Laugh a Little, or a Lot

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Recently, commentator Hank Rosenfeld went to a training seminar for a laughter club. No joke. The seminar wasn't very funny, but this commentary is.


Recently, commentator Hank Rosenfeld went to a training seminar for a laughter club. That's no joke. And the club wasn't particularly funny, either.


Laughter clubs, I learned, were invented in India, where groups of people meet before work and laugh together for 20 minutes. They say they do it for the health benefits, plus, workers in India, no doubt, need some kind of `laugherdesiac(ph)' to deal with all the complaints they get from Americans calling in in need of technical support.

My workshop is made up of nurses, counselors, teachers, even some dairy farmers. We're in a hotel conference room near the QUALCOMM football stadium in San Diego, and we're being led by a joyologist who teaches cool sayings like, `Laughter has no accent.' Soon we circle up and repeat the laughter club mantra: `Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha.' Got it? This is done while clapping and slapping one's thighs.

`Fake it till you make it'--that's our next chant. For this one, we make a yoga face called the lion at each other. This is supposed to be funny, really funny stuff. Right?

`Simulation leads to stimulation,' Dr. Joy says joyfully. `Even if there's no stimulus, you can find humorous.' You see, apparently fake laughs are as good as the real thing for getting rid of toxins inside. I got news for you laughologists out there: Any outward breath is good. OK?

After our break for hot fudge sundaes, it's time for our two-minute solo `ho, ho, hos.' `Listen with soft eyes,' says the joyologist. That's nice; it means `no judgment.' So I finish refilling the bowl with nothing but chocolate syrup and ready myself, but for some reason his co-facilitators--rather morose individuals, by the way--they ask me for my solo to do the "Hokey Pokey." Here's how they do it in the laughter club. (Singing) `You put your ha-ha in, you put your ho-ho out, and that's what it's all about.' Not exactly, you know, Merth the Magician(ph) material, you know. I think of my friend Peter(ph) from Dudley Riggs Comedy Theatre in Minneapolis, who once said, `What if the "Hokey Pokey" is what it's all about?'

(Soundbite of light laughter)

ROSENFELD: That's funny.

Now that we're certified laugh leaders, our next goal is world peace and a laughter club at the United Nations. Maybe if John Bolton gets that ambassador gig, he could start it. I've been a fool many, many times in my life, but I think next time I'll try to make sure when I laugh at something, it'll be funny.

NORRIS: Hank Rosenfeld lives in Santa Monica.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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