Reflections on World Laughter Day 2016

When is it appropriate to laugh?


VIENNA - 28 April 2016

A popular idiom states that “laughter is the best medicine.”

You will never see someone crying, while at the same time laughing heartily. We are not capable, as human beings, to simultaneously experience positive and negative emotions. Laughter saves us, at least momentarily, from these experiences. Humour permits us to distance ourselves from the current situation and to see a different view of our reality.

This important lesson was not lost on Abraham Lincoln. During the American Civil War, he was quoted as saying, “Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.”

Recently, the Austrian actor and author Miguel Herz-Kestranek shared the stage with the wonderful musician Giora Feidman in an evening of laughter and delight. The two remarked afterwards that the audience laughed the most when it came to the Jewish perspective on death and dying. Talk about irony, indeed.

This reflects, remarkably, the opinion of the Dalai Lama when describing the present situation of his people under Chinese rule, "They are killing us by the millions, ha ha ha ha!" Each of these individuals knew the value of humour, and knew that levity does not negate the magnitude or seriousness of a situation, but rather helps us through it. We must laugh at these situations because “we laugh over matters, which exceed our capacity for outrage” (Peter Sloterdijk).

Laughter fits in all sorts of circumstances; it also comes in many different forms that we all can recognize. There is the laughter after a tense moment, after an embarrassing mistake, after a good joke or after a quiet observation to oneself.  We all know best the self-deprecating laugh about our own problems and weaknesses.

In September 1910, the German Emperor Wilhelm II visited the Austrian Crown-Prince, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in his Belvedere Palace in Vienna. The entertainment for after dinner was the actor Otto Tressler, the doyen of the Vienna Burgtheater. His specialty was the demonstration of various kinds of laughter. However, every type of laughter he tried did not impress the two royalties.  The desperate, the triumphant, the embarrassed and even the maniacal laughter, although perfectly imitated, were ineffective.  Tressler was in a panic over the indifferent demeanour of his audience.  Finally, in a moment of desperation, Tressler tried the funny laugh! Willhelm II almost fell off the chair while slapping his thigh in delight. The atmosphere of the frigid evening was saved with a moment of whimsical laughter.

Physicians often describe the positive effects of laughter on bodily functions such as blood pressure, the circulatory system, and the immune system. Patch Adams, the famous American doctor-clown and a PhD doctor, wonders what superfluous efforts are made to prove the obvious. For a person’s well-being, whether of good or bad health, young or old, humour always is the priority. Although the scientific evidence exists, for sure we already know this from our own personal experience.

We give respect and attention to great actors, scientists and artists. We give our hearts and affection to those who make us laugh.

Monica Culen is the founder of ten RED NOSES organizations in Europe and the Middle East. She is also the President of the Austrian Fundraising Association.


RED NOSE: Austrian roots, global demand

By combining scientific knowledge with artistic expression, RED NOSES International, through its professional clowns, brings a full range of audiences, in hospitals and social institutions, amusement and joy.

RED NOSES is active in 663 medical and social facilities in 10 countries: beginning in Austria, other successful partner organizations were formed in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Palestine and Lithuania. In 2015 alone, a total of 326 RED NOSES clowns brought psychosocial support to approximately 706,000 people.


For further inquiries:

Eva Primavesi - Public Relations
OSES Clowndoctors International
T: +43 699-111 75 081

Zach Kornell - Public Relations
OSES Clowndoctors International
T: +43 699-111 75 081




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