Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why is laughter contagious?

I was thinking about laughing today, I have noticed that when I am recording contents for my comedy podcast I am often laughing at the daft stuff I am or have just said.

The reason I was thinking about laughing because I was thinking about the funny clip of two BBC cricket commentators Brian Johnson and Jonathan Agnew laughing when commentating at the oval. The commentators start cracking up with laughter and go all high pitched. You can find the clip here


I find it impossible not to start laughing when I hear this clip, despite knowing exactly what is going to happen, once they say he couldn’t get his leg over, that’s it they can’t go on, struggle for a bit and then start laughing and once one of them starts the other can't stop himself. It makes me laugh just thinking about it.

Ricky Gervais often does this on his podcasts and interviews, the sound of Gervais’s high pitched laughing often makes me laugh regardless if what he is actually saying is funny.

When you think about this, it is in some ways disturbing, it seems laughing is contagious. I have heard this theory mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in his book the Tipping point. This lead me to think about my own podcast, Ricky Gervais and the excellent cricket commentary clip.

What this contagious laughing indicates is a couple of points

1. Laughing is contagious; if someone else laughs you might too.
2. you don’t even have to hear or know what they are laughing at to join in
3. laughing isn’t always a response of hearing, reading or seeing something funny

The above points may explain why people enjoy watching comedians perform live. I have often been to a comedian and then the next day someone asked me if it was good, Yes I would say but then I couldn’t recall anything funny the comedian said. The of course could be due to my poor memory but maybe it wasn’t all that funny but the fact everyone else was laughing caused me to laugh as well.

I am not saying that comedians just rely on a few people laughing to start a laughing wave and then they don’t have to worry about saying anything else funny but I am saying having lots of people laughing will definitely encourage other people to laugh regardless of the quality of the material.

The mirror has included a list of TV and radio stars who couldn’t stop laughing, if only they included the links to the clips

So what is laughing and is it any good for us, this is one of those topics I wonder how humans would explain laughter to aliens, perhaps they already beamed down to earth and found a bunch of humans laughing and got back in their space ships thinking we aren’t ready to meet them yet, anyway I found a description of laughing here

“When we laugh, the brain pressures us to simultaneously make gestures and sounds. Fifteen facial muscles contract, the larynx becomes half-closed so that we breathe irregularly, which can makes us gasp for air, and sometimes, the tear ducts become activated (1). Nerves sent to the brain trigger electrical impulses to set off chemical reactions. These reactions release natural tranquilizers, pain relievers and endorphins (2). “

I have to admit it doesn’t sound as much when you see it written down in such a clinical manner. This article has some interesting facts, like 80% of laughter isn’t based on humour. It also states speakers laugh 46% more than listeners, although this is 97.5% false when you investigate the laughter speaker to listener level of my podcast, which I have selfishness not mentioned for a few paragraphs, although writing that did make me laugh and probably not you.

I love statistics and this article is chock full of odd and intriguing statistics. Humans laugh on average 17 times a day! And some researchers who presumable are avoiding doing any real work, theorise laughing 100 times a day is the equivalent of doing a 15 minutes of exercise.

The baffling figures they pluck out of the air is impressive for the definitive numbers which I would multiply with a uselessness factor of 3.5 to come to the conclusion I would also like to be someone who spent his time coming up with such statistics.

So scientists think laughter is contagious, I think laughter is contagious so all is good in the world. Laughter it seems is also good for you and is like doing a workout, well bring on the laughter diet.

The amazing fact these ideas seem to indicate is all we need to do is just laugh more, we don’t have to be funny or read funny things or even see anything funny. The only thing we have to do to laugh more is decide to laugh, by laughing you will trigger someone else laughing whose laughter will bounce back making you laugh and none of you will know why. If anyone else comes into your laughter zone they will then start laughing as well.

The results of this will be increased happiness, healthy body, positive feelings, endorphins released and you will all feel a whole lot better with the only downside is your face might ache a bit but when you are all laughing your aching face will probably seem funny.

So get laughing and if you need any help, did I mention I have a funny podcast full of laughing and you know what listening to laughing does to you

Hosks Half Hour - http://hoskshalfhour.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

Hoskinator said...

I say more laughing from everyone, if we all increase are laughing for no reason then this should spread around work like a laughing disease.

it will be unstoppable and they will have to hire people like Lee Mack and Joe Pasqaurli to go around telling jokes in order to stop people laughing so much.

hopefully it will make the all the media concentrate on the laughing epidemic rather than ramming the credit crunch down are throats and telling us how many people aren't buying houses compared to last week and wheeling out graphs all drooping downwards.

Once we have stopped the papers, TV and radio from announcing doom and gloom and financial ruin every five minutes people will then go back to the shopping centres and pubs and spend the country back on it's feet again.

Remember where you first heard of the idea from me, so I can then feature on the front of magazines such as Front and appear on Friday night with Jonathan woss once he has been restored and I will playfully swot away his risky/cheeky questions and I shall follow in the long line of new celebs to be invited to play tennis at Ross towers.

See I'm laughing already!


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