When Laughing Isn’t Appropriate

Have you ever been in a situation when something struck you as awfully funny, but laughter wasn’t kosher for that time and place? Seems like it happens to the best of us.

Lynn Kelley Author, Lynn Kelley, children's author, Curse of the Double Digits, BBH McChiller, Monster Moon Mysteries
I don’t have a photo of the worship leader, so I came up with this to help you visualize the scene!

My sister Cindy and her husband Jim were at church one time when one of those tickle-your-funny-bone moments struck my sis.

At one point during the service, everyone greets others with a friendly handshake or a hug.

The worship leader hugged Cindy, Jim, and others, then went back to the stage to lead the music for the rest of the service.

As the worship leader raised her arms to lead the next song, Cindy noticed a name tag had become stuck under the worship leader’s arm. It said, “Hi. I’m Jim.”

My sister giggled, then checked her husband’s chest to see if his name tag was missing. Yes, indeed, it was his name tag appearing on the animated, enthusiastic worship leader’s armpit.

Cindy covered her mouth and did her best to stifle her chuckles.

Jim wasn’t amused since they were seated in the front row. “Shhh!” he warned.

As the worship leader waved her arms more and more passionately, Cindy’s laughter became harder and harder to control, to the point her shoulders rose and fell and tears streamed down her cheeks.

Finally, Jim grew so embarrassed, he insisted she leave. So Cindy went outside to ride out the laughing fit.

One of my Facebook friends, Cora Ramos, posted the following comment one time:

1654270_10201413784771840_1286897938_aI went to a Zen retreat and everyone was deep into meditation and a bee buzzed me. I jumped three feet in the air (I don’t respond well to stinging insects) and my friend next to me jumped after I did. That started a giggling phase between us that forced us out of the room/house and into the woods to laugh uproariously into tears. That ended up being a better source of relaxation and peace–laughter, the best. (Visit Cora’s blog.)

I know what you mean, Cora. Laughter releases endorphins. If we could laugh like that every day, just think how much healthier we’d be!

I’ll share one last story, although I could share a lot more, but I’ll save those for another post.

Jake (names have been changed) and his wife Barb attended the funeral of  a friend who had passed away while sitting upright. By the time he was discovered, rigor mortis had set in.

Their deceased friend was placed sitting upright in the casket. Jake and Barb looked at each other and wanted to bust up because it was so unexpected, awkward, and surreal.


Someway, somehow, both Jake and Barb made it through the service without losing it. They missed out on releasing a good dose of endorphins, but their integrity and self-control remained intact.

How about you? Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t help but giggle, but it was not the appropriate time or place? Or was there a time you wanted to laugh so badly, but you held it in?

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35 Responses to When Laughing Isn’t Appropriate

  1. You had me giggling with your sister’s story. Tears were streaming down my face. So hilarious. I believe wedding’s are not to be laughed through, especially when it’s your wedding. I giggled through Gene’s and my wedding ceremony. I couldn’t help it. I giggle when I’m nervous, bestie. I started and couldn’t stop. Gene kept looking over at me. Oh gosh. It was really something. His family staring at me. The minister not quite knowing what to think. GAH! So it’s been a story to tell the kids.

    Thanks for the belly laugh. I needed it. 🙂

    • Oh my gosh, Robyn, this is soooooo funny! I LOVE it! Do you have pictures? I’ve got to share this in a future post. I’m glad you had a good belly laugh over Cindy’s laughing jag and got your dose of endorphins for the day!

      This story keeps me in stitches every time I ask her to retell it again. She has lots of funny moments and I make her tell me them every so often because I love to laugh. My brother, too, has lots of funny stories and has a knack of telling them so I ask him to retell them, too.

  2. Hahaha, a lot of our pictures were lost in the shop fire. Gene had them in the office. 🙁 But I felt like a loon. I couldn’t help it. I just git the giggles and every time the preacher said something else I laughed even harder. ACK! Gene was beginning to think he’d better rethink this whole thing. Haha.

    • I’m so sorry your wedding pics were lost in that terrible fire. That’s awful. Maybe some of your relatives have pics of your wedding. You know, if your wedding had been videotaped, I bet it would have been a big winner on America’s Funniest Home Videos! You’ve got me laughing out loud just reading about your giggle fit. That’s sooooooo funny. I LOVE it. Lots of people laugh when they get nervous. I bet everyone in the place was either smiling or giggling! Gene must laugh about it every time he thinks of it.

  3. Oh, those are hilarious, as was Robyn’s wedding giggles! I always thought rigor mortis went away after a certain time period; I guess I was wrong.

    I only have one story and it wasn’t that bad. My best friend from highschool and I did a tour of Europe after graduating university. We were going through Germany and the tour guide was telling the bus about how there are a lot of cycle paths there. My friend and I, both having taken a lot of psyc classes, immediately looked at each other and busted up laughing. We tried to be quiet about it but because no one else on the bus seemed to think that “psychopaths in Germany” was funny, we laughed even harder. 😀

    Thanks for sharing those stories, Lynn!

    • Oh, Teresa, I think your story is hilarious! I’m still laughing out loud. If it was in the U.S., he would have said bicycle paths, so you were in the right place at the right time!

      No, I don’t think you’re wrong about rigor mortis going away. I read up on it before finishing the post and I learned rigor mortis can last up to 72 hours, but it gradually dissipates after 24 hours. Decay may have been a factor. Various conditions affect rigor mortis but I could only take so much and hoped I wouldn’t have nightmares after reading about it, so I don’t know what happened in this case. Very unusual.

  4. Janet Givens says:

    Oh Lynn, what a great topic. Your stories reminded me that some of my best laughs have come with the hospice choir I sing with, during rehearsals. We deal with and see death often, yet we grab opportunities to let laughter lighten the load. Laughter is such a release; sometimes it’s the only one possible. Frankly, I hope people laugh at my funeral. (Following the appropriate tears, of course). I loved your photo of the guy sitting up in his coffin.

    • Janet – Thanks soooooo much for your comment. That makes sense that we need a release when dealing with death. That’s awesome that you sing in a hospice choir! Yay for you!

      I feel the same way about people laughing at my funeral, too. After the appropriate tears, like you said! Glad you like my cartoon guy!

  5. My family has a dark humor. My father was only 49 when he was killed in a plane crash. Heavy sadness lots of tears and grief, but also lots of laughter for a life lived without regret. So my mother was talking to the funeral director – and started laughing when he offered her the more expensive urns. She said Roger would die if I spent that much on a vase. She couldn’t stop laughing. Ten years later, we followed our mother’s wishes and had her cremated. At her memorial we got notice that the urn would not be there on time and asked if we wanted to wait. We started laughing – a few hundred people looked at us like where where crazy…My dad had always said Cindy would be late to her own funeral. Well we went ahead and started without her. Life has deep dark moment of tears, you have to balance it with laughter- even at inappropriate time – maybe especially at inappropriate times.

    • Oh, Jolene, thank you for sharing all this. I’m sorry your father was so young when he died. I can see why your mom busted up when she said that about how your dad would die if she spent that much on a vase! And then the notice that the urn wouldn’t be there in time for your mom’s memorial, I can see why you all started laughing. So your dad was right about your mom being late to her own funeral! How ironic. I’m sorry you lost your mom ten years later. She wasn’t very old either when she passed. 🙁

      I love what you said: “Life has deep dark moment of tears, you have to balance it with laughter- even at inappropriate time – maybe especially at inappropriate times.”
      What a poignant quote. And so true.

  6. There are certain blogs I don’t dare read at work, because when I have, I get very strange looks from my coworkers! Glad I was at home while I read this one! 😀 The wedding story up above reminds me how a lot of the guests at my wedding had a hard time not laughing when my husband and I knelt at the altar–turns out his groomsmen had put tape on the bottoms of his shoes with HELP ME written on it! We’ve been married for 20 years this month, so I guess he didn’t need too much help, but I am still laughing remembering it!

    • Oh my gosh, Jennette, that’s hysterical about the “Help Me” on the bottom of your husband’s shoes. I would have busted up if I saw that! Saving this for a future post. Thanks for the laughs!

  7. Oh they are really funny! I would have laughed at all of those especially if my brother and sister were there 😉

    • Thanks Catherine! I know what you mean about being with siblings and how it’s easier to laugh when they’re around. I feel the same about mine. And certain friends, too, that share the same humor!

  8. Yvette Carol says:

    Having been raised a Catholic, and done my schooling through Catholic girls’ schools, the times I’ve laughed inappropriately and been punished are too numerous to mention. However, I will say that my brother and I share the unfortunate habit of laughing when we’re stressed, and things become too much physically. Then, the laughter becomes a release of the pressure. But in my brother’s case, the punishment at the boys’ schools he went through was ‘the cane’ – and each time he got caned, he’d laugh more, and get caned more! Poor, poor boy. As a child, when he’d tell me those stories, I’d laugh. Agh, the injustice!!

    • Oh my gosh, your poor brother getting the cane! And laughing more each time. Ouch, ouch, and triple ouch!

      I think a lot of people laugh when stressed. It’s a great coping mechanism, except for when it gets you caned. Owie! Thanks for sharing this, Yvette!

  9. This seems to be something that happens to me a lot. Something about needing to be quiet makes me get the giggles even more. These types of situations are so hard to control! I loved hearing these stories- they made me chuckle and laughter really is the best medicine. 🙂

    • Yes, when it’s taboo to giggle, it makes it harder to control it. I’m the same way. I think a lot of us are. And laughter is great medicine, whether we’re sick or not! Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie/Jess!

  10. I happen to love it when something very serious is juxtaposed with something hilarious. They are some of my best memories. We CANNOT allow ourselves to take life too seriously if we are going to make it through with some kind of quality. That’s my opinion anyway.

    • Thanks so much for your input, Jason. “We CANNOT allow ourselves to take life too seriously if we are going to make it through with some kind of quality,” I totally embrace that philosophy, which is why I’m such a goofball!

  11. Sarah Brabazon says:

    Hi Lynn,
    Your post struck a chord. I think some laughter comes when we are unsure of the correct response. When I was a teenager, my family was staying with my grandparents. My grandmother, in her day, was a stalwart of the local community, the matriarch of our family, a respected horsebreaker and not a lady to be crossed. I collected all the dinner plates, bowls and cutlery after a meal and, tripping on Nan’s chair on my way to the kitchen, fell to the ground, smashing the lot. I was aghast, but burst into horrible, uncontrolled laughter and the incident went down in family history.

    • Sarah, your grandmother sounds like an awesome lady. And I love your story about breaking all the dinnerware, then busting up about it as your natural response. Isn’t that something how laughter strikes us at the strangest times? Cool that it went down in family history! Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Patricia says:

    I have laughed at church and at a funeral. I believe something was said that, in my twisted mind, was somewhat sexual in nature; totally inappropriate for the situation and completely unintentional by the person speaking. I laughed out loud because I thought it was an intentional play on words – you know, to lighten the mood. When I realized that was not the case, I had to super glue my lips shut.

    My mind doesn’t generally wander in that direction, but for some reason the words struck me as funny at the time. I can’t remember exactly what they were now, but I remember at the time thinking it was hilarious. Too bad I was the only person who thought so.

    My mouth really needs a filter.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Patricia, that’s so funny that you were the only one who laughed out loud, but thinking it was said intentionally makes it okay. I’ve had moments when I was the only one who laughed out loud. Definitely awkward! Haha! Thanks for sharing that!

  13. My sister and I used to get the church giggles when we were kids. Something about the inappropriateness made it all the harder to stop!! 🙂

  14. Something about your laugh would be infectious, Lynn! I usually laugh on the inside anyway, so I don’t get caught out a lot. Though I have been known to over-laugh relaying a ‘you-had-to-be-there’ story 🙂

    • Alarna – I love the “over-laugh relaying a ‘you-had-to-be-there’ story”! I’m oftentimes laughing on the inside, too, but it’s hard to hold it in! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Lynn, just to let you know, I have not been getting updates from your site!! I will re-add to Feedly and try again.

  16. Susie Lindau says:

    It can be so awkward especially if it’s inappropriate. Hilarious stories Lynn. I would have cracked up too!

    • Glad you got a kick out of the stories, Susie. I think sitting next to you in some of these situations, well, I can see the two of us busting up together and having a hard time getting a grip on the laugh attack!

  17. Kourtney says:

    I tend to laugh at the most inappropriate moments. My mom and I had front row tickets to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway years ago. It was the most intense scene at the end and we watched the Phantom singing with such passion he was spraying poor Christine with his spit. Mom and I lost it. Every time he sang, Christine was more and more drenched. Everyone was giving us dirty looks but we had the best laugh we’ve had in years.

  18. Kourtney – That’s a great story! I can see why you and your mom lost it. I think I would have busted up, too! Thanks for sharing that! 🙂

  19. Pingback: Friday Funnies From A Funny Family - A Little Giggle Getaway - Lynn Kelley, AuthorLynn Kelley, Author

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