How do you get people laughing at these classes? Do you tell jokes?
No. Madan Kataria, an internist and cardiologist who founded the Laughter Yoga movement, originally believed jokes would be the way to get people laughing together. But before long, they ran out of jokes. It was all the same, except last time the bartender said this, the cop said that. And some of the jokes were racist or sexist. He figured out that faking laughter would get people laughing for real. You look around and see everyone laughing, and the happiness spreads. So, we'll start with fake laughing, or maybe a mime exercise, where you open the door of a car, and inside the car is a LION! So you're surprised, you holler and laugh. We do exercises where we make something stressful funny, like we'll look at an imaginary Visa bill. You open your bill and laugh, and you all share your bills. And the next time they really open their bills . . .
They remember the laughing.
And it's not so scary.
Where do you mostly teach this?
I teach at senior centers, or corporations will bring me in . . .
People can be so inhibited at work, and things must be extra tense if they're bringing you in.
The more intelligent companies hire me, because they understand laughing boosts morale. With 15 minutes of laughing a day, people are happy to go to work! We also do free classes down on Laguna Beach seven days a week, laughing with the dolphins and sea lions.
How do people going by react?
Maybe 20 percent say they wish they could join us. We say, go ahead! Most of the rest are confused but amused.
Do you ever get teased?
Every three or four months, some guy—it's always a guy—will say something.
"I came here for quiet!" Stuff like that. We tell them the ocean is a lot louder than we are. You kinda wanna point out that there is another seven miles of beach! They're trapped in their own misery. They see other people laughing, and it makes them nuts. You know, if we were kids, if we were seven years old, nobody would think twice about us running around playing Ring Around the Rosie or whatever. Adults need to play, and we've lost sight of that.