Knowing Laughter

Provided by Billy Osogo

Dr Brené Brown, in her insightful book, I Thought It Was Just Me, writes about “knowing laughter.” She defines it as “laughter that results from recognizing the universality of our shared experiences, both positive and negative.”

It is this knowing laughter that I so viscerally experienced when I first read AP2’s brilliant article titled First Solo. He described the feeling he had when writing that particular article as something akin to his first solo. He wrote of the moment, “that same sinking feeling – like I’ve missed a crucial part of my training.” In a brave show of sheer, artistic vulnerability, he admitted to being petrified.

I remember reading his article and feeling a profound tidal wave of equanimity. His words, the genuineness of his persona and how he wittingly recounted what was hitherto a petrifying experience, soothed my nerves. I laughed. That knowing laughter in cognizance of what he must have been going through. What I am now going through.

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. I have been in love with reading and writing for as long as I can remember. This one time, the school, as it routinely did, brought in someone to speak us about careers. After giving his speech, he indulged us. He went round the room asking people what they would want to be when they grow up. When he got to me, I stood up, and in the most confident cadence I could muster, I said I wanted to be a story teller.

There was pin-drop silence. I could hear the frogs croak in my head. He looked at me instinctively, as though telling me, this is where you withdraw your tomfoolery and give an appropriate answer. I must have looked back at him as though to say, that’s my answer. What ensued was the most-deafening, roaring laughter, I had experienced up to that point. The room erupted. Even the sleepy-head in the corner who had drooled a river, startled and seamlessly joined the rest in laughter. I remember the speaker saying, ‘This one will make a good comedian.’  Then in a twist of irony, he went on to tell us the story of his life! As did the next speaker and the one after.

A lot of things have changed since then. Kanye has run for President, Maradona has gone to be with the Lord, the Undertaker has conceded mortality and my bag of potato chips is fuller now. Actually, it’s still the same. 40% chips, 60% air. Ah, you get the point. I failed at comedy. I am thinking I either spoke to my audience in tongues or the man was just a false prophet. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the answer I gave him almost fourteen years ago. I remain a storyteller.

I see, interact, interrogate and commune with the world through stories. I listen and I tell. With that in mind, one would have expected that when I received the wonderful news that I would be writing for Pointless Overthinking, I would have been elated. Sort of like Jordan when he was picked to play for the Chicago Bulls. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I found myself in the same ballpark as AP2. I was petrified!

It was as though I was handcuffed to a radiator somewhere in the annals of a dungeon. Unable to wrench myself free.  Crippling doubt and stubborn anxiety hovered around me like flies over a carcass. I could see the smoke billow and the rafters begin to collapse. Self-pity crept upon me like a thief in the night. I could hear the steps. I could see the shadow growing bigger and bigger. I could feel the goose bumps forming.

Are you good enough?

16, 090 followers! What are you going to tell them? What makes you think they will be interested anyway?

You really must be a comedian!

It was brutal!

I couldn’t come up with anything. All the ideas I thought I had vanished. All the pep talks I’d give myself came to naught. It was pointless. 

I watched a speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who had just been voted as the Winner of all Winners in commemoration of 25 years of the Orange Prize. In her speech, which I watched as I marveled at how after all these years, my chips still aren’t full, she said something that spoke to me. Chimamanda said;

“The truth is you cannot create anything of value without a little self-doubt and self-belief. Without doubt you become complacent. Without self-belief you cannot succeed.”

There it was. The problem wasn’t that my failure to think. The problem was that I was overthinking. Pointlessly. (*flashes that huge Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson smile). I was overthinking pointlessly about what to write for a blog titled Pointless Overthinking. Eureka!

To cut a long story short, I am excited to be here. In Swahili, we have a word for times like this. Mwanzo (pronounced as mwah-nzo). That’s Swahili for ‘beginning’. I hope this is the beginning of a long, fruitful, journey of telling and listening to each other’s stories. A journey of sharing that palpable knowing laughter. I am honored to be considered worthy to be part of this immeasurably gifted family of writers and passionate readers.

Here’s to pointlessly overthinking together (*raises a glass)!

Billy’s personal blog can be found here.

54 thoughts on “Knowing Laughter

      1. In all honesty, I had resolved to “just have a peek” at this blog. And when I read the introductory part, I said “hold on for a second, good stuff here! ” To say this is commendable is an understatement! Keep flying Mr. President!

  1. Billy! What a wonderful first post, my friend. You are, without a doubt, a storyteller. And you’re certainly in good company with us Overthinkers. Cheers! 🕊

  2. Billy my friend you have nailed your first post! You’re too kind about my own but I’m so pleased you were able to draw from it!

    Your point about anxiety is great – a little bit is definitely a good thing. I read a quote once that said something along the lines of – ‘only two kinds of people don’t feel anxiety – psychopaths and the dead. You don’t want to be either of them!’

    Without a doubt you’re in good company here – I look forward to reading many more of your stories. Raising a glass to you🥂

  3. AP2, your words warm my soul 😊

    You write fantastic articles. Expect a lot more refrencing from me 🙈

    A psychopath and dead are two positions I don’t want to be in right now😂

    Thank you for your warm welcome 😊

  4. I truly enjoyed your first post Billy!! I laughed out loud, you made me think, and I could picture you standing up in that classroom.
    Story telling is such a warm way to learn.
    Salud and Welcome to Pointless Overthinking!!🌻🌻🥂🥂

  5. That was a great post.
    I can relate to wanting to be a storyteller – all the fantasy books I used to read and I imagined being, not Conan the barbarian but a bard.. Turned out I was much better at tending gardens and painting though. LOL
    The nerves too I relate to. First exhibition ( local library ) and I was up most of the night before worrying I’d forgot something, and that’s just a hobby You should see me every time I think I’ve finished a garden job – or have I missed a weed???.

  6. What a great way to start! Welcome to this space. I don’t write here, but for me, blogging is like a family spread all over the world! I started a new project with some friends called The Nameless project, and I have the same feeling as you! You’re welcome to visit us on

    1. Thank you Juliano😊

      Indeed, blogging does give you new family from diverse backgrounds. It allows you to discover and uncover new gems!

      Thank you for stopping by. I shall visit the Namless project. Please keep writing.

      1. Congratulations on this wonderful write up. This is the beginning of greatness on this blog. You may not be Kevin Hart but you’re an amazing story teller.

  7. Thanks, Billy. Welcome to Pointless Overthinking! This is a great first post. I can see that you haven’t lied to us. You are indeed a natural storyteller. We look forward to hearing more of your tales and wisdom.

    1. Thank you, Troy, for believing in me 😊

      I am happy to be part of Pointless Overthinking 😃

      I look forward to sharing and reading more tales with and from, the gifted story tellers at PO.

  8. I utterly got consumed in your humorous storytelling!
    The vulnerability and confidence you exude all in one piece of writing.
    Cheers to many more articles!😉😊

  9. I can testify that you are one of the best story tellers I’ve ever met. I comes naturally to you and you are excellent at it. I thoroughly enjoyed this first piece and I can’t wait for the many more that are yet to come.
    To fruitful endeavors 🥂

  10. Good stuff right here, Mr. President.
    I have never for a second doubted your ability to write.
    Isn’t it beautiful to walk in all the walks of life and still find yourself right where you’ve always wanted to be?
    Keep doing what you do best, keep winning!

  11. I find doubt and faith in whatever I do almost going hand in hand. Keep telling stories. We need them really bad! We might not think this but our lives do depend on the stories people like we tell!

  12. Wow. Such a lovely introduction👌. Congratulations Mr. Storyteller on this journey.
    Here to read and learn. Always. All ways.

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