Inspired by personal struggles, Albert Nerenberg
is making the documentary "Laughology
," a chronicle of his research into Laughter Yoga
, Laughter Parties and the health benefits of laughter. Part of this effort took place last weekend when Nerenberg organized "The Great Union Square Laugh-In
" in New York City. Since I'm on anti-depressants and have a history of disease in my family, I headed down to Union Square to feel the healing effects of collective laughter.
Before attending the event, I read up and learned that Nerenberg is a laughologist and invented "Laughercize
" -- the practice of laughter as exercise."There's some evidence laughter is a natural anti-depressant and a hedge against heart disease. But it has to be done regularly," says Nerenberg. "That's why the Laughter Movement is such an important breakthrough."
The Laugh-In's press release stated, "At 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, Union Square will burst into laughter." However, it took me until 4:30 to find the group since it consisted of about a dozen people. Most park-goers were only interested in the farmer's market and a mobile DJ booth pumping out very loud techno.
Keep reading to see video of the event, and learn why even the man's with the World's Most Contagious Laughter couldn't save the chuckle shindig ...
The gathered practiced Nerenberg's Laughercize techniques, which included all of us pretending to be monkeys, giving each other imaginary flowers, clapping, dancing, rolling on the ground, etc. -- all while forcing ourselves to laugh. Believe me, I really did have to force it. As my Asylum work attests, I have very little shame, but miming King Kong in a public park made me feel more stupid than funny.
The event's secret weapon was the man with the most contagious laugh in the world, Doug Collins. An elderly man from Tennessee, Collins became a YouTube phenomenon
after being brought onstage at a local comedy club and simply laughing into the microphone. His silly chuckle is so unique you can't help cracking up yourself.
Unfortunately, none of the event organizers brought a microphone and PA or even a bullhorn. The loud techno music from the park's daytime dance party drowned out Collins' contagious chortle. To get the effects, I had to stand right next to him, which became tough when we started stretching for Laughter Yoga.
"Oh, I have a good time about anywhere," says Collins when I asked him if he was having fun. He giggled, adding, "These people are funny."
At that moment, I realized Collins had been watching the activities more than actually participating. I took his cue and became a spectator instead. Within moments I was laughing at the Laughercizers. I'm sure that wasn't Nerenberg's intent, but I did feel much better.
Ryan McKee is an Asylum contributor and engages moderately in laughter.