Solid laughter

Laughter must be bought, usually from wall hanging machines at train stations and in select public houses. The machines are the kind of machines that sell bubble gum and pistachio nuts in our own world. If you collect enough of the ring pulls you can send them back to the manufacturer and get a free poster. Laughter is pretty cheap. It has to be. Market forces dictate as much.

There is a specialist shop selling it in Illinois, in some town about fifty miles north west of chicago. The shop sells vintage laughter from different years, representing the changing tastes and fashions of mirth. They also sell the canned laughter of the famous. Their most prized product is some Robert De Niro‘s laughter, specially made for him for his role in the film ‘King of Comedy’.

When the laughter comes out it is solid visible matter. Every time anybody laughs it appears in the air in front of them. It looks different for every person who laughs. People‘s laughter starts to change as they get older. Once a laugh is there, it never really goes away, but it doesn't fill up the space. It‘s solid for a brief period, then gradually dissipates; becomes part of the air, colouring it. You can see it fairly easily if there‘s been enough laughter in a place. If there‘s been a lot of laughter in one place in a short time, for example, when two hundred people are watching a very funny comedian in a crowded comedy club, then there is more solid laughter in the room than people. That can lead to strange things happening. There was a flash mobbing event organised once where someone got hundreds of people to turn up at the public chamber of parliament in a small Eastern European country (I can‘t remember which). Everybody started laughing in protest at the legislation that was being passed. The building had to be closed for months afterwards, and the open section of parliament was closed forever. It led to strict laws and penalties on public laughter going above a certain decibel threshold with gatherings of three people or more.

Here in England, there was a project set up by a local council one year to try and clean laughter; to make sure the streets weren‘t full of the wrong laughs. It didn‘t work. The same council now has strict fines on the wrong kind of laughter. There are signs all over town telling people to keep their borough clean. Yet still, people walk the streets and it‘s not hard to see what‘s been happening in a place. In some neighbourhoods there are vigilante groups who wander, picking jokes with each other, trying to make their communities nice. The results are mixed, but nonetheless one must ask ‘what is a neighbourhood without such people?’