02/03/2012 11:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Idiot's Guide to Belly Laughing

Imagine sipping a latte at your local coffee shop, and some crazy dude in the rest room throws open the door and hollers for more toilet paper. He's perched on the bowl, hairy legs spread apart, pants down around his ankles. What would you do?

This scenario was featured on TV's hilarious new show Impractical Jokers, where four friends compete to pull off pranks on the unsuspecting public while a hidden camera rolls.

Other pranks featured: cutting the line at TKTS in Times Square, shopping straight out of another customer's cart in the supermarket, crashing on a stranger's blanket at the beach, and better stuff too complicated to explain. Set the DVR.

I whooped and wiped tears watching Impractical Jokers, which premiered in December -- then realized it had been ages since I doubled over clutching my stomach. I forgot that laughing is the best release with your clothes on. I forgot Howard Stern got me through a daily commute and Seinfeld through pregnancy. I forgot laughing 'til you cry can work better than alcohol, shrink or meds.

It was as if I'd discovered sliced bread. I went on a hooting spree. My husband and I guffawed to Dean Martin roasts and Pink Panther clips on YouTube in the evening, rather than wallowing in the apocalypse on world news. We grew closer than if we'd been hitting the sheets. Yesterday, at my desk, I cackled watching Elaine dancing and reading "Damn You Auto Correct." Shocker: writing was fun that day.

Voracious for more funnies, I hounded friends: what makes you laugh out loud? Some had the answer at their fingertips -- I admired their joie de vivre, their mojo working. Others had hysterical office mates or toddlers who entertained them. Still others (maybe suffering from SAD and about to buy a $200 sun lamp, like me) were stumped. They said they didn't look for laughs but probably should.

I compiled a go-to list: Belly Laughing 101 for the hooting deprived. A resource for when life turns to dog doo and you're buried in bills, divorce, laundry, health crises or SATs. For the dead of winter, for this kill-me-now economy, why not drive with David Sedaris, or combine family time with Bert and Ernie doing Pesci and DeNiro from Casino. My sister Sophia banks on this gem: paying bills while watching Will and Grace.

Here's to spraying your beverage of choice out your nose.

(Please comment with your own personal faves. Titters, smiles and ha's are fine, but what gives you stomach pain? I've included some links; for the rest, you're on your own. Thank you to friends. If it's not funny, it's one of their picks.)

Must See's
Impractical Jokers

Damn you autocorrect

Bert and Ernie/Pesci and Deniro/Casino

Curb Your Enthusiasm/
Curb/Funniest Leon

Seinfeld/Soup Nazi
Seinfeld/Elaine Dances
I Love Lucy /Chocolate Factory
Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Colbert Report

Bill Cosby
Wanda Sykes
Eddie Murphy
George Carlin
Ricky Gervais
Eddie Izzard

David Sedaris
Tina Fey's Bossy Pants
New Yorker cartoons

Peter Sellers
Woody Allen
Meet the Parents
Beverly Hills Cop
Something's Gotta Give
It's Complicated

13-year old boy humor
Will It Blend?

A-friend-who-shall-not-be-named humor
People of Walmart