Why Does Smoking Weed Make Everything Funny?

Harold & Kumar
New Line Cinema/Warner Bros./Mandate Pictures/Kingsgate Films
New Line Cinema/Warner Bros./Mandate Pictures/Kingsgate Films

Nearly anyone who's smoked pot more than once has experienced the giggles, that wonderful tendency of cannabis that makes shit absolutely hilarious. It's one of those antiquated stoner stereotypes that actually holds up, mainly because it's the most universally experienced side effect (well, that an paranoia, but that's because they're watching you...) But why does weed make everything so hilarious? To find out, we talked to people who are smarter than us for a scientific answer. And a non-scientific one. Because science can be soooo boring.

pot smoker
paul prescott/Shutterstock

The non-sciencey weed + laughter connection

Because we were C students (at best) in science and stuff, we spoke to Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an advisory board member of NORML and a professor at SUNY Albany, to find out why he thinks cannabis makes everything funny.

First, you have to know what makes people laugh to begin with. The reason is not exactly cut and dry. Earleywine says that "the incongruity-resolution" model is "one of the dominant theories in humor." Essentially, not being able to see the punchline coming is what makes it funny. Here's an example:

"What's your idea of a perfect date?"
"April 20th."

Earleywine told us that joke, but used April 14th as the punchline, so we spruced it up a bit for him. And in his opinion (this opinion is not supported by marijuana researchers, it's just what he believes), "cannabis lowers the threshold for surprise." Will you ever be high enough to find that April 20th joke funny? There's only one way to find out.

Fancy doctor person Dr. Jim Hamblin wrote in a Splitsider article saying that no one's exactly sure why marijuana causes the type of laughter you get when someone's tickling you, even if nothing is funny. Thanks for nothing, science! He also says laughter is known to be contagious -- so if you add up those two factors together, you get a recipe for people thinking Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties is funny.

He also mentions a theory from the book The Healing Magic of Cannabis. The book posits that smoking cannabis gives you a "detached perspective" -- as in, you don't think how you normally do. Hamblin writes, "As you come to think differently from your normal self, it’s like having a little stand-up comedian walking back and forth fidgeting with the mic stand in your brain."

Hopefully when you're high you're more of a Louis C.K. than a Louis Vuitton. We're assuming that French designer was a serious dude.

A slightly nerdier explanation

The deputy director at NORML, Paul Armentano, told us, "Cannabinoids, THC in particular, alter mood because they activate receptors that are concentrated in various parts of the brain that regulate mood control." And it makes sense that if marijuana puts you in a better mood, you'll be more likely to laugh. Especially if you smoke weed and watch a video where a kid falls over. That stuff is never not funny. But it's extra funny when you're high.

Since a lot of marijuana's side effects haven't previously been heavily studied by the mainstream scientific community (you know, since it remains illegal, and all), there's no definitive answer out there, yet. Perhaps if it becomes legal federally one day, researchers will provide definitive answers... or at least the government will come clean about all the covert research it's been conducting on us all along! (Next article: why does weed make you think the government is reading your thoughts?)

Until that day, it's best not to think about it too hard and instead enjoy the millions of videos of kids falling down. Seriously. Shit's hilarious.

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Jon Sumpson writes about cannabis and sex for Thrillist, and thinks everything is funny all the time.