Laughing’s weird. Science says it evolved even before language—it has roots in the breathy sound primates make when they’re play-fighting. A laugh sends the message that you’re just messing around, that everything is, in fact, safe. Laughter is the original JK text.
But if that’s true—if laughter developed to fulfill a social role—how come it gets so many of us into trouble so often?
You know what we’re saying. You’ve haha-ed during a heartfelt performance. You’ve let loose a chuckle in the church. You might have even confronted the truly tragic with an accidental guffaw.
We can’t explain why your funny bone always acts out at the worst possible moment. Maybe that’s just its sense of humor. But what we can do is promise that you aren’t alone. We combed through the best of Reddit to compile a sampling of stories about laughter gone wrong. We edited them for grammar and readability, then we served them up for you here. They prove that inappropriate laughter is a wide-ranging phenomenon.
Whatever you do, don’t read this list unless you’re free to laugh without making enemies.
You’re usually not supposed to laugh during class, but that’s not stopping anyone.
Here are just a few examples:
“Once, in middle school, a kid started having an asthma attack, and my buddy said, ‘Say hi to Jesus for me!’” wrote one Reddit user. “We both got in-school suspension. Him for saying it, me for laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.”
Yep, that’s pretty bad. This next one is totally understandable:
“At my high school boyfriend’s graduation their principal said ‘farts’ instead of ‘fine arts’ twice,” wrote shesaidgoodbye.
That’d get us laughing for sure. We’re not so sure what was so funny to the next storyteller, but who says something has to be funny for you to laugh uncontrollably?
“I was in fourth grade, I believe,” wrote bdanahy319. “The students got to take turns reading the morning announcements, and this week I got to do them (with another student). I announced a girl’s birthday, and her last name was Pinkerton.”
“This was before I knew about the Weezer album—I just thought it was a hilarious name. I could not stop laughing. Over the intercom, for the whole school. The other kid doing announcements had to finish while I cracked up in the background.”
“I was never invited back to do announcements. To top this all off, about two years later, that girl (Pinkerton) moved into the house next to mine. I remembered who she was. I don’t think she knew who I was.”
That’s probably good. You might think that the giggles wear off by college, but according to our next story, you’d be wrong.
“In a child development course in college, we were watching classmates do presentations on child psychologists,” wrote a Reddit user with a deleted account. “One group started out talking about [influential psychologist Jean] Piaget, but somehow…”
“Their spelling got more and more butchered as the presentation progressed, and finally on a slide toward the end, they had spelled his name ‘Piglet.’ Obviously, I lost my mind, and to my disbelief, nobody around me seemed to notice or care that these grown adults butchered the name that they had started out spelling correctly! Into Piglet no less!”
Here’s another animal-inspired misunderstanding. We can’t get enough of these.
“[We were having a] discussion about Huntington’s chorea,” juneburger wrote. “The professor said ‘brief, jerky movements’ and the classmate behind me muttered, ‘beef jerky movements?!’ I was crying so hard and was so red from trying to stifle my laughter that I had the whole row laughing.”
Certain movies are pretty serious. If you start laughing during the wrong scene, prepare for an angry audience.
“When I was watching the Titanic movie in [the] theater, I started laughing when all the people started to fall down the boat when it started to sink,” wrote DudeIMaBear. “The sounds when they hit the poles and things are what made me start laughing.”
“It was like when people try to grind on rails and then they eat s*** and you hear that loud ‘Bong!’ noise. People were mad, all shushing me. It was a great time.”
Don’t judge this Reddit user too harshly. Lots of people chuckle at that scene, apparently.
“In Titanic, I laughed my a** off in the theaters when the guy hit the propeller on the way down,” wrote a Reddit user with a deleted account.
Oh dear. Inappropriate laughter is hardly confined to Titanic. Lots of heavy movies get people giggling.
“I had just downed my friend’s Taiwanese energy drink,” wrote dolliezoid. “It was English class. We were watching The Pianist. During the scene where the soldiers demanded the old man in a wheelchair stand, I suddenly snorted.”
“I slapped my hand over my mouth. But I couldn’t stop. As the two men hurled the poor old man over the balcony, I was practically convulsing in laughter.”
“I didn’t get in trouble, but I got a few dirty looks.”
We bet. Here’s another classic.
“[We were] watching The Crucible in English class,” wrote grand_dad64. “Abigail is confronting John Proctor, reminding him of the time they slept together, trying to do it again. Kind of a big deal, sort of a serious scene. It comes back into the plot later during the witch trials.”
“Abigail says, ‘Speak soft words to me.’”
“My friend whispers in my ear, ‘Cotton.’”
“I lost it. Dirty looks were received from around the room.”
This Reddit user later returned with an edit correcting Abigail’s quote. In the play on which the movie is based, her line is, “Give me a word, John. A soft word.” Interestingly, that’s not the only play-related moment of hilarity to crop up, although this next one is kind of depressing.
“I’m in the last year of primary school, 11 years old,” wrote Khalidor. “We’re performing our end-of-year play, Peter Pan. There’s a song where Wendy has a solo. I don’t know what Mrs. Marshall was thinking when she cast this part to a shy girl. The first night, she sings like a third of the song and mumbles the rest.”
“The second night, she’s actually singing, and it’s looking like a good performance—when I suddenly sneeze, and I’m stood right next to her. Me, Peter Pan, and [the other] 15 kids on stage just cannot stop laughing, completely ruining Wendy’s solo.”
That’s…heartbreaking. At least Wendy could retreat to Neverland.
This next story might be the most cringe-worthy example from the original thread.
“I went to a small college,” wrote CinnamonDude. “My jazz professor gave us extra credit if we went to school performances. As one of the few music professors at the college, he was just trying to beef up the attendance, which was typically less than 10 people, even for the bigger performances.”
“I wasn’t doing too well in the class, so myself and a friend (also from the class) went to a senior’s ‘senior thesis’ performance. This was what he had been working four years for. The audience included myself, my friend, and three other people. I had no idea what this guy was about to do. Play guitar? Piano? Tap dance? No idea what to expect.”
“The guy came out on stage. Myself and my friend were in the second row, dead center (no one in front of us), so we were literally about seven feet from the guy. He takes a long, deep, intense pause, and then bursts into some sort of…I guess, song. I can’t even define the genre of music. It was like opera, but in English.”
We should note here that there are quite a few English operas, but that’s beside the point: Unaccompanied music is awkward.
“My friend and I were shocked. And we could both feel it start to bubble up inside of us. I didn’t need to look at him or he at me. We both knew that it would take every ounce of concentration not to burst into laughter.”
“We fought it off, we did. But the uncomfortable ‘trying not to laugh’ noises started coming from our mouths and our noses and I know this singer could hear them. I felt so bad. But that only made me want to laugh more.”
“And then the floodgates opened. I couldn’t stop it. I started laughing hysterically and so did my friend and it only got more awkward as we would stop, convincing ourselves we had got it out of our system. And then, just when we thought it was gone, start up again, this time worse than before. Then we’d stop again. Then we’d fight the fits and spurts of trying not to laugh. But we’d always start up again. This went on for four or five minutes.”
“Finally, we both ran out of the room, and I’ve never felt so bad for someone in my life. I’d imagine that’d be your worst fear as a performer. Ironically, that’s what made it all the more funny. I often wonder if he’s still traumatized by that day.”
The more inappropriate the venue, the stronger the giggles…which brings us to funerals, we’re sorry to say.
“[The most inappropriate time I laughed was during] my father’s funeral,” wrote Anna_Namoose. “We’re sitting in the church and on autopilot. My aunts are a few rows behind us, competing over who can sing off the wrong lyrics offkey the loudest, and I get the giggles.”
“The song ends, but the giggles don’t. The priest goes into his homily about how the dead aren’t gone, just sleeping. He prattles on a few minutes and stands near the casket, looking down at it.”
“’Paul…Paul!’ he says. ([Paul is] my dad’s name.) ‘Wake up to eternal life! Wake up, Paul!’”
“To which my mother … looks at me and says, louder than she expected, ‘Does this guy understand [what] ‘dead’ means? You don’t wake up from this one,’ and I lose it.”
“Loud obnoxious laughs. [The] priest refused to do mom’s service two months later.”
We’re learning that lots of people laugh uncontrollably in the presence of grief.
“I’ve told this one before, but my [most inappropriate laughter was at my] grandmother’s wake/funeral,” wrote Kodemar.
“She loved collecting the toys and prizes from fast food places, you know, McDonald’s, Burger King. Anyway, we had a box of some of her favorites sitting under her casket during the viewing. One of these items was a stuffed, talking Taco Bell dog.”
“The room was mostly silent, save for some crying people, when suddenly, this damn dog decides to spit out one of his lines. The line?”
“‘I think I need a bigger box.’”
“So picture this, in a silent room full of mourning family, all you hear is that line coming from what seems to be the casket (the box was underneath, remember). Everyone just lost it. We were loud enough that the mortician came to complain we were disturbing the other patrons.”
“Grammy would have loved that story!”
Here’s another one, if you can stomach it:
“[I laughed] at my grandmother’s funeral mass,” wrote AluminumForum. “When the Father (who had a super bad cold/congestion) told the story of the last supper, he said, in the throatiest, most gangster way ever, ‘Jesus said, You’re gonna take this bread, and you’re gonna eat it!’”
“I hysterically lost my s*** right on the spot. Thankfully I was a few rows back from the front, so when my mother-in-law threatened to take me outside, nobody heard.”
We’re not done yet, folks. We were serious about people laughing during funerals. This case of the giggles takes down a whole family.
“[I laughed] at my great-grandma’s funeral when I was 10,” wrote NotebookScribbles.
“I was raised Catholic. You basically sit, stand, kneel, and everyone responds at once on cue … I’d never been to any other religious ceremonies that weren’t Catholic. My great-grandma was Southern Baptist, and her funeral was at the church she regularly attended.”
“So, the pastor is going on with a fire-and-brimstone speech about getting right with God. The attendees were calling out in agreement and yelling and sometimes jumping up, and it was so loud and disorderly compared to the formulaic Catholic masses.”
“I couldn’t help it. I had to cover my mouth to keep the giggles in.”
“My parents saw me trying not to laugh, which made them have to cover up their own laughter, and that just made me need to laugh harder.”
“And then my parents started nudging nearby non-Baptist relatives like, ‘Look at NotebookScribbles’ face!’”
“My uncle accidentally let out this loud bark of a laugh and got glared at by a bunch of nearby parishioners, and I just sank to the floor, covered my face as well as I could with my coat, and lost it giggling.”
“My dad finally grabbed me once I stopped laughing so much and walked me outside, with some people giving us sympathetic looks because it just looked like he was taking me out because I was overwhelmed by grief or something.”
“I had laughed so hard that I had cried. We finally made it outside and we both just cracked up laughing. My parents still tell the story.”
Some people laugh during funerals. Others prefer to lose it at a wedding.
“[I laughed during] my wedding vows,” wrote Hopefulkitty. “[My] husband got through his, then hit a giggle loop that had me struggling to get through mine.”
“[It got] to the point where I was a little late on a few responses and my dad asked my mom, ‘Is she crying?’”
“‘No. No,’ [said my mom.] ‘She’s laughing.’”
Hopefulkitty isn’t alone.
“[I laughed at my] wedding rehearsal,” wrote KGBspy. “[We were] in front of church with lots of family present and we were going through the routine.”
“I had to do the ‘look-at-her-and repeat-these-words’ routine and just started cracking up, tears rolling down the cheeks, laughing for a good five mins. Both sets of parents were mortified watching me, [but] I’m not one to take things seriously.”
Another Reddit user cracked up at his best friend’s wedding…and with good reason.
“My best friend’s wedding. As his soon-to-be-wife was being walked down the aisle by her father, he managed to trip on her wedding dress, theatrically spin around, grab the hat off someone’s head as he clutched at anything to hold on to, and pull his daughter down on top of him, breaking her nose with his forehead in the process,” wrote ask_me_if_Im_lying. “Everyone, of course, rushed to their aid.”
Predictably, ask_me_if_Im_lying started laughing.
“As she was being rushed away, I was still rolling on the ground laughing my a** off while everyone stared at me like I was a huge a******. Just because I was the best man, doesn’t mean I’m a good man. The video still gets pulled out from time to time and I still lose my s*** every time.”
No moment is too serious for a giggle break, it seems.
“[I laughed] when my parents told my sister and I they were getting divorced,” wrote BrayAstrus. “They obviously hated each other for years, and it was a long time coming.”
“My sister and I looked at each other and we both just started laughing. [I’ve] never seen two people so confused in my life.”
Breaking up is hard to do, but it can also lead to an odd urge to laugh.
“My high school girlfriend could not stop laughing while we had the break-up talk,” wrote FruitySamuraiG. “[It] was slightly awkward.”
There’s no laughter like the laughter that accompanies mortal danger.
Warning: The writer of this story uses the word “bonnet” to refer to the hood of a car. We’re assuming they’re from the United Kingdom, or just really, really posh.
“I’m about 13 in this story,” wrote batty3108. “Me, my parents and my sister a driving down from a ski resort in Andorra, in a complete and total blizzard. I’m talking can’t see the bonnet or wing mirrors through the windscreen. We’re driving down because with the heavy snow, we were (rightly, as it happened) concerned about getting stranded and missing our flight, so we left that evening.”
“So we’re inching our way down this mountain road in a Rover 25 with no snow chains, snow tires, or anything remotely appropriate for driving in these conditions. We’re barely driving, more engaging in a series of barely controlled skids. My mum mutters, ‘Wow, it’s really snowing hard,’ to which my sister replies, under her breath, ‘no s***, Sherlock.'”
“And I utterly lost it. There’s my dad, trying desperately to avoid plunging all of us to a fiery death in a blizzard, and me (and then, my sister) barely holding in peals of laughter in the back. My parents were not amused.”
That type of situation is awkward, but understandable. Hey, at least nobody got hurt. That’s not true of this next story.
“[I laughed] when my friend recounted a time when he saw an old lady stepping off of a curb with a bag of groceries in her hands get clipped by a car,” wrote Witharuler. “He was trying to convey how horrifying it was, but something about his description—which included her spinning around three times before hitting the ground and her oranges rolling all over the place—made me just lose it. His disgust that I could laugh at it only made me laugh harder.”
Even if you’re a kind person, you can’t help but laugh when someone falls down.
It’s a weird law of human nature. We can’t defend it, but mild injuries are funny…usually.
“Walking through Lake Louise, Alberta, there was a toddler running around. If you’ve ever been to Lake Louise, you’ll know that the freeze/thaw cycle is pretty darn harsh so high up in the mountains, and so all of the pavement and the lakeside dock moorings and bridges are all wavy and crazy,” Purgid wrote.
“Anyways, this toddler is running and weaving through all these tourists, and finally trips himself, goes flying, and bounces his face off the ground. Sad ‘ooooh! ouch!’ moment.”
“Cue kindly-looking old lady there on a seniors’ tour having seen this occur: ‘Ooh, that’s unfortunate.’ I couldn’t stop laughing. Dirtiest looks from the parents shot my way, but the juxtaposition of the poor injured kid and the totally dry response from the old lady just set me off. I still chuckle about it when I see kids fall to this day.”
There’s a reason slapstick is still around after all these years.
“My little sister ran face-first into a sliding glass door, breaking the door and bruising her head,” wrote Antofuzz. “The whole family was panicked, but I thought it was hysterical.”
“[I got] lots of dirty looks from the family, but damn, that was funny.”
We just hope everyone was okay. Here’s another instance of a real-life pratfall:
“[I laughed] when my cousin fell down our back door steps,” wrote JudeandEllie. “It was beautiful. Graceful. Almost choreographed.”
“We were around 12 years old, right at that awkward age when you do not want to stand out and garner any attention. When you still have to wear the clothes that your mom picks out and buys.”
“It was a Sunday, right after church. She was wearing a pale pink frilly dress with pleats. And for whatever reason, she just rolled head over heels down the steps, just like an Olympian tumbler. A perfect 10.”
“She landed on her feet. I wanted so bad for her to throw her arms straight above her head, chin raised in triumph, and bow.”
Occasionally, you laugh before you realize there’s a real-life injury involved. That’s when things get really awkward.
“I was at a beach-side restaurant in Mexico, and the unusually cheery waiter asked if I wanted to go down the beach to see some crocodiles,” wrote Texcellence. “As we’re walking down the beach, I ask if the crocodiles have ever eaten anybody.”
“In a cheery tone, the waiter said that the crocodile had almost eaten a girl the previous year, and that he fought the crocodile to save her. Thinking he was joking due to his tone, I laughed.”
“He gave me a look, and then I saw that his arm was covered in bite scars and he was missing some fingers. I felt like an a** for laughing … ”
Be careful about watching comedy the night before church.
“My husband and I had watched Mr. Bean on a Saturday night,” wrote Canada_girl_44. “It was the episode where he falls asleep in church and tries to sing along with a hymn, but only yells out the alleluia part because it’s all he knows.”
“It struck my funny bone and I laughed hysterically. I even had trouble falling asleep later, because my mind would wander back to the scene, and I’d burst out laughing all over again.”
“On Sunday morning, overtired and nervous, we attended church for the first time in the very small community to which we had just moved. We were uncomfortable because everyone knew everyone else, and we stood out as obvious newcomers.”
“So, of course, after the first reading the hymn starts. And it’s the Mr. Bean hymn. And everyone sings noticeably louder at the alleluia part.”
“I got a mad case of the giggles, tried to stifle them, snorted out my nose loudly, started to choke from holding it all in, had tears running down my face, and finally succumbed to the giggles anyway. We never went back!”
We’re not sure if this is heartening or terrifying, but even airline pilots succumb to the giggles every now and then.
“I’m an airline pilot, and often when flying with a co-pilot you get on well with, you will try to make each other laugh while doing the public address to the passengers; mindless things like drawing [dirty cartoons] on paperwork, rolling up newspapers and hitting your colleague over the head with them, or playing Top Gun quotes from your iPhone,” wrote JustJayForNow.
“Generally, I manage to choke out my PAs with a reasonably straight face (so to speak), but once I lost it so bad I snorted with laughter mid-sentence, had to cease the PA, then come back and just admit, ‘Sorry ladies and gentlemen, my colleague was distracting me.’”
“Most unprofessional, yet hilarious.”
That about sums it up, alright. It would also make a pretty good epitaph. Just be sure not to laugh until the funeral’s over.