Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gelopedia: Some antics, semantics, and the language of laughter & humor

I have always maintained that one of the key requirements of an effective Certified Laughter Leader (a laughter therapist, or an expert in laughter) is to be cheerful. “I can’t be happy every day,” said opera star Beverly Sills, “But at least I can be cheerful.”

That, plus my fascination with the importance of semantics and the role of general semantics in happiness, explains my excitement about the most recent entry in Gelopedia.

Exhilaration: "Exhilaration" was introduced as an emotion construct aimed at integrating the various responses occurring at the levels of behavior, physiology, and emotional experience (Ruch, 1990a).”
“Of Latin origin (hilaris means ‘cheerful’) and is used here in its original sense to denote the process of making cheerful or the temporary rise in cheerful state.”

“…an emotion construct denoting a temporary increase in a cheerful state that is observable in behavior, physiology, and emotional experience, and that occurs in response to humor, but also to other stimuli.”

“Although conceptually different, exhilaration and the state of cheerfulness should be studied together, since it can be hypothesized that there is a reciprocal relationship between them. A cheerful state facilitates the induction of exhilaration, and an accumulation of exhilaration responses may lead to longer-lasting changes in the level of cheerfulness.”

“Within taxonomies of emotion categories, exhilaration may be seen as a facet of the positive emotion of happiness (or joy). Within the family of positive emotions, exhilaration may be the one most strongly aligned with laughter; whereas empirical studies of happiness rarely report its occurrence, laughter is an inevitable response category in humor studies.”

From Exhilaration and Humor, Willibald Ruch, In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.) (1993), The Handbook of Emotion (Chapter 42). New, York, NY: Guilford Publications, 605-616.

Readers are encouraged to submit additions to Gelopedia to keep it dynamic and organic; a living document. Send nominations to

Click here to get Ruch’s paper

Click here to get the gelopedia

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What does a Rigologist look look like?

Bonjour, mes amis! C'est moi, le Rigologist!

With my teacher Corinne Cosseron
An old joke has a very nervous 13 year-old Bar Mitzvah boy thinking so much about the presents he is about to receive that instead of saying "Today I am a man," he distractedly starts his thank-you speech to the congregation with, "Today I am a fountain pen!"

Well, today, thanks to our good friends and colleagues Corinne and Fred Cosseron, I am Rigologist! I am not nervous, and I did receive two magnificent gifts: le beau chapeau rouge (beautiful red hat) you see in the photo above, and the masterful teachings of Corinne and Fred, who came from France to share wisdom, inspiration, and technique with me and eleven compatriots in Columbus, August 15-19, 2011.

From the website of the International School of Laughter (ISL): RIGOLOGY® and RIGOLOGIST® come from the French word “RIGOLO”, that means “funny” or “amusing” in child talk. « RIGOLOGY® » means  « the science of laughter and joie de vivre» « RIGOLOGIST® » is « the professional expert in laughter ».

A unique and very special workshop in Laughter is the Best Medicine
Pam and I organized the World Laughter Tour, Inc. (WLT) production of a 5-day course in Rigology. The curriculum highlighted the major topics covered in five weeks of education and training typically taught in France by Corinne and Fred Cosseron, founders of ISL, and their expert staff. It was conducted for the first time ever in the United States at Columbus, Ohio. Twelve professionals earned the title of Rigologist.

Working collaboratively brings the world closer together. Laughter is universal. Studying it together and having an open exchange of ideas connects us all with greater tolerance and better understanding of the human condition.

A baker's dozen of Rigologists at USA workshop
Rigology, Steve Wilson and Corrine Cosseron  
Independently, Corinne and I have ventured around the world exploring and synthesizing the techniques that stimulate joyful living.

I am impressed by the parallel developments in the ISL (France) and the WLT (USA) certification in therapeutic laughter. Our methods overlap in some areas, diverge in others, and are very complementary. It is surely a zeitgeist, a sign of the times and great minds thinking alike! Both methods teach techniques of laughter and joyful living to health care and social workers as well as people working in education and businesses, and also to the public at large.

The ISL course included highlights of Playful Sophrology®, a technique developed in Bogota, (Colombia) using Indian cooperative games, clowning techniques especially oriented toward hospital care, various humor exercises from different countries, games for all  ages, playful exercises associating dance, rhythms, sounds, singing, touch, massages, hugs, and more. Participants engaged in guided imagery to find their "inner smile", laughter meditation to clear the mind, and street clowning (not the circus type) to give away laughter and free hugs.

"From all corners of the world, unlimited imagination for celebrating provides a catharsis to help us digest events that are somewhat painful and which we all must sometime face," Corinne explains. "All People recognize the universal therapeutic power of laughter, smiling, and positive feelings in general."

Based on a synthesis of these findings, the course offered a toolbox combining many different techniques from all over the world. ISL co-founder Fred Cosseron said, "The goal is to offer to the grumpy westerners we have become, an array of efficient, quick, playful and funny tools intended to bring back laughter and joyful living  wherever it has disappeared − that is, everywhere!"

So, now there are 2 dozen "Rigologists"® in North America offering to all, and more specifically to health care professionals, social workers, and people working in education and businesses, the techniques for healthy and joyful living whose benefits are now scientifically proven. Plans are in the works to repeat the USA course in 2012.

For more information e-mail

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great news for laughter-and-humor-o-philes, especially if you are raising kids

I love finding tidbits like this. They reassure and encourage me. They underscore my love of humor and laughter. When our grandkids, all ten of them, react (and they do) to my antics with, "Silly Pop-Pop!" I know I am on the right track.

Some antics in the family
From The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics, by John Pollack, speaking of the digital influence on learning, the inclination and ability to make connections i.e., get the joke, Pollack writes:

"Research has suggested that the single most important predictor of intelligence, academic performance and later social success is how many words a baby hears on a regular basis, as long as those words are spoken by an engaged and present person, not broadcast over radio or TV. So, if encryption theory--the idea that humor requires shared, unspoken information to 'Get' the joke--actually explains the evolutionary advantages of verbal humor, the most verbal among us might just end up getting in the last word for generations to come.

"If such wordplay does offer and evolutionary advantage, a propensity for it might well be hardwired within us. As the late neurologist Max Levin theorized: 'If play were not pleasurable, kittens would never chase each other's tails, and so would lack practice in the motor skills needed for survival. If there were no pleasure in the appreciation of the absurd, if there were no fun in playing with ideas, putting them together in various combinations and seeing what makes sense or nonsense--in brief, if there were not such a thing as humor--children would lack practice in the art of thinking, the most complex and most powerful survival tool of all."

Being picky
From a British Minister of Education: "It is important not to make plans that are too rigid … Everything to do with children must have room to grow … Schools must have freedom to experiment, and variety for the sake of freshness, for the fun of it even … Laughter in the classroom, self-confidence growing every day, eager interest instead of bored uniformity … (Ellen Wilkinson, Minister of Education 1945–1947, Labour Government, concluding paragraph of The New Secondary
Education; quoted in Vernon, 1982).

And, making my heart sing, comes this from Helen Johnson, Director of the Professional Education Research Centre at Roehampton University of Surrey, UK (2005):

"What is laughter? Its sound is easily recognisable. But what can it be said to represent? Aristotle saw the tendency to laugh as a force for good, and clearly laughter reflects an amusement and happiness with life, however fleeting. But in itself it can be a building block to high positive self-esteem and confidence. The playful and laughing child, one who has not been cowed into a sullen acquiescence or provoked into an aggressive rebellion, has the spirit and the means to learn, and that such learning should go beyond the mere assimilation of the familiar (Ken Dodd’s ‘logic’), though rules are important, to the adding of new ideas (Piaget, 1952; Inhelder B and Piaget J, 1958). So humour and laughter are part of the development of the individual child – and support the personal, spiritual and professional development of the teacher. Laughter is about autonomy, but it is also a unifying force. Laughter builds relationships in the classroom and the playground – and in the staff room. These relationships are between child and child, child and adult, adult and child, and adult and adult.

"In summary, it can be said that, as a qualitative performance indicator, laughter reflects the following behaviour:

Management● Laughter helps effective decision-making
● Laughter locates a moral sense in that decision-making

Difference● Laughter sees difference
● Laughter is an ironic process
● Laughter is an expression of the awareness of moral complexity
● Laughter is an expression of cognitive or emotional or social dissonance

Political position● Laughter is a political act
● Laughter is an expression of plurality
● Laughter trains pupils to be citizens
● Laughter is dissent
● Laughter is unifying

Human development● Laughter sees the gap between the norm or standard or target and the reality of life
● Laughter gives the individual autonomy, self-esteem and self-confidence
● Laughter builds relationships with others

Educational processTherefore, laughter is an educational process.

"It has been argued that one such indicator of culture and organisational climate and its impact on the performance of the school is laughter. (Its importance is based on it being a significant precondition and support of learning; being an indication that learning is taking place; and that it is a learning act in itself). On that basis, it is suggested here that each school should have a laughter rating.

"This is important; as research has long shown (West, 1992) that parents choose a school where their child will be happy." (Italics added by SW, who is very happy about all this.)

Grafito incognito
Soulful family
Family nose