Monday, December 27, 2010

Pub Laughter

I don’t drink alcohol. I haven’t for years. Now my partner doesn’t either. Doctor’s orders.

Yet we’re regulars at Third Place Pub. We go for the laughs and for the community. Which of course go hand in hand. And we go for the burgers.

If we can catch a seat at the bar, we’ll do it. I sheepishly ask Joey if it’s okay to order a bottle of Pelligrino between us, sharing it like a bottle of wine. “Is that gauche?” I ask. “It’s adorable” he quips back.

Third Place Books is dedicated to the idea that everyone should have a third place to go. One being home. The other being work. And the third being a place of community.

Their main store is in Lake Forest Park. Their second store is in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle. It used to share space with Honeybear Bakery, now replaced by Vios, a neighborhood Greek restaurant. The newest edition to the trio is the pub downstairs. There’s no hard alcohol, just beer and wine.

Frank is your quintessential bartender. He’s a native New Yorker, loves the Yankees, is very friendly, can talk sports as easily as he can pour you an interesting Northwest beer, and makes it a point to know your name. We love Frank.

Caleb and Jake are the young guys behind the bar. They’re poets. That breed of interesting and creative young, working in the food and beverage industry while honing their craft on the side. It slipped out one night that Caleb has a Master’s degree in Poetry from the elite Bennington College in Vermont. Amazing.

And then there’s Joey. Joey’s so New York. But he’s at home in the Beautiful Northwest too, a regular yoga practitioner, a relaxed and jovial kind of guy. He once told me my food was “full of deliciousness”. Joey’s pure fun.

We love the pub for its community. Where there’s community there’s laughter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Boxer Shorts

I was once a nanny.

Burnt out on teaching preschool, having 24 adorable energetic creative enthusiastic active four year olds under my charge, leading their young minds to a higher place, working ten- hour shifts, I needed a short break. So I became a nanny for three delightful children for roughly a year.

Though the children were a pure joy, the dad was a bit of a trial at times. We had our moments of tension.

But at Christmastime I found the perfect gift. I’m very intuitive when I shop. My radar leads me directly to the perfect thing. Almost every time.

This time was no different. I found myself in front of boxer shorts – fun ones. White shorts with black ants. Colorful shorts with martinis. Immediately I knew they were for the dad. But then my rational mind opposed: “Isn’t this a bit too personal for someone who is essentially my boss?” Unsure, I went with my intuition.

Well the shorts were a big hit. Not only at Christmas, but as a joke forever after. Causing us to laugh about it over and over. The year I bought him the ants in the pants and the martinis straight up.

I had no idea this would happen. But the humor eased the tensions that sometimes existed between us.

If you have anyone in your life that you have a bit of a strained relationship with, I highly recommend buying him or her a joke gift. Or at least something that will make you both laugh. Even if you’re not one to purchase material items during this shopping-crazed season. Your boss. Your co-worker. Your mother-in-law. Your estranged friend. The humor and the laughter are healing. They always are. And it’s something you can return to again and again when the going gets rough. “Remember the time you bought me such and such.” Ha-Ha-Ha.

If you’re guided to boxer shorts too, here’s a website:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marilyn Rocks!

My friend and fellow Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Marilyn Fogelquist made the front page of the Redmond Reporter featuring her laughter club at Emerald Heights. Her club is going on 5 years now, with a second club just beginning at the Redmond Senior Center. Marilyn, a youthful 83 years old, most certainly rocks with laughter.

Go Marilyn!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Phinney Laughter Club

Check out this video of our laughter club. We’re doing the toss the scarf laugh.

A Laughter Club is an organized group of people who come together to “laugh for no reason”. Our method is called Laughter Yoga and was developed by a medical doctor in India named Madan Kataria. This body/mind/spirit practice combines gentle stretching, yoga-type breathing, and playful laughter exercises.

Drop in anytime you need more laughter. Or become a regular member and watch the laughter grow in your life.

We meet the 2nd Tues of the month at Phinney Neighborhood Center in Seattle, downstairs in the Blue Room at 7:00 p.m. $5.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Friend's Passing

My friend Oceana passed away last Sunday surrounded by love.

I’ve been crying. And determined to use this as an inspiration to live life more fully.

Oceana was a very special person and I was honored to know her.

She attended our laughter club only once, but she was fully supportive of it, posting its existence on her website, and reminding me at times about my laughter. Such as the time I was referred to as a “professional laugher” by our writing teacher, a very comical title to all of us. When I laughed at someone else’s humorous writing, the writer in question was told that didn’t count, because I laugh at everything. We all laughed at that.

Next week is the celebration of Oceana’s life. I hope to be able to laugh as much as cry.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more than life ceases to be serious when people laugh.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Half-Full Half-Empty

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to be grateful.

Once I made my gratitude ritual a daily practice, my attitude towards myself and my life, became so much more positive.

It’s amazing how much there is in one day to be grateful for. Immediately your life appears full and you feel yourself rich.

We all know that we can look at the positive or we can look at the negative. When looking at the positive brings so many more benefits, it’s clear which way to go. It just takes some conscious effort sometimes.

I know people who complain regularly. I know it’s a habit. And I can see how they make themselves miserable. We all need to process life’s challenges. But processing and processing and processing leaves you stranded in the dark.

And the dark is not a place where laughter resides.

Celebrate Life! It will bring you more laughter. Laughter will flow naturally, effortlessly. It’s all in the attitude. It’s not in life’s circumstances.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Joy of Socks

In my exploration of the subject, laughter in education, I came across a book titled “If They’re Laughing, They Just Might be Listening” by Elaine Lundberg and Cheryl Miller Thurston.

One of their suggestions for teachers is to develop a personal trademark – an item to consistently employ as a method of engaging students, and bringing more fun and laughter into the classroom. Because I often lead programs on laughter to seniors in retirement communities, I thought I’d give it a try with silly socks.

I found a website called, The Joy of Socks, and ordered 3 pairs – piano socks, planet socks and of course bright yellow smiley socks. What was supposed to bring some lightness into the lives of others, quickly became a source of play and laughter in my own life.

I now start my day deciding which pair of silly socks I’m going to wear. My partner laughs when he sees them. Walking down the street people smile. Others laugh at my feet. After working at only one nursing home, since developing this sock trademark, it already became a routine geared toward my own enjoyment.

I now own socks with dragonflies, monkeys, chili peppers, socks with rainbow stars and stripes, socks that mimic ballet shoes. Even designer socks by Laurel Birch with giraffes on them. I bought my partner his own DaVinci socks, socks with palm trees, tropical fish and saxophones. It lights up his day and adds more fun to both our lives.

It truly is the little things in life. When I’m feeling stressed, all I have to do is look down at my feet and smile.

Photo: Rex in his jazz socks

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Iphigenia, Play and Laughter

Ben Hur, Iphigenia and Mimi Moonshadow. They are the neighborhood cars.

We’ve had more fun and laughter over the naming of our cars, though none of us knew it at the time.

Ben Hur is the ’63 Dodge Wagon next door owned by my great neighbor Helen. Her son named him so because of his protruding chariot-like diamond-shaped hubcaps.

Iphigenia is our brand new Indigo Blue Scion XD. She needed a majestic name. She’s going to bring us faithfully wherever we need to go.

Mimi Moonshadow is her sister across the street, the Light Gray Scion XB. Mimi’s got an energetic fun-loving owner. It’s perfect.

People often ask me how to bring more laughter into their lives, and one response I give, is to play more. Create an environment where laughter naturally flows – a laugh-ready environment. Use humor with the everyday things of life. Opportunities for play and laughter are everywhere. As Plato said, “Life must be lived as play”.

I only wonder what Ben Hur and Iphigenia do together at night while we’re all sleeping. (They’re parked side by side in adjacent driveways.) Helen assures me they’re having deep philosophical conversations.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comedians Keep Us Sane

Comedians don’t hold back. They’ll say anything. They know they can. Comedians tell it like it is. Politicians are laid bare, a difficult place to sit. We love it.

Funny woman Joy Behar reveals that Joe Biden once confessed to her, that he is far more afraid of going on Jon Stewart’s show than on Meet the Press. (from Marlo Thomas’s book Growing Up Laughing)

Jon Stewart hails this week from Washington DC, ending his week of taping The Daily Show, with a Rally to Restore Sanity. There were estimated to be more than 200,000 there. Wow!

Coupled with Stephen Colbert, the rally morphed into the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear, as they bantered back and forth about said subject.

They offered a bus ride to DC, to a politically diverse group of people, and then made a parody of the fact that they could discuss their political differences without shouting.

The rally opened with a benediction from Father Guido Sarducci in a black and white zebra striped suit, offering such reasonable statements as “Muslums and Jews both don’t eat pork. Let’s build on that.” Sam Waterson recited Stephen Colbert’s goofy fear poem. The former Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf, sang his old classic “Peace Train”, only to be interrupted by Ozzy Osbourne’s discordant strains of “music”. Back and forth they went interrupting each other, eventually leaving the stage arm in arm.

Sanity awards were given out, one to the Venezuelan baseball player who graciously accepted an umpire’s call, that otherwise would have put him in baseball historical fame for pitching a no-hitter.

Fear awards were given out, one to the major television networks who wouldn’t come and cover the rally.

Jon’s keynote speech morphed into a debate between Jon’s sanity talk vs. Stephen’s fear mongering with such statements as “Reason is how mankind has advanced” vs. “If Eve had had a reality fear of snakes, I could go naked everywhere now”. Jon introduced a new thing to fear “corpomyte”, something he borrowed from Star Trek. R2D2 made an appearance as a representative of a sane, not-scary, robot. “There’s a blender who has its eye on you backstage”.

Jon gave a sincere thank you to all at the end, reminding us that we work together all the time to get things done. “People do impossible things together everyday through little reasonable compromises.”

Comedy for Political Sanity. I like it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is it Madness to Laugh?

In the midst of, what surely must be the most amazing mad scene in all of Lucia history, Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, as the title role Lucia, lets out a laugh.

It causes me to wonder, is it madness to laugh?


To laugh in the face of adversity, can surely be considered madness. A good kind of madness. To blow off the stress of a difficult situation, to stare adversity in the face and defiantly choose to laugh. Yes indeed, laughter is a good kind of madness.

Like insanity, laughter separates us from reality, if only for a brief moment. It pulls us out of real time, into our own explosion of joy

Nervous laughter is that strange phenomenon, that demonstrates how we unconsciously use laughter as a coping mechanism. When we’re a bit on edge about something, we instinctively laugh. It’s the body’s wisdom to release stress in this way.

Yes Lucia, laugh. Laugh for it’s all gone so terribly wrong for you. Laugh and get at least a moment’s reprieve from the tragedy of it all.

For those of you who don’t know Donizetti’s famous opera Lucia de Lammermoor, the story goes: Lucia has been forced to marry a man she’s never met by her evil brother Enrico, who convinces Lucia her beloved Edgardo has been unfaithful, at which point she murders her new husband and understandably goes mad. Pure opera drama.

For those of you who might be even mildly interested in opera, this current performance at Seattle Opera is not to be missed. It’s a Lucia like you’ve never seen before. It’s got all the drama, the beautiful music, the fantastic staging and rousing chorus, and most importantly extraordinary dramatic acting matching exquisite musical ability. It’s a night at the opera you’ll never forget.

And there's that laugh in the midst of it all.

Photo: Rosarii Lynch/Seattle Opera

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Music and Laughter

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is pure joy! If music could laugh, this would be it.

I woke up this morning in a joyful mood. So I put on Vivaldi to match my spirit.

Sometimes when I need an emotional boost, I play a CD called “Mozart for a Merry Christmas”, and let that joyful music that Mozart created, shift my energy and change my mood for the better. It’s uplifting. There’s no denying it.

A new study from Mexico found that listening to Mozart and Bach significantly helped to improve the psychological mood of depressed patients, as opposed to engaging in talk therapy. (Chavez, University of Oaxaca).

Dr. Kimata, an allergist in Japan, conducted a series of studies using the Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Using the film to get subjects to laugh, he tested them before and after, for allergic reactions. He found those reactions to be significantly less after laughing. In one study he altered his approach and used the music of Mozart. Again he found a positive response (though interestingly not with the music of Beethoven).

Music raises our vibration, same as laughter, especially when we sing, raising our voices in song.

I sometimes think that if we only opened our mouths to sing or laugh or kiss, what a beautiful world this would be. Perhaps we could simply sing, laugh and kiss more.

A friend of mine has a theory that, the Italians in Italy don’t snack and overeat, like so many Americans, because they’re always kissing. Hmmmmm.

But I stray from the subject at hand.

Laugh, sing, listen to Vivaldi or Mozart or whatever else lifts your spirit, and allow your joy to rise.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smiling is a Gift

Smile at someone. It’s a gift.

It’s possible to lift someone’s whole day with this simple act. Lift yourself in the process.

It’s easy to smile at children. It’s slightly harder to smile at that old person sitting alone on the park bench. It’s not common in our culture to smile at people we don’t know. It’s much harder to smile at someone we don’t like.

Yet it’s a simple act. It takes only a second or two. And its impact is lasting. Consider taking the time to do it more often.

An anonymous person said, “Smile awhile, for when you smile another smiles, and soon there’s miles and miles of smiles because you smiled.”

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Natalie Goldberg says Practice

Natalie Goldberg, famed author on the art of writing, says there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Just put pen to paper and go. Don’t worry about what comes out. War and Peace won’t come out on the first try. Practice.

She makes a football analogy. Players on the field have practiced many times over. I’ll make an ice skating analogy. When we watch Olympic champion Yuna Kim perform a flawless routine, as Peggy Fleming says, she’s done it so many times it’s engrained into her body.

How is laughter any different?

Laughter Yoga is the same for some people. Laughing a lot, laughing in a sustained way, laughing for no reason and laughing on my command, may not come out perfect the first few times. Practice. And your laughter evoles.

Many people just don’t laugh enough. Many have very rusty laughter muscles.

Practice is what we do in the Laughter Club. We practice laughing. The more we practice, the better we get.

Then one day we’re laughing experts. We’ve had lots of practice at the Laughter Club. We find more reasons in life to laugh. We create a treasury of laughter.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Pumpkin is Back!

It’s October in Fremont and the pumpkin is back!

It’s huge, orange, ghoulish, smiling, and sits atop a spike on one of the buildings down by the canal. As I open my shades in the morning, it’s still glowing in the dark. And it gets my morning laughter rolling.

Get your daily dose of laughter in whatever way you can. One half hour is a good formula. Several studies have been done using this dose.

One study was conducted at the Institute of California. It was found that one half hour of comedy daily lowered the risk of heart attacks.

In this study, they gathered participants who had already had one heart attack. One group (the lucky ones) was instructed to watch one half hour of comedy daily. The control group (the unlucky ones) did not.

Forty-two percent of those unlucky participants (the ones with no half-hour of daily comedy) had a second heart attack. Only eight percent of the lucky ones (those with one-half- hour of daily comedy) had a second heart attack.

Laugh daily. It’s important.

May this Halloween season help you along.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Israel and Palestine are at the table again. Obama’s assisting. We can only hope.

But what does laughter have to do with it? Laughter has a lot to do with it. For me anyway.

At both Laughter Yoga International and World Laughter Tour (the two organizations that I am a member of), our mission includes world peace. A lofty goal you say? Not if you consider the nature of laughter.

A reporter once asked me why I do what I do. “To bring more laughter into the world” was the obvious answer. “To facilitate more joy.”

But I found myself saying: “Peace.” “Peace in the Middle East.” It’s the hot spot on our planet. Peace in the Middle East = peace on Earth.

I further told her that I hold a vision of Jews, Arabs, and Christians all laughing together. Laughing at a Laughter Club. Laughing for no reason.

Soon thereafter I saw a photo of just that. Someone who had a laughter club, or led a laughter yoga session, somewhere in that part of the world, pictured Arab participants laughing with Jewish participants. Immediately my vision was confirmed.

As a lawyer in California once told me: he uses laughter during the contentious work of mediation. If he succeeds in making everyone laugh, this is always the point at which solutions start to be found.

Laughter is bonding. We remember we are all part of the same human family.

As Alan Alda once said: “When we’re laughing, we’re generally not killing each other.”

I send this vision to the peace process.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

She who Laughs, Lasts

It’s posted on her door and it’s a motto she has lived well. My friend Marilyn is 80-something, laughs much and often, has embraced the world of laughter yoga with gusto and is in tremendous physical and emotional shape. I am inspired.

Marilyn became a clown in 1990 with the clear intelligence that humor helps us cope. She uses it to deal with any of life’s challenges and most recently the death of her son.

I watch Marilyn chase after her grandson and I know that’s the way to stay young forever. Stay active. Run with the kids. Laugh as much as possible.

Marilyn became a Certified Laughter Leader in 2005, started a laughter club in her retirement community soon thereafter. Her laughter club is now in it’s sixth year and is going strong.

She has attended two Laughter Yoga Conferences, the Teacher Training with Laughter Yoga Founder Dr. Kataria, the Humor Project Conference with Joel Goodman, among other laughter programs; as well as leading her own workshops on humor.

Marilyn is most definitely laughing and lasting.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Smile and Cool your Brain

Smiling is like a cool mountain stream running through your brain.

I went to a friend’s photographic blog the other day and was overjoyed to find a picture of a mother duck and her six ducklings contentedly sitting on a log, down at the houseboat community where my friends live.

It’s a scene that immediately made me smile.

Smiling cools the blood to the brain and instantly relaxes you.

Conversely, think of the expression “hot-headed”. We use it when someone is screaming at the top of their lungs, extremely angry, with veins popping out of their throat. Not a pretty sight and not a good situation for the body.

When this happens the blood to the brain becomes very warm. The opposite happens when we smile. A very pretty sight and a nice situation for our body and our spirit.

My friend’s blog is called More Pictures, Less Words and is dedicated to the idea that when we are immersed all day in the world of words, it’s very relaxing to go to the world of pictures.

Surround yourself with images that make you smile.

Check out Franklin’s blog at

Photo: Lake Crescent

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Giggles with Google

A spinning thing came into being right before my eyes and I quickly learned I could manipulate it with my curser, making it spin in different directions, fast or slow. “Wheeeeeee this is fun!”

Sometimes I’ve resented that techies have taken over the world, but when those techies bring me more laughter, I say “good deal”.

When I open my computer in the morning, it goes straight to the Google home page. Sometimes I start my day laughing right then and there. As I write this post, they currently have blots of color spewing out at you, that eventually coalesce into the word google; only to explode into more balls of color when you pass the curser over them, causing me to explode with laughter.

Maybe they’re meant to be balloons, maybe bubbles. Who cares really. If I keep moving my curser they just keep going all over the page. If I enter from the side, they kick off from there. “I’ve got to stop this playing around and get to work.”

I’m so glad I switched my email from Yahoo to Google, leaving behind all that gossip, disaster and negativity that hit me first thing each morning.

Now I’ve had such treats as The Wizard of Oz, Frida Kahlo, or some green earthy stuff for Earth Day, spelling out the word google. They even changed their name on April Fool’s Day. Who else would have the guts to potentially confuse people for the sake of fun?

We all know their logo looks like preschool art and how could a company name be sillier than the word google.

Google is fun and that’s a good thing for the world. Keep me laughing Google!

I read something once about Google having ping pong tables at their offices. Perhaps they understand the benefit of play at work; how play nurtures creativity; how play at work makes happy employees; how happy employees are productive employees; how laughter at work is beneficial to the bottom line. Perhaps. With a net profit in the billions, most likely.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Monday, September 6, 2010

Laughter Yoga in The New Yorker

We made it in the New Yorker this week!!! Check out the Aug 30 issue, article entitled "The Laughing Guru", all about Dr. Madan Kataria, Laughter Yoga and Laughter Clubs.

It's a great article, a nice overview and contains some gems too. For instance, I learned of Dr. K's dream of an oceanliner named Shanti (the Sanskrit word for peace) "perpetually circumnavigating the globe, spreading laughter from continent to continent". Wow!

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Favorite Comedic Moments

  • The overcrowded train compartment in the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera
  • The candy factory with Ethel and Lucy
  • Harpo and Lucy (Lucille Ball of course) mirroring each other in perfect mime
  • Ellen DeGeneres singing with Jennifer Hudson in the shower
  • Carol Burnett wearing Scarlet O’Hara’s curtains
  • Phil Silvers with his monkey recruit
  • Jane Curtin giving birth in The Coneheads
  • Harvey Korman loosing it in the middle of a scene
  • Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin
  • The man “driving” his defective truck up and down the hill in The Gods Must be Crazy
  • Robin Williams doing Sarah Palin
  • Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau saying the word “phone”
  • John Cleese saying anything
  • Ellen DeGeneres trying to make Betty White laugh with mouth props
  • Glenn Close as Cruella DeVille
  • Kevin Kline smelling his armpits and rattling off in Italian in A Fish Called Wanda
  • Beyonce’s dance number with the guys on Saturday Night Live
  • Chris Rock’s facial expressions
  • Pheonix twirling like Teresa in my laughter club
What's your favorite comedy scene!

Photo: Wikimedia

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Laughter and Song

UUU – it was half of a license plate on the car in front of us. “UUU …interesting” I mumble half to myself. Within seconds Rex has broken into song – “You you you, I’m in love with you, you, you”. In less than a second I’ve broken into peals of laughter. On he goes. On I go, until I shout, “Rex, pay attention!!!” As a car pulls out in front of us, sparking another old time tune, “A man is a worrisome thing…”. More strains of laughter. On and on.

Rex breaking into song is one of the highlights of my life. Every phrase I utter seems to have a song attached. Rex grew up on radio listening to old songs that are completely foreign to me. His repertoire is endless.

I’ll say “Our primroses are blooming.” He breaks into “Life’s a holiday on primrose lane…” I mention debt. He launches into “…loading 16 tons and what’d ya get, another year older and deeper in debt.” While on a walk I mention, “Let’s cross over to the sunny side of the street.” Out comes, “Just plant your feet on the sunny side of the street…” I declare one evening that flexibility’s my middle name. Feigning a mean southern baritone drawl, he launches into “Fightin’ and trouble’s my middle name. One fist of iron, the other steel. If the right one don’t getcha, the left one we’el.” I say something about “this evening…”. He’s broken into “…the evening breeze, caress the trees, tenderly…”

You get the idea. It’s endless laughter. I rework the humor for days after “singing” my own improvised version, causing myself to laugh at myself, over and over.

Steve Allen said the best humor comes from the reality of everyday life. How true.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


One of my most precious memories of my mother came towards the very end of her life. It makes me laugh to this day, thinking of how she would crumble into a mass of giggles at her inability to control the flow of air through her intestines; even in public, much to my embarrassment.

Another story shared by a college student in my Laughter in Life class, made all of us erupt into peals of laughter. The homework assignment was to bring a story about how laughter helped with a challenging situation. This student relayed how a friend was very depressed after being laid up in the hospital following a bad accident. During one of his visits, his friend’s young daughter walked by his hospital bed and suddenly let out a significant unabashed fart. In an instant it broke his friend’s dark mood causing him to burst into laughter, enabling him to lighten up about his physical pain and his difficult situation.

Farts are a good thing because they bring more laughter into the world.

Consider that the iFart application, a digital whoopee cushion for Apple’s iphone, has been purchased more than 350,000 times, making it one of the most popular add-ons.

My friend Sean is a another great example. He is nine years old, and I suppose for that reason, the topic of farts has brought us endless laughter.

Of course he has a Whoopy Cushion, you place on the chair of an unsuspecting friend.

He shares his Flarp with me, a pretty gross but hilarious toy that consists of a gooey glob of substance in a plastic jar. You stick your hand in the jar of goo and it lets out a surprisingly authentic fart sound. We can’t get enough of it.

One of his favorite books is called Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty by Joy Masoff, a former cub scout leader (who later switched to the girl scouts, only to find they had the same disgusting interests). It discusses such topics as body odor, dandruff, pus, vomit and the all time laugh-getter: farts. One entry is titled: “10 Foods that can make you Airborne.” Sean tortures me by reading aloud passages from this book, much to his delight.

But Sean’s show- stopper is his fart speech by Benjamin Franklin, called “Fart Proudly”. At first I refused to believe him, but it’s all in a book of the same name, edited by Carl Japikse, subtitled “Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School”. Mr. Japikse calls these writings “a testament to the satirical rogue that lived peaceably inside the philosopher and statesman….It is a loving tribute to the ideal of a free press in this country.” Apparently Ben loved to stir things up. He wasn’t just a man who went around saying things like “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Back to Sean - he is at his finest as he jumps onto the stairs leading into his den to recite by heart Benjamin Franklin’s recitation on farts:

“It is a small gesture, but one that can be very effective – especially in a large crowd. So fart, and if you must, fart often. But always fart without apology. Fart for freedom, fart for liberty – and fart proudly.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Play leads to Laughter

In the Laughter Club we play as much as possible during our laughter exercises, because play induces laughter. The proof: watch the children.

Children are the experts on laughing, because children play all day, laughing while they play. Children don’t need a big sophisticated joke to make them laugh. Children just laugh as part of their life, as part of their play.

Robert Provine, psychologist at University of Maryland, wrote a book called Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. Based on hours and hours of research done observing how and why it is that people laugh, Dr. Provine surprisingly found that laughter does not usually follow the telling of a joke, or even necessarily following something humorous. Rather most people laugh being with people they like and having a good time, i.e being playful.

As adults we spend far too much time being serious, working, being responsible, etc. If we don’t balance that with enough play time, we will be out of balance emotionally. So play is good for adults as well as for children. We release stress, learn to think more creatively, learn to be more flexible, lighten up in general, become more positive and cope more easily with the challenges of life.

Where there’s play, there’s laughter. Keep play alive in your life.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Centenarians Laugh

Two women recently attended one of my programs on Laughter Yoga. They are residents at a retirement community that hired me to bring laughter into their lives. I knew immediately that this community of seniors was special. As they slowly assembled for my program, and as I was lecturing, there was a degree of attentiveness, aliveness and interest, unusual for this age group. They asked questions while I spoke. They smiled. No one fell asleep (rare for any speaker at a senior community). They burst enthusiastically into laughter once the laughter session began. The activity director accurately told me “I’ve got the best seniors.”

Most striking were two women – one age 101, one age 102. The “younger one” needed to be wheeled in and needed some help getting settled. But for the entire program, her face was lit up with a huge smile of unusual brightness. From where I stood as lecturer, she was positively glowing. I have no doubt that this woman has been laughing her entire life and that laughter is a key factor to her health and longevity.

The woman who was 102 blew my socks off! A lovely woman in a pale blue suit, she walked in to the meeting room. I repeat, she walked in. No wheelchair, no walker and not even a cane. She stood and had a pleasant conversation with me before the program began. I had no need to raise my voice to speak to her as she could hear me perfectly well while we were chatting. She had a wonderful positive disposition – friendly, joyful – and like all the others, she came to laugh. She made it clear to me in that initial conversation that laughter was the reason she made it to 102 in such good health.

I’ve had many 90-somethings join my laughter programs over the years, but these were my first centenarians. Please notice that this is not in a blue zone – those areas of our planet where there is a large concentration of centenarians. This is just an area near Seattle. These women inspire me greatly, to stay positive and keep laughing well into an enriching ripe age.

Photo: Stock.xchng

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Joy Challenge

Are you comfortable with tremendous joy?

Some people aren’t comfortable with the laughter club and laughter yoga, for different reasons. My observation and theory is that, many who aren’t comfortable with it, aren’t comfortable experiencing that much joy, that much exhilaration. It’s not in their comfort zone. It’s not their usual experience. And for whatever reason it’s not their choice.

I think many people are comfortable with the level of joy that is most often present in their lives, and often it’s not that much. Have you ever noticed that often, after experiencing a tremendous emotional high, someone will then instigate drama, and subsequently bringing their emotional level back down? A parent told me that this is often the case with her 10-year old son. After they have an especially great time together, he often initiates an emotional tangle between them. I think we often unconsciously create situations that keep our emotional climate to a place we are accustomed to. Have you ever noticed that some people are addicted to drama? Sadly so.

It is often necessary to force ourselves to be comfortable with tremendous joy. Challenges can be positive as well as negative. I offer any potential laughter club participants out there to come experience joy, joy and more joy, on a sustained level. Call it a joy challenge!