Not an April Fool's Joke: It's Costing More to Laugh

Daily turmoil in the stock market. No direction from the Fed. European austerity that's too much or not enough. Where is an investor supposed to get guidance? Are there no reliable economic indicators? Well, there's some good news and bad news. The bad news: the 2016 Cost of Laughing Index, a very reliable indicator, has jumped 2.5%. The good news is it's a presidential election year.

Since 1986, the Cost of Laughing Index has measured the annual price change in several comedy clubs across the U.S., as well as rubber chickens, whoopee cushions, Mad magazine and other comedy staples. The Index even has its own Wikipedia page.

So let's drill into the data.

Whoopee cushions were a major culprit in the 2016 Cost of Laughing Index increase. The wholesale price rose 9.52% to $5.75 a dozen. In other words, whoopee cushions were hit with inflation. Upsetting? Sure. But just take a deep breath and don't blow it into a big problem. Or as whoopee cushion vendors say, "Sit on it and rotate."

On the positive side, rubber chickens held steady at $30 a dozen. Groucho glasses remained $7.50 a dozen. Mad magazine stayed $5.99 per issue. And a telegram delivered by a pink gorilla or dancing chicken still costs $185. On the other hand, $185 seems like a lot to spend for a gag gift - especially at a workplace birthday or retirement party. Well, maybe there's a discount if the chicken can't dance. (Try mentioning AAA. They have a discount for everything.)

What if you can't afford this stuff? Like if you've got more rubber checks than rubber chickens. Don't worry. It's your lucky year. There's a presidential election going on. That always guarantees free chuckles. You just have to listen to the candidates make their gaffes. Remember back in 2012 when Rick Perry couldn't remember what cabinet departments he wanted to eliminate? Or when Michelle Bachman compared herself to serial killer John Wayne Gacy instead of actor John Wayne? Or in 2008 when Joe Biden said J-O-B-S was a three letter word? That's normally as amusing as it gets. But this year's election is far from normal.

Just look at the clown factor.

The media can't stop referring to the candidates as clowns. (Here are some examples from Salon,Yahoo News and The Sacramento Bee. And there are lots more.) We're talking more than minor gaffes. Even meteorologists won't dispute the gales of laughter this election is generating. All for free.

And media outlets as diverse as Politico, The Nation, New York Post and San Francisco Examiner have described the primary debates as a clown car. This is a big deal. Viewing a clown car usually requires paid admission to a circus. That's not cheap. A single ticket to Ringling Brothers can range from $30 to $50. But this year you don't need to pay. You can just watch the debates.

So here's the bottom line: each time you watch a debate you save $30 to $50 from your cost to laugh. Will this decrease the Cost of Laughing Index? We'll find out next year.

But there are three things we can learn right now. First, anyone can run away to join the circus. Second, anyone can run for president. And third, those aren't mutually exclusive.

And that's no joke!