Monday, December 26, 2011

Laughter as Prayer

“What is the best way to worship?”

A spiritual teacher was recently asked this question and his answer was “any way that connects you to your higher self”.

Spending time in nature, singing, chanting with others, meditating and laughing were the things that first came to my mind. Nature first. Laughter 2nd.

I’ve often thought of my laughter club as a church and my role as laughter leader like that of a minister. For laughter connects us to our best self – most beautiful, forgiving, loving, open. Laughter reaches down to our core and pulls us up out of any muck we might be floundering in. It magnifies our essence.

Some say “Start your day with God and end your day with God”. Whatever that means to you, I think it’s good advice. Connect to your higher self first and last thing each day. For me, that ritual includes my morning laughter routine. It activates my joy and makes me a better person.

Anne Lamott said “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice

We enter the darkest time of year. The Winter Solstice. After that it gets lighter three minutes each day!

Whatever this season means to you, I wish you more laughter, the kind of laughter that brings in the Light – to yourself, to your life, and to the world.

You can see it in the eyes of someone who laughs often. The Light of the Soul. It enters through the eyes.

May your life be filled with the light of joy and laughter - this season and always!

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Friday, December 16, 2011

All Writing needs Humor

Humor is a cornerstone of good writing. Even in stories that are neither light nor humorous.

Humor is an integral part of life. At least it should be. It’s better when it is.

Good writing needs humor. Just like good speeches. A sprinkling of humor, and the subsequent laughter, represent the stuff of life. We can’t do without it.

I’m reading a Barbara Kingsolver book. One of her older ones called Pigs in Heaven. And I’ve been surprised at how often I laugh out loud.

She gives her main character a very funny boyfriend, a built-in venue for humor. But he’s not only funny, he’s astute. His humor speaks volumes about life.

“School is out for Easter break. They thought they’d go have a religious experience with sedimentary rock.” (The Grand Canyon)

The protagonist and her mother are both very witty. Alice, the mother, says of her husband, “His idea of marriage is to spray WD-40 on anything that squeaks.”

Taylor, the protagonist, says of Seattle, “This isn’t a city. It’s a carwash.”

Kingsolver’s humor is making this read very enjoyable. Like life ought to be. Plenty of challenges but plenty of humor and laughter along the way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Osho

“When you have a heartfelt belly laugh, all parts of your being – the physiological, the psychological, the spiritual – they all vibrate in one single tune. They all vibrate in harmony.”

Osho Rajneesh

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

St. Teresa of Avila

What do St. Teresa of Avila and D.H. Lawrence have in common? A lack of respect for over-seriousness.

“From our sour-faced saints, good Lord deliver us.” St. Teresa

“So long as there’s a bit of laughter going, things are all right. As soon as this infernal seriousness begins, everything is lost.” D.H. Lawrence

Photo: St. Teresa of Avila by Francois Gerard/Wikimedia

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sensitive

Comedians are generally very sensitive people. To pick up the nuances of life astutely enough to formulate a joke, usually at lightning speed, and which always has to cut to the core of a truth to be funny, they have to be sensitive. And they have to feel enough of the pain of life to need to make a joke in the first place. Charlie Chaplin said, “To truly laugh you must take your pain and play with it.”

Case in Point: Harpo Marx. Definitely the sensitive one. My favorite Marx Brother.

Harpo would dramatically shift from goofy clown to sensitive musician in a flash – and just as suddenly alternate back to clown the moment his hand left his harp. Harpo never spoke but they say he had a rich resonant voice. Never underestimate the power of the sensitive one.

Just like Steven Colbert on The Colbert Report spontaneously breaking into an acapello Banana Boat song with Harry Belafonte. Nothing short of sweet.

Down and out with a sprained ankle, I needed some laughs recently and dragged out my copy of Night at the Opera. My favorite Marx Brothers movie. Totally goofy, corny and just hilarious! The one and only Margaret Dumont, the overcrowded train compartment, the on-stage antics during Il Trovatore, the expessions on Harpo’s face and on and on...

Photo: Harpo Marx/Wikimedia

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Laughter Flows with People you Like

I adore my reflexologist.

A gentle and highly effective practitioner from Japan, who speaks in delightful broken English, this woman is a joy to be with. She’s a unique combination of very sweet and highly skilled. Just my kind of person. We completely hit it off.

Therefore we spend our entire session laughing. Or at least the beginning and the end, with a silent intensive healing treatment in the middle.

I can’t tell you what we ever laugh about, only that the sound of it echoes throughout the salon. We emerge from our session like we’ve just attended a comedy club. Renewed. Refreshed. Exhilarated.

In the normal course of life people rarely laugh in response to a joke, and often not in response to any kind of intended humor. But rather most people laugh just being with people they like and having a good time.

Laughter is a social activity. It’s about people being together. Most of the time it doesn’t really matter what anyone is saying, just that people are with those they enjoy. That in itself stimulates laughter.

Surround yourself with people you like and the laughter flows freely.

Photo: Yukari and Me

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Smile is a Curve...

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

Phyllis Diller

Indeed it does. When you’re feeling down, if you manage a smile, a ray of hope is so evident, as a flicker of light returns to the eyes, and one day so does the laughter.

Phyllis Diller, though she was not my style of humor, was a pioneer comedian in a world dominated by males. She held her own – so often with self-depreciation, but nevertheless....

At 94, she proves that “those who laugh, last”.

Photo: Wikimedia

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nervous Laughter

Someone recently told me that he always started laughing when he was in an argument with his wife, which unfortunately only made her more angry. I explained to him that this was nervous laughter and was an intelligent thing to do. It was his body’s innate wisdom getting him to relax by laughing. Hopefully by relaxing he could then deal with the issues at hand more effectively. I used to do the same when my partner confronted me. It felt a bit bizarre, but it was often my first spontaneous reaction.

There used to be someone in my life that I got very nervous around and I found myself making constant jokes around him. Again it felt a bit bizarre to instantly turn into an incessant comedian, but I realized I did it unconsciously to relax myself.

My dentist’s assistant is a great laugher. I told him it’s a very helpful way for me to relax in the dreaded dentist chair. All dental assistants should laugh.

Laughter is the body’s instinctive response to stress. The higher the stress, the more the need for laughter. It’s why comedians often have challenging life histories, especially when they were children. Hence they develop the skill to laugh and make us laugh along with them.

If someone is laughing in an odd situation, know that they are only trying to relax themselves, by breathing deeper, relaxing muscles, relaxing spirits, in an effort to function better in the current situation.

When in doubt, laugh.

Photo: stock.xchnge

Friday, November 4, 2011

Niebuhr Quote

“Humor is a prelude to Faith; Laughter is the beginning of Prayer.”

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Photo: stock.xchnge

Friday, October 28, 2011

Anti-Freeze

I maintain my gaze for a prolonged time in complete disbelief that someone who lives within 12 feet of my apartment door would be so unwilling to even say hello. After one year I did succeed in getting my next door neighbor to exude the briefest of hellos. But no smile. Never a smile.

In church, a very liberal church I sometimes frequent, it can be equally as hard to make eye contact. For to speak to someone first you’ve got to make eye contact.

Walking down the street, I long ago accepted the fact that everyone looks down, or away, or at their smart phone.

There’s a name for it now: The Seattle Freeze. There are articles written about it. It’s helped. I’m not alone in finding this behavior very odd. The Seattle Anti-Freeze Meet-Up has over 1000 members.

Community is intrinsic to my nature. It’s the first thing I set about to create wherever I go. For me community is part of being human. Apparently not so for everyone.

It makes sense that I am in the business of laughter yoga. In laughter we connect.

It makes no difference if we’ve only seen each other for the first time mere moments ago or if we’ve known each other for years. We connect on a deep level. On an ecstatic level. Joy is the name of our game.

I’d like to drag all my apartment neighbors there and see how they fare. In fact, they would probably do okay. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and the truth is that once I begin a laughter session, demonstrating each laughter exercise with my own abundant laugh, most everyone is off and running. And we’ve got a laughter session going.

I learned very early on that almost anyone will laugh. Not everyone, but almost everyone. It’s the joy that seduces them, the mirror neurons in their brains that can’t resist, and the group energy that carries them along. And perhaps experiencing the very human act of connecting with other humans.

I propose Laughter Yoga as the healing antidote to the dreaded Seattle Freeze.

Photo: Laughter Yoga International

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quote

“Laughter is like a whole bunch of bubbles that tickle you from inside.”

Three-year old child

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Laughter sets you Free

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.”

Sometimes I feel like the Statue of Liberty. As a Laughter Yoga Leader, I say a prayer before every laughter session and sometimes it sounds just like that. “Let them come. Whoever needs to be here, whoever needs more laughter in their life right now.”

And I have had all kinds of people come.

A laughter club member once told me he laughs to relieve sadness. It’s true. And I’ve seen it with those who’ve been through the worst in life. They can laugh the best. They need the healing. Instinctively they know that laughter can bring them back.

I recall one young woman who came with her mother. If I had to give her a label, it might be autistic. But I hate labels because we are all so much more than that.

This woman paced the empty corners of the room before we began. She never made eye contact with me or anyone else. She never spoke and seemed very uncomfortable in general. Yet she appeared to be there of her own choice.

And laugh she did. Not overly boisterous by any means, but she laughed. It seemed like an unused muscle. I noticed some people looking at her making mental note of her uniqueness.

But when we did The Wave Laugh (we pass a laugh around a circle like “the wave”), she emerged out of her shell. She got more and more playful, spontaneous and adventurous. Far more than the rest of us. I loved it!

I love when the laughter club can include everyone. The diversity of humanity all bonding together.

Photo: Wikimedia

Sunday, October 9, 2011

iSteve

Though I am not a techie, I love all things MAC and I have a great respect for the genius that was Steve Jobs. Like many, I am saddened by his passing.

In tribute here are some bits of his humor:

He founded his company on April 1st.

He called himself the iCEO.

He crooned: “ITunes on Windows is like giving a glass of icewater to someone in hell.”

As a blanket response to any media inquiry about his health, he simply offered his blood pressure reading 110/70.

Also concerning his health, he quoted Twain “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

A flurry of comedy has surfaced since Jobs passing. The cover of the New Yorker has him getting checked in at the pearly gates with an iPad…….... Keep us laughing.

Thank you Steve Jobs for all you gave us.

Photo: Wikimedia

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quote

“The head thinks, the hands labor, but it’s the heart that laughs.”

Liz Curtis Higgs

Photo: Laughter Yoga International

Monday, October 3, 2011

Laughter reduces Pain

Laughter reduces pain. I lecture about it all the time. Then one day it happened to me.

I was doubled over in pain. Accidentally I ate something I was allergic to. In response, my intestines twisted and cramped to a high level of pain. All I could do was go to bed and wait it out for the next 12 – 24 hours.

As I lay there comatose, my roommate appeared in the doorway, spouting off something in a dry comedic wit that sent me into a spin of laughter. I laid on the bed laughing and laughing only to realize that, in the process, my pain completely disappeared. “Well, there it is, what I always tell people.”

Unfortunately the pain immediately returned as soon as I stopped laughing. Yet I know that the longer you laugh, the more relief you get.

Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, found that ten minutes of solid laughter yielded him two hours free of pain. He had been suffering under the debilitating disease, anklosing spondilitis, which left his entire body racked in pain.

When we laugh the brain triggers the release of endorphins. Those happy hormones also act like morphine on the body. They’re powerful pain killers.

I’ve received numerous testimonials of this nature from participants in my ongoing laughter programs, yet this was the first time I experienced it myself. Someone suffering from Scleroderma once told me she liked to come to the laughter club when she was in pain because she could get relief from it with all the laughing.

Laughter heals in so many ways.

Photo: Wikimedia/Norman Cousins

Monday, September 26, 2011

Victor Borge

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Victor Borge

Victor Borge was a piano virtuoso, who had in fact been a child prodigy, but he used his incredible talent for comedy.

His piano routines were priceless. Priceless and so benign compared with the comedy of today.

Victor Borge was before my time, but what I know of him, I adore.

He built a career creating comedy, poking fun at the seriousness and pomposity of classical music.

One of his pieces of creative genius was to play a strange sounding piece of music, look totally confused, nonverbally express “aha”, turn it right side up and play it correctly. But in fact he had initially been playing it upside down.

He would routinely mock-scold the audience for all kinds of reasons.

And he had a female operatic sidekick that he ridiculed to no end, eventually ending their routine with a beautiful duet.

Danish born, he was known as the Clown Prince of Denmark.

Photo: Wikimedia/Victor Borge

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Evil Laughter

Evil Laughter. It’s a perversion of the real thing.

I attended a recent production of Porgy and Bess and was struck by how often I heard evil laughter. Over and over again, someone laughing at someone else’s pain. Even the honorable Porgy laughed when he killed a man, amazed at his own success eliminating a piece of evil in the world. Though perhaps that was a bit of nervous laughter.

Sportin’ Life, the pimp and lowest of the low, laughed the most. Crown too, the 2nd most evil character in this community of African Americans in the South in the early 1900’s. They did it every time they succeeded in overpowering another.

It was fitting that the pimp, the one with a twisted association with sex, would also have a twisted association with joy and laughter.

Laughter can swing both ways. When someone is lost, their laughter and subsequently their joy, comes from hurting another. Beware when you hear it for this is a very disconnected human being.

Dark humor is just another form of evil laughter. We see it in comedy all the time. But that doesn’t make it any less alarming.

Laughter is an expression of love. If you are laughing at something dark, you’ve gotten it twisted.

Sometimes it might come out when there’s pent-up rage. Evil laughter is a passive aggressive way to express anger. “It’s just a joke.” Hidden cruelty.

The ridicule usually comes from unresolved pain. No doubt from someone having been ridiculed in their past. How can he pass it on to you? He can try to do it with evil, misplaced laughter.

Laughter belongs in a place of wholeness for it is a connection to our deepest selves.

Evil laughter is a pitiful expression of a lost human being.

In entertainment, it’s always the villain who laughs the evil laugh.

Photo: Wikimedia: Porgy & Bess

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Laughing Through Divorce

My relationship of many years ended recently. It’s been very hard. Lots of crying, not nearly enough laughing.

I tried joining a divorce support group. Big mistake. Though the support was wonderful, the pain in listening to other people’s pain was overwhelming. So much focus on the one they lost. No room for even a few chuckles, though I tried to bring them in.

I once had a group of widows coming to the laughter club. They drove down from Marysville to Seattle, initially telling me, “We’ve done enough crying, we’re ready to laugh.” I thought it was beautiful.

Though it hasn’t been that long for me, I feel the same. I’m sure no one in any of my laughter programs would know how much pain my heart is in, for they are right, when I lead a laughter yoga session, it’s all joy and there is no pain. “You can’t hold a negative thought in your head and laugh at the same time.” And when it’s over and the sadness returns, I’m fortified with all that laughter.

Laughter heals. Slowly. It always does.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fred Allen

“It’s bad to suppress your laughter because if you do, it goes down and spreads your hips.”

Fred Allen, early radio and television comedian

Photo: Wikimedia: Fred Allen

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Universal Spirituality

I love laughter because it’s a universal spirituality. It has no beliefs, no dogma, no right and wrong, no ministers, no membership dues, no church….

Yet it uplifts us unlike anything else. In an instant it raises our vibration. It heals us and makes us better people. We don’t even have to have any thoughts attached to it. Nor a theory. It just happens. And we evolve. Without even trying we become better people.

It’s something we can all agree on – atheist and fundamentalist and everyone in between. Everyone loves to laugh. It brings us together on a higher level.

A universal spirituality for sure.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile. But sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good News

Ode Magazine reports the good news of the world. Good news is not exactly laughter. Yet to immerse yourself in the positive side of life, enhances the flow of laughter. It’s a laughter inducing way to live.

Though our mainstream media would never let you know, there is an abundance of good happening in our world. In the current issue I have read about a local Seattle woman who grows her own dinners; A compact collapsible solar panel created by a young man who trekked to the Himalayas and found the locals spending half a day gathering firewood in order to cook dinner. Inspired to find a solution he created a solar device that resembles an upside-down open umbrella and generates enough energy for varied uses; Or five wind turbines in a small town in Germany that provide low-cost electricity to the residents; Or the surprising economic growth in Africa; etc. etc. etc.

Recently they birthed Odewire, an iphone/ipad app that reports the good news on a continual basis.

There’s lots of be happy about in the world if we only looked in that direction; if we only knew about it all.

Ode is dedicated to “intelligent optimists”.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Laughter is like...

“Laughter is like the human body wagging its tail.”

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mother and Daughter

A lovely woman named Mary told me she used to laugh every day during her daily phone calls to her mother. Now she laughs in the same way with her daughter – every day as they visit on the phone. How beautiful! To laugh with the person you love on a daily basis. Yet most of us don’t have this built-in laughter. Even if we did, more is better.

In comes Laughter Yoga with its built-in laughter, built into the schedule of however often your local laughter club meets.

A young woman in one of my laughter classes had a challenging time wrapping her brain around the concept of Laughter Yoga – laughing for no reason. “It’s not natural” she told me. “It’s not normal” I heard between the lines. Normal laughter for her is laughing with her friends, with people she’s close to, people she knows well, not total strangers. Who wouldn’t agree that’s the best kind of laughter? Like my friend and her daughter.

Yet because she signed up for this class, she gave it a try and lo and behold she’s been having fun laughing in class. I know she’s been laughing more because I’ve seen it. And my guess is she’s laughing more with those she knows and loves and maybe even a few others too.

Laughter Yoga warms up your laughter muscles, expands your experiences of laughter. It simply gives you more laughter.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Children and Chimps

Children don’t walk around telling each other jokes in order to laugh. Children play – and laugh.

When chimpanzees roll and tumble together, they make a sound that is considered chimpanzee laughter. They play!

If you need more laughter in your life, be sure you play enough. It’s as important as work. It keeps you in balance and it keeps you laughing.

Photo: stock.xchnge

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Laughing and Crying

When I’m having a really hard time and try to do Laughter Yoga in my home, I immediately crumble into a mass of tears. So if I’m not ready to feel the pain, I just smile and it helps. It’s safe. I save laughing for later.

If you see a person who never laughs, I guarantee it’s also a person who never cries. Laughter is a huge emotion, the emotion of joy magnified. To feel such a thing we need to be open, open to allow our emotions to flow. This is why sometimes when we laugh, we then start to cry. The river of feelings has begun to flow and it can’t be stopped. You’ve got to be open to laugh. You’ve got to be willing to feel all the feelings inside.

It’s one reason why grown-ups stop laughing so much. Children let it all out – sadness, joy, jealousy, anger, pain, whatever. They don’t hold back. As we grow we start to put on a fa├žade, to play a role. Sometimes only with our loved ones do we allow our full feelings to show. Sometimes not even then. How can laughter arise, when we’ve blocked the flow?

There’s a close connection between laughing and crying. If you can’t laugh, you are probably depressed and not feeling anything. Start slow to open up – to all of it. If you can’t feel the sadness, you’ll never be able to feel the joy again either.

Let it flow.

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

“Peace begins with a smile.”

Mother Teresa

Photo: Stock.xchnge

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Solstice Fun


When you hear the crowd roar, they’ve arrived. Coming and going in an endless stream of bicycles, back and forth they strut their stuff – usually covered in paint using their bodies as a canvas for their creative muse. It’s living art. Some hardly seem nude. My favorites were the black and white symbiotic sisters, one with white dots over black, the other with black dots over white. Then the parade follows with all sorts of craziness. The giant octopus made me smile the widest.

Fremont was made for the Solstice Parade

Everyone in Seattle knows the Fremont neighborhood is whacky fun. Its most famous elements are the 18 ft troll that lives under the Aurora bridge, the 16 ft statue of Lenin someone personally imported after the fall of the USSR, the Interurban statue of people dressed up by whoever in whatever, the Brontosaurus and her baby dinosaur sculptured by some bushes down by the canal, or the building I can see from my porch that has a pinwheel on its roof. It’s all whimsical fun.

Then there are the constant stream of happenings – some planned annually, some newly formed, some spontaneously created. Such as the time last December on my walk to the market, I encountered throngs of Santa’s, seeming to be a cross between a pub-crawl and a flash mob. They took over Fremont.

The zombie parade has now had two annual events here.

Every summer we have an outdoor cinema using the blank white wall of one building, flanked by oversized portraits of Bogie and Bergman.

But the madness culminates every June with the Solstice Parade. All of Seattle comes to revel, participate, play, go wild, whatever. The highlight being the mass of nude bicyclists who now number in the hundreds.

I moved here for very different reasons: the large old growth trees that line my street coupled with a spectacular vista of the Olympic Mountains.

But it can’t be denied I’ve had plenty of laughs while living in Fremont, the self-proclaimed Center of the Universe.

The brochure says “It’s a place to let your inner spite out to play”.

The truth is I never know what I’m going to encounter when I head out my door. Keep me laughing Fremont!

Photo: Wikimedia

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friends make you Laugh

Dr. Robert Provine cites friendship as the number one source of laughter.

In his book, Laughter A Scientific Investigation, he explains that after spending hours and hours observing how and why and when people laugh, he found that laughter most often occurs just being with the people we like and having a good time, i.e. being with our friends.

Several years ago Time Magazine dedicated an entire issue to the subject of Happiness. They also reported friends as the #1 source of happiness.

Keep friendships alive in your life. They’re a major source of laughter.

Photo: My friend Cathy

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Big Man

I adored Clarence Clemons.

The Big Man with the Big Presence and the Big Smile!

Bruce Springsteen’s longtime saxophone player and treasured friend passed away yesterday. Springsteen called it an “overwhelming loss”.

In a 2003 Associated Press interview Clemons stated “I have no agenda – just to be loved”. How beautiful. I believe he was very loved.

I couldn’t find a copyright free photo with his huge smile, which is crazy because to me that was his signature look. If you peruse his photos online, he’s either smiling huge or he’s got a sax in his mouth.

By those who knew him, Clemons was called “a sweet spirit” and “ an enormous presence”. He was someone whose mere name “brought a smile to our face”.

AP reports today that “Unlike many musicians Springsteen and Clemons were more interested in the heart and substance rather than the glamour of the music”.* I couldn’t agree more.

Blessings on your journey home Big Man Clarence!

*N. Moody

Photo: Wikimedia

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Laughing Statues

Giant laughing men are taking over Vancouver, B.C.

They are huge, cast-bronze statues depicting the artist himself (Chinese artist Yue-Minjun) in various poses of hysterical laughter. Some are doubled over. Some are making silly gestures with hands. Some are interacting to incite laughter. They are truly over the top.

I recently discovered this interactive outdoor art exhibit. I encourage anyone who is going to Vancouver to seek them out. They are in Morton Park in English Bay and the exhibit is called “A-maze-ing Laughter”. They should be there until the summer. (Yikes, that’s almost now!) If you can’t visit them, find them on the Internet. They are truly unique and worth the laugh.

One writer refers to them as “laughing madmen”.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Magic Flute

“Enlightenment is useless without a sense of humor.”

So says Phil Kelsey, who plays the magic bells in the orchestra at Seattle Opera’s recent performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute.

It’s a playful magical opera deeply lain with Masonic undertones. It’s an opera about the healing power of music as well as an homage to silliness. Seriousness and playfulness are two themes continually juxtaposed throughout this masterpiece. The initiation rites of one princely prince and his soon-to-be princess are coupled with the antics of one goofy birdman, called Pappageno, who cares only about women, wine and the fun easy things of life.

It is said that in this opera Mozart identified the most with Pappageno.

Pappageno is the silliest character in all of opera. He makes this opera fun and light. He brings silliness and joy and laughter. He wears feathers. He jumps and spins when he’s excited. At times he can hardly contain himself. He shakes wildly with ecstasy when he finally meets his Pappagena. And they go on to procreate little green-haired babies.

Pappageno would be great fun at my laughter club. He’d embrace silliness as the best part of life. He shows what we all might feel from time to time but are too inhibited to act it out.

Photo: Seattle Opera/Rosarii Lynch

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Humor vs Laughter

“What did one earthquake say to the other? It’s not your fault.”

“What’s the difference between a Rottweiler and a Jewish mother? Eventually the Rottweiler lets go.”

One joke is harmless; the other offensive? Possibly. For me, they both made me laugh. But with humor, you’ve got to be careful not to offend. Humor is a tricky game. It’s one reason why we stick only with laughter in Laughter Yoga. It offends no one. It goes straight to the desired result – laughter.

Photo: Laughter Yoga International

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Throw 'em off with Laughter

She asked me to find homes for her newborn kittens. I laughed so hard, it not only threw her completely off base, she never again asked me inappropriate requests.

It was the “challenging” wife of my boss, who mistakenly thought she was “the boss”.

Fortunately for me, my laughter was hearty and genuine for I have a vast sense of humor. I wasn’t trying to insult her, it was just extremely funny to me, to be asked such a ludicrous thing. It was only in retrospect that I realized what a great tool I have for disarming people.

I once gave a lecture to a group of seniors with a disruptive curmudgeon in the audience who took on the role of harassing me. Luckily again all I could do was laugh. It shut him up immediately.

Obama is currently doing the same in response to the Birthers. I applaud him. If you donate $25 to his reelection campaign, you’ll receive a T-shirt (or a mug) with his birth certificate printed on one side and his photo on the other, titled “Made in USA”. It’s a great example of turning a ludicrous attack into a joke. It’s a great use of comedy. Turn it around and make it silly. Laugh them off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Friend Austin is So Funny

My friend Austin is the funniest man I know. I have laughed much because of him. He has significantly increased my “total life-laughter ”.

His humorous dry wit was delivered in perfect timing when we had a neighborhood fire at the house of one especially irritating, chronically–barking dog. The animal in question was temporarily asphyxiated by the fire, only to be revived by the firemen to the tune of his ever-ready and overly-familiar bark. It was comic relief we all needed.

Austin also recalls the tenacious tanning efforts of his youth, trying to emulate his Italian buddies in the ethnic neighborhood of New York where he grew up. Ignoring his “flimsy white Irish skin”, he basked in the rays with his Mediterranean blood brothers “oozing melanin”. Unfortunately it has now gained him a few unwanted cancer cells on his skin. But only Austin can make cancer funny.

In his writing he is especially comical, calling assisted living centers “old age warehouses” and refusing his own “storage there”. He references Ulysses, who in his later years “sailed beyond the sunset” in his quest “to shine in use”. Austin is very literary.

Like many funny people, Austin is a sensitive soul. His feelings, his thoughts, his perceptions and insights run deep. It’s how he can cut to the core in a single hilarious statement.

Comedians have to reach deep inside to pull out the funny stuff. For humor has to touch the truth for it to be funny. Otherwise we wouldn’t laugh. The truth has tremendous power. There’s little strength in lies.

The ability to be funny is a rarified skill. You’re got to cut to the chase in an instant. Austin does it naturally, with a rapid beat and that effervescent positive spirit that I adore in him.

Everyone needs an Austin in their life.

Keep me laughing Austin. You make my life more joyful.

Photo: Austin not quite laughing, but if you look closely you might detect the funny lines forming in his brain

Friday, May 13, 2011

Laughter Yoga in Prison

Prisoners in India doing Laughter Yoga!

Photo: Laughter Yoga International