We all know the overlaughers. We encounter them in everyday life. You may even be an overlaugher. Typically the overlaughers have no idea they are one. Typically, overlaughers also annoy the hell out of the rest of us. I’m five sentences in and you’re all still thinking, “What the hell is an overlaugher Phil? Get to it already would you!” If this was your thought, you are probably not an overlaugher. An overlaugher is a person whose laughter is often disproportionate to the stimulus which provoked it. On the one side of this, it is nice that these people are enjoying life so much that they find even the most modestly amusing things bring them unmitigated joy. The other side of this coin is that the rest of us have to listen to them guffaw loudly during meetings, in casual conversations and during movies or television shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love to laugh and I love hearing others laugh at my jokes, but even if it is my joke, I still get the urge to slap an overlaugher right out of their fit of hysteria if it is unwarranted. There are three types of overlaughers. I’m not sure which is more irritating.
The first type is the Self Overlaugher, or an Overlaugher Type I. For most of this week I was at a conference for work. Eight hours a day for three straight days I sat in a conference room being lectured at. This first day presenter was a very attractive 28-30 year old woman who had just gotten her Ph.D. the day before yesterday and couldn’t wait to enthusiastically share all the brand spankin’ new information they had taught her in college, but which has no useful application in the real world. In an effort to spice up her presentation she interspersed jokes and amusing personal anecdotes. Early in the day I was very pleased with this approach. Then I noticed she was an Overlaugher Type I. She found herself hysterically funny. So funny in fact that she often began laughing at her jokes before the audience had a chance to. Sometimes the audience chose not to laugh since she had already done it for them. It is fine to tell jokes, in fact I do it all day long. Sometimes it is even Ok to smirk or chuckle a bit when you say something amusing. A Self-Overlaugher laughs loudly and profusely at their own jokes as if someone else had just said something side-splittingly funny.
The second day we had a different presenter who was a bit more low key. Unfortunately for the rest of us an Overlaugher Type II had taken up residence in the front row. As a performer or public speaker it is wonderful to have several Type II Overlaughers in your audience. Type II Overlaughers seem to have an over-reactive funny bone. They find everything hysterically funny and usually have very little self-awareness regarding the volume at which their laughter emanates from their body. The problem for public speakers and audiences alike is when there is just one Type II Overlaugher in the audience. When there is just one Type II Overlaugher in the audience their laughter, which is either too loud, occurs alone, or outlasts the group response, tends to make a joke seems less funny because of their singularly exaggerated response, which usually causes everyone in the room to look at them and think, “What the hell is wrong with him? It wasn’t that funny”
The Type III Overlaugher is known as the Combo type. A Combo Overlaugher laughs loudly and frequently at both their own jokes and everyone elses. The Combo Overlaughers are exhausting to be around and give most of us a headache. These people must collapse exhausted at the end of each day from the sheer energy required to maintain this laughter all day. The Combo Overlaughers strike me as very sad though because you know damn well that no one is that happy 24/7 and if they behave as if they are they’re probably hiding something. Like seeing a clown at a bar drinking and smoking at the end of a long day of making ballon animals I imagine that the Type III Overlaughers go home and drink themselves to sleep every night. The one place I do love Overlaughers however is in my comments, so please, feel free to embrace your inner Overlaugher. Which type are you?