HOLLYWOOD—Laughter is truly the best medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter actually strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.
Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner. With so many people unemployed, so many businesses shut down, it’s only human to be depressed.
We have the power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use. When we were children, we smiled, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent.
We have to pay our bills, feed our children. Nowadays, some people are waiting on unemployment for months. Sometimes just one error creates weeks of waiting. But by seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life.
Laughter is good for your health. It relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. It boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
That’s why so many people loved to go to the gym. Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year. Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Laughter may even help you to live longer. According to published reports, a study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.
So with all that in mind, we will surely miss Jerry Stiller. By the way, sometimes yelling at people doesn’t usually elicit their love. Unless the person doing the screaming is Jerry Stiller. The 92-year-old Stiller’s show-business career spanned more than half a century — from the 1960s as part of a comedy team with his wife Anne Meara to acting in the 2016 film, “Zoolander 2,” directed and co-written by his son Ben Stiller.
It was Stiller’s cantankerous and ever-shouting Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld” that made him beloved. Even when Frank sought to find some level of peace by repeating the words from a relaxation tape intended to bring down his blood pressure, he would say it while screaming: “Serenity now!” The social-media outpouring of love for Stiller was moving after Ben Stiller announced the passing of his father. Twitter became in essence an interactive memorial for people to share their favorite memories of Stiller’s work as an actor. Jerry Stiller died of natural causes. Even New York’s Governor Cuomo mentioned his passing.
Young and old, famous and unknown posted clips that celebrated Stiller’s “Seinfeld” persona, from “Serenity Now” to “Del Boca Vista” (the condo development in Florida that Frank claimed Jerry Seinfeld’s parents on the show were trying to keep him out of) to — of course — “Festivus,” one of the show’s most famous episodes. If you don’t know what that means, stop reading now and go watch the episode where Frank shares the tale of a new holiday being born: “a Festivus for the rest of us!”
Back in 1996, Stiller told USA Today, when he delivered the lines in a more natural way, no one in the room laughed. So, drawing on his decades of experience as a comedic actor, he reinvented the character on the spot, transforming him from soft spoken to “this time I really screamed.” The result was big laughs and the birth of a character that led to a 1997 Emmy nomination for Stiller and a classic comedic role that solidified his legacy.
Stiller’s career, though, was built on far more than just being a guy who yelled at people on “Seinfeld.” He and the late Meara became a famous comedy duo in the 1960s, appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” more than 30 times from 1963 to 1971 and playing off their contrasting ethnicities as an Irish-Catholic woman and a Jewish man. George — put it so well with his tweet on May 11, about the late actor: “He was perhaps the kindest man I ever had the honor to work beside. He made me laugh when I was a child and every day I was with him…I love you.” Stiller made us laugh and love him by yelling at us. And for both reasons, he will be sorely missed.
Rose’s Scoop: Nick Cordero, the Broadway actor who had his right leg amputated while fighting COVID-19 has woken up from a medically induced coma. A fundraiser set up for support has raised more than $500,000.