To Joke, or Not To Joke? That, Is the Impractical Question.

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Earlier this week I decided to be a responsible 25 year-old adult man with a job and use the free time I had on President’s Day to get my oil changed. I had the day off, was cruisin’ off the high of a caramel iced coffee from Dunkerino’s, and I was finally doing something I’d been putting off for almost a month. And the blessings continued to be bountiful as I got to the service center and the waiting room TV was on the greatest “idk what else to watch” show of all time: Impractical Jokers.

Now, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I don’t strike them as someone who likes the Jokers. They’re not wrong either. As someone who really likes comedy and has been known to trash on “dumb” shows like Ridiculousness, Big Bang Theory, etc. it makes sense, but that makes me sad. I can’t imagine not loving the show. It’s just 4 dudes who love hanging out with each other and making each other laugh uncontrollably. I have a ton of great memories of lying on the couch with my family and all of us erupting into laughing fits because Joe told Sal to tell people his name was “Deborah Boob Job” or something. And that’s the beauty of it! No need to analyze why it’s funny, you just feel that it is!

So I’m chilling in the customer lounge and there’s a middle-aged man a few chairs down from me who has been actively avoiding looking at the TV for the entire time I’ve been there. This man must’ve been disgusted by the Saints of Staten Island because he would look around the room, at his phone, at me, but couldn’t stomach looking at the broadcast of Tru TV. It was kinda sad, and it got much sadder.

Just as the guys make people uncomfortable with their pranks, I must’ve made my customer lounge companion uncomfortable with my laughter, because my man took out AIR POD PROS to NOISE CANCEL my audible joy.

I felt slighted. Annoyed. You seriously can’t take a few chuckles now and then? That’s really distracting you from reading the latest NY Times Op-Ed? SCREW YOU. YOU AREN’T BETTER THAN ME PAL. I KNOW HOW TO READ TOO.

But quickly, that anger turned into pity.

Pity that this guy couldn’t watch and enjoy a ridiculously funny, yet stupid show, and laugh along with the random kid a few chairs down, especially in a time where we can’t interact with many people anyways.

And it really got me thinking that there’s 2 kinds of people you can be in this world, someone who jokes, or someone who doesn’t. If someone likes and/or dislikes Impractical Jokers it can tell you a lot about them. A perfect “vibe check”, if you will. You like the Jokers? You like to have a good time. You dislike them? Lighten up! You’re indifferent? That’s totally fine! I can totally see how it’s not for everyone, but to hate on people who enjoy them? BAD VIBES. When I’m thinking about who I wanna be, I wanna be a guy who can sit back, see people laughing, and laugh along.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my therapist a few weeks ago regarding the movie Wonder Woman 1984 (realizing as I write that I may not be getting textbook counseling, but hey, it works for me) and how it was received. I watched it the day after Christmas and had a really great time with it. Fun 80’s vibes, really wild different plot line, great actors like Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig joined the franchise, what’s not to love!?! Well, according to THOUSANDS of people on twitter, A LOT.

If you follow movie reviews and news whatsoever you probably saw the onslaught of hate this movie got. Saying it was boring, criticizing Kristen Wiig’s “character development”, picking apart the logic of the film and it really bother me because, IT’S WONDER WOMAN!

What we’re you expecting??? You want Marty Scorcese to direct this thing make it 3 hours long and make “Wonder Woman” a metaphor for gender inequality in the 1950’s? NO. I wanna see Gal Gadot use her electricity whip on a CGI half-woman half-cheetah while wearing a golden eagle costume. And that’s what I got!

You can think the same way about Impractical Jokers. If you go into it just wanting to have a good time, you will. If you come at it ready to criticize, hate, and get mad, you probably will.

This is why I brought up the WW84 incident in my session. I was feeling super negative about so many things. It was recently after the Insurrection at the Capitol, covid cases continued to spike following the New Year, winter was in full swing and the high of the Holiday season was fading. I felt like all my senses were only capable of picking up on negativity, and in turn I was only putting out bad vibes too. It sucked.

But as we were talking about this we discussed 2 things that could help alleviate some of this negative energy. And that’s “negativity bias” and the idea of the “No Complain Campaign”.

Negativity Bias is basically human’s tendency to look at the negative in order to survive. It goes all the way back to when we were neanderthals just trying to not die. You couldn’t sit and admire the beautiful bengal tiger you saw in the jungle, because, well, it was going to rip out your intestines and slurp them up like luke-warm porridge. In order to survive, we adopted a habit of focusing on negative stuff. And that’s to say, it’s not bad to be negative necessarily! Especially right now, there’s plenty to be negative about. If you do feel like things are bad, those feelings are valid! It just takes a toll on you when you feel like you can’t see positivity in anything, and that’s how I was feeling.

This dude explains the phenomenon better, and gives some good tips on fighting it as well.

To kind of fight this, we decided on writing down one thing I’m grateful for, and one thing that makes me happy, every day. I know this sounds like something Ellen would tell her intern after they asked her if they could take a 10 minute lunch break because they haven’t eaten in 36 hours, but I have really seen it change my mood. Don’t get me wrong, some days I do have to rack my brain a bit, and it doesn’t cure depression or anything, but I have noticed in the month or so that I’ve been doing this I have a lot more energy towards the end of the day, I’m not dreading getting up to work, and I’ve just been more peaceful when something negative happens. Writing down those few good things at least reminds me that although every day may not be good, there’s good in every day.

The other thing we discussed was the “No Complain Campaign” which I legit think may have started from Catholic boomer white ladies on Facebook pledging to “complain less”, so I totally get why you would be skeptical about this. But the basic idea is to keep it top of mind when you’re complaining and actively decide not to. For me, the battle always came right when I woke up. Complaining about being tired, not wanting to log onto my computer, etc. It’s hard! But I started catching myself in the morning and trying to have a positive outlook on the day. A big part of this too was consistently doing a 5-10 minute morning meditation to reassure myself that each day has the potential of being good. What I found was that I was starting the day with an attitude of “hey, this might not suck!” (which was an improvement) and low and behold my days have sucked less since I started.

Again, I get that these are corny solutions to huge philosophical problems that are emphasized even more because of the objectively darker world around us…but it’s been helping me and it’s worth giving a shot if you’ve found yourself in a rut too.

I really hope this doesn’t come off as “depressed? try being happy :)” advice, because it’s really not. It’s not really about being happier it’s just being more at peace and less drained by negative thoughts at the end of the day. And of course, when you are depressed it’s hard to muster up the energy to do a lot of things, especially to look for good things and write them down. I just can’t stress enough this is maybe something to try if you can, but it’s not gonna solve all your problems. Take time for self-care, see a therapist, take your medication, do whatever you gotta do to make it through the day and there’s no shame or judgement behind it.

So to finish off this runaway train of thoughts that all sparked from me watching a hidden-camera show where 40 year-old men embarrass each other, I thought I’d end with a few of the things I’m grateful for and a few of the things that have made me happy since I started keeping track.

-Friendly Dunkin Workers

-Having roommates with a good sense of humor

-Cheap wine

-Tiny Desk Concerts

-Being warm under blankets in a cold room

-Bird Feeders

-Tracking a package you’re excited about

-Random corny texts from my mom

and there’s a bunch more. None of those things are amazing miracles that single-handedly remind you of the beauty of life and make it worth living, but appreciating them makes the day seem a little bit better.

So what I’m saying is, you should treat each day the same way you treat watching an episode of Impractical Jokers. If you’re expecting to enjoy yourself and have a good time, you probably will. So when you’re asking yourself, am I someone who jokes? Or who doesn’t? I hope you chose the joker lifestyle. It’s a little bit easier.

I know this was a weird post and not necessarily full of jokes, but thanks for reading if you made it this far. And as always if you’re going through anything and feel like there’s no joy/happiness/hope, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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