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The power of laughter

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the power of laughter.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (LOL) and the means to display them.

    If possible, insert photos of three particularly humorous members of staff into Slide 1. Alternatively, you may wish to insert photos of three famous comedians.
  • Have available the YouTube video ‘Baby laughing hysterically at ripping paper’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 1.43 minutes long and is available at:


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the students which of the people on the screen they think is the funniest. Have a simple vote by asking the students to raise their hands, and then announce the winner.

  2. Explain that, now that (insert name) has been established as the funniest, you want to see if you can do any better. Explain that you are going to tell three jokes and you want the students to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down depending on how funny they think the joke is.

    - What do you call a dog that can do magic? A Labracadabrador.
    (Pause to allow time for thumbs up/down.)
    - Why couldn’t the bike stand up by itself? It was two tired.
    (Pause to allow time for thumbs up/down.)
    - How does a penguin build its house? Igloos it together.
    (Pause to allow time for thumbs up/down.)

    Point out that even though the jokes weren’t that funny, they succeeded in uniting us and brought a bit of a smile, or perhaps a groan.

  3. Tell the students that this assembly is going to consider the power of laughter. Laughter can be a hugely helpful tool when we feel under pressure or alone. Over the past few months, laughter has been particularly important for people. It has helped them to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and many comedians have used their skills to keep people’s moods upbeat.

  4. Laughter releases all sorts of neurotransmitters in our brain that help us to feel good and connect with others. However, unfortunately, laughter can also be used to hurt others. Today, we are going to reflect upon the power of laughter, both for good and bad.

  5. Show the YouTube video ‘Baby laughing hysterically at ripping paper’.

    Explain that the video shows the interaction between an adult and a baby. The baby’s laughter is infectious; we can hear the dad laughing with the baby.

    Explain that the piece of paper being ripped up was bad news in the form of a job rejection letter. Between them, the dad and the baby find a way to manage that disappointing news through the power of laughter. The dad must have felt much more positive about life after this exchange of laughter and the baby has had a chance to connect and share a positive moment with his dad.

    It’s great that even at this young age, we can benefit from laughter. In fact, the Navajo, a Native American tribe, have a ceremony to mark and celebrate a baby’s first laugh because it is seen as an important milestone in the baby’s introduction to and membership of the community.

  6. Show Slide 2.

    Laughter connects us in a powerful way and it feels good. When we share laughter with others, we benefit from the experience of being in sync with others, strengthening our relationships. Laughter is like social glue. Endorphins and other neurotransmitters released by social laughter help us to manage stress and be more creative and flexible in our thinking.

    Laughter also helps us to manage pain, strengthens our immune systems and relaxes us. It raises our mood, is good for the heart and improves blood circulation. It feels good to laugh: laughter is good for us.
  7. Of course, the power of laughter can be used in less positive ways. Sadly, we’ve all probably been laughed at during our lives. Sometimes, people use laughter as a way of poking fun or mocking another person. We have plenty of idioms in English to describe this, such as being the laughing stock, the butt of the joke or a source of ridicule. There is a fine line between gentle banter that pokes fun and cruel humour that is hurtful and unkind. It takes maturity and wisdom to understand the difference.
  8. So, how can we harness the power of laughter in a positive way that benefits ourselves and others, and avoid the use of humour to hurt others?
    Show Slide 3.

    - A good place to start is to smile more: think of smiling as a warm-up to laughter. When we smile, we show others that we are open to laughter.
    - We could think of the last thing that made us laugh really hard, and do more of that. It might be watching a TV show, spending time with a friend or doing a particular activity or sport.
    - We can also learn to see the funny side in ourselves. Learning to laugh at ourselves takes some of the pressure off and gives us permission to be silly. At the right moment, being silly is a plus. Let’s look for the funny side of things.

Time for reflection

Now let’s consider the question, ‘Can someone hold a religious faith and also enjoy a laugh?’

If we go to a place of worship such as a church or mosque, it might feel disrespectful to spend our time there telling jokes and laughing. There certainly is a time and a place for humour. At a moment of quiet prayer or during the sacred part of a religious service, it is unlikely to be appropriate to tell a joke.

However, if we believe that God created us - our brains, our nervous systems and our bodies - we can say that God has given us the tools to be creative with humour. Looking after our wellbeing and our physical and mental health is an important teaching in many religions. Laughter is good for us physically and mentally, so it can be part of how religious believers care for themselves. Certainly, all religions would discourage us from using humour to hurt or attack others: we should treat others as we want to be treated.

In fact, many religious teachers have used humour. Many of Jesus’ parables included funny images that would have made his audience laugh. Once, he spoke of a camel going through the eye of a needle and another time, he mentioned someone with a plank of wood in his own eye who was focusing on the splinter in another’s eye. Perhaps neither of these examples seem that funny to us now, but at the time, these visual images and funny observations showed Jesus to be someone who could spot and use humour within the serious.

So, let’s reflect for a moment on what we’ve learnt today: humour and laughter can connect us and help us to manage stress. Laughter is good for us and, when it is used with kindness, can help others, too.

Dear God,
You created our minds, our intelligence and our imagination.
We have the power to use these to laugh and joke and create humour.
We thank you for the many people who bring joy and laughter to others through the gift of humour.
Please help us all to benefit today from the feelings of connection and positivity that we get from laughter.
Please help us also to know the right time and the right place for laughter.
We pray for wisdom, kindness and compassion that we do not misuse the gift of humour to hurt or to harm.

Publication date: October 2020   (Vol.22 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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