Writings | The astonishing power of laughter against the striatum

A crucial stage in evolution, man and woman moved from walking on four legs to walking on two legs. What did they do with their two arms, thus freed from a task, until then essential, to locomotion? Hand them to the neighbor as a sign of friendship? Nenni. They armed them as a form of hostility.

This reflection by Boucar Diouf in his new work, What life owes to laughter, reminds us that humans have lost nothing of their belligerent and warlike side. From his atavistic fear of losing what he has acquired and his quest for accumulation, whether sexual, material or virtual (like “Likes” on social networks).

All this because a very long time ago, humans devoted all their time to meeting extremely simple needs linked to survival. Meanwhile, in the brain, a structure, the striatum, was irrigated with dopamine with each basic need satisfied. With the effect of wanting to start again! Apply the formula to the consumer society of the 21ste century and conclude.

This biological heritage, very useful in a distant era because it allowed us to live another day, predisposes us “today to misfortune”, maintains Boucar.

We will leave it to others, more learned, to support or pulverize this way of seeing things which constitutes the first part of his work – and the most successful.

Why successful? Because, in this part, the author’s desire to combine laughter and science is perfectly realized. In a unique style combining scientific words and local language, Boucar demonstrates that our brain, as brilliant as it is, can sometimes (often) be a “machine of mass creation and destruction”.

Once the diagnosis is on the table, he suggests laughter therapy, a “fan that chases away negative energies”. This is where things get a little out of hand. We suddenly have the impression of attending a show where the jokes follow one another, stretch out, and repeat themselves. Some dirty jokes are worthy of the XXe century. Here and there, puns are agreed upon.

Fortunately, the finale, developing from the chapter nicely titled Africassée, returns to more tender, wiser considerations. It takes us back to the ideas developed in the opening to help us think better.

Boucar Diouf has a lucky hand in his way of outlining the values ​​of diversity, living together, and simplicity. This hand that Boucar extends to us is never armed. Otherwise a good joke.

In short, the striatum remains, but laughter wins.


“Does the earthworm suffer when it is cut in half? You laugh, but this last big question has divided humanity for so long. However, only earthworms can answer it. You still need to know at what point you should extend the microphone to question him if you want to avoid getting a response that doesn’t make sense. »

Who is Boucar Diouf?

Quebec scientist, humorist, speaker and essayist, Boucar Diouf was born in 1965 in Fatick, Senegal. Arriving in Quebec in 1991 with a master’s degree in plant biology from the University of Dakar, he obtained a doctorate in oceanography from the University of Quebec at Rimouski in 1998. From the classroom where he spiced up his lessons with a good dose humor, Boucar Diouf took to the stage. Also an author and presenter, he is a regular contributor to The Press.

What life owes to laughter

What life owes to laughter

Editions La Presse

272 pages

source site-56