of – frankly – desperation, I steered us towards some future story stuff. Amongst other things, we played around gently and not-seriously with ‘being’ different people and different roles. When … boom. We all stopped to watch and listen.

The very pair with ‘the issue’ were conducting their conversation as comedians. I can report that starting a complaint with ‘I say, I say, I say’ is a near magical thing. We were all torn between gasps (of anxiety) and howls (of laughter). It really worked. The anxiety from the anxiety- making thing was handled as laughter from the laughter – making thing. Genius.

So thank you Theodore for that insight.

A bit of googling later turned up this thought, which I now think might be rather profound:

‘Laughter is the shortest distance between two people’ – Victor Borge.

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