Friday, January 13, 2006

Another Suicide Bombing? Laugh It Off.



From USA Today...

"With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt 'ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho.'"

Oh that this were a joke. I can't think of anything more painful than getting lessons in laughter from a government employee whose business card reads James Scott, Chief Laughter Instructor.

Basically the Pentagon got hold of research that demonstrates laughter can help reduce an individual's stress. Pentagon employees are often under a lot of stress because of their work [insert reference to Iraq quagmire here], and laughter classes are the Pentagon's answer to stress.

In one study, twenty individuals were shown two movies--one funny, one funny...NOT! What I mean is that one was funny and the other wasn't. I used the grammatically-funny version of "not" to invalidate the funniness of the second film. The article I read didn't mention which movies they used in the study. Presumably "Patch Adams" wasn't one of them.

Anyhoo, according to the article, "The researchers looked at the endothelium, the lining of the vessels, and found that blood flow was reduced in 14 of the 20 volunteers after stressful movie clips. But blood flowed more freely in 19 of the 20 when they laughed at funny movie segments."

I've experienced similar results myself. When I go to open mics, I can feel my endothelium shrinking. It's almost as if my vessels are cringing. But when I see someone perform who's not desperately seeking validation and is actually funny, my blood flows more freely.

Back to the Pentagon. When I first read that James Scott was the chief laughter guy, I wondered what his credentials were. Was he qualified? Worry not. James is certified by the Ohio-based World Laughter Tour, Inc. Or should I say, O-Ha-o-based? Also, the founder of the O-HA!-o company, psychologist Steve Wilson, refers to himself as Cheerman of the Board. Get it? Cheerman? Not entirely won over, I visited the website and was relieved to find pictures of Steve sporting wacky hats and Hawaiian shirts. A Hawaiian shirt, if you don't know, is shorthand for funny.

In one particularly-revealing quote, Scott says, "The guiding principle is to laugh for no reason. And that's one of the reasons it works so well for military families."

Did he just say that military families have no reason to laugh? Sounded like it. Thank goodness the military is helping these people waddle like penguins.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to pretend I'm a donkey and bray at the top of my lungs.

15 comments:

Tim said...

If you click his awesome animated gif with the zany hats you'll go to stevewilson.com and see that he is not just a Joyologist, but he happens to be America's Favorite Joyologist. I can't fathom what could cause anyone to question his credentials.

Let me tell you the upshot - look at his list of Clients Served - this dude is not laughing for no reason. He's laughing all the way to the bank. In his Escalade. With gold spinners. I searched for a few as to his fees but you have to contact Pamela Stile, though when I click "find out why Pamela is wonderful to work with" nothing happens - the screen just blinks. Ok it gets worse. If you follow his "National Association for Self Esteem" link, (or NASE) you'll find it's the fastest growing self-esteem organization in the United States today. However the only link is to their Cincinnati chapter. Guess Cincinnati is the quickly becoming the Self Esteem hub of this great mecca. Anyways, among the many things you can do at their site, you can "Rate your self esteem". it's multiple choice, but they don't tell you the right answer, or even give you a score to rate it with. But I think maybe I'm looking at it wrong - I can't figure it out. Now I'm all doubting myself and shit. Way to go NASE!

Seriously though, one of your best pieces. Your conclusion nails it.

Clinton Freeman said...

I read this, went and watch TV, took a nap, and when I came back it was still here.
A study with 20 is so preliminary as to be almost worthless, but it makes sense that the military would try to use research like that and hope for a placebo effect. I hear they also cross their fingers and rub rabbit feet.
And silly me, I wondered why things are going so badly in Iraq while King George keeps repeating the same lies over and over again.
I think their strategy is to keep doing things that don't make sense until the insurgency, military families, and critics of the administration's policy just get tired of saying "liar" and give up.
I've never read anything about laughter that made me want to cry so much.

Clinton Freeman said...

It's still here.
I was hoping it was all a bad dream.
This is the crap that gives real social science research a bad name. The philosophy of these clowns is tell people anything to get them to give you money. I guess you're suppose to hire them if question the legitimacy of the neighborhood psychic. Or maybe you have an aversion to ugly clothing and gawdy jewelry.

I attend a stress reduction group where in addition to stress people have to deal with issues like drug addiction, childhood sexual abuse, childhood abandonment, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, verbal abuse, poverty, racism, and we all have to deal with mental illness.
If I were to tell the other members that all they had to do is laugh, I believe my soul would explode. If someone were to say that to me, I would have trouble remaining non-violent.
Above all else, those dumb fucks ain't funny. What, are they Carrot Top's parents or financial backers, or something?

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