Seeking evidence that humor and laughter can be healing, was the reason for the annual meeting of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor held in San Francisco five years ago (Schorr,2004). Although this growing organization was holding their yearly conference practically in my own backyard, I had scant knowledge of the AATH’s prominence in therapeutic humor. But my intense passion for humor and healing –and the lure of a dirt-cheap student rate- later inspired me to become a member in 2008. One of its appeals to me was the myriad resources available for humor research that this organization provides to its members.

Melissa Schorr (2004), then Daily News columnist for the former Alameda News Group Newspapers wrote this about the SF humor conference in my local paper: “Although there is compelling evidence that humor and laughter are effective,” (p.1) Schorr explained that “much is still unknown,”(p.1) and further research is indicated (p.1). But Allen Klein, who attended the conference, believed that “We’ve been laughing for 5,000 years. We know it feels good. Do we need science to tell us that? I’m not going to send it to the lab” (p.1). Way to go, Allen! Let’s listen to this wise “jollytologist.”

It was a privilege to attend the 2009 AATH humor conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was sponsored by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “Healthy Humor: Hitting the Wellness Jackpot!” was the name for this latest international conference, and nearly 2000 members of this fun organization gathered from around the globe for the annual chuckle fest. Oh yeah, Las Vegas really rocked with laughter while the AATH was in town! My favorite “Jollytologist,” Allen Klein was deservedly given an AATH Lifetime Achievement Award. The world could use more jollytologists like the inspirational Allen Klein.

Klein might consider joining the Hollister Laughter Club, “an organization that promotes fitness and relaxation by combining the ancient practice of yoga with the therapeutic benefits of laughter,”(2004,p.1) as I learned viewing the now- defunct Sunday, April 11th, 2004 SF “Bay Area Backroads” television program, hosted by Doug McConnell. The Clubs instructor, a trained yogic laugher(over 700 in the country), guides participants in each twice/weekly session, “where each laugh works out a different part of the body” (BayAreabackroads.com,p.1).A guru giggling group? To find out, call the Hollister Laughter Club at (831) 637-0949, or find a laughter club in your own area at http://www.laughteryoga.org. I’m glad I did!

Finally, am I suggesting that humor and laughter are the best way to cure what ails you? Of course, I’m not. As long ago as the seventies, Moody (1978) voiced his concern. Moody believed, “laughter could not replace the medical techniques that we already have … I propose only that it could be used to supplement them” (p.120). If only that were true, because medical techniques have become increasingly high-tech (and more impersonal, as a result) since Moody wrote those words. Don’t wait for the scientific community to give you the final word on humor and laughter’s healing potential. Be informed regarding your health concerns, and do your own research. You could start with the San Francisco Main Library’s Schmulowitz Humor Collection.(Appendix C) The librarian in Special Collections is eager to help. (Her chicken costume was a real gas!)

Humor and laughter won’t help in every situation. But I know what humor and laughter do for me. It makes me feel so good I take a mini vacation for awhile. And I personally believe that humor and laughter stimulate my “amuse” system, which may then strengthen my immune system.

See for yourself. Health is about balance, I believe.  We need to balance the serious stuff with the silly stuff. I’m convinced there is a laugh force. Let’s use it and experience this healing power. Get out there and get your funny bone tickled -and tickle the funny bone of someone you love. This “magical moment of laughter”(Wooten, p.xx) might make you feel so good, you’ll find that laughter really is a “best” medicine.

Healing with hilarity works!

“There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.” (Josh Billings, 19th Century humorist)

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