Please Explain: Laughter

Friday, November 16, 2007

Research shows that the average adult laughs six to eight times a day... whereas the average child laughs around four hundred times each day. Today’s Please Explain is all about laughter. Dr. Robert Provine of the Neuroscience Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County is author of the book Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

Weigh in: What always makes you laugh...without fail? A person, a joke, a situation? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

Laughter is available for purchase at


Dr. Robert Provine

Comments [33]

yushun from china

Great article!Thank you!
tiffany necklaces

May. 20 2008 05:48 AM
Rob from NYC

Dr. Robert Provine always makes me laugh!

Nov. 30 2007 06:42 AM
Albert from Haskell, NJ

I was surprised by Dr. Provine's saying that he didn't know of any studies on laughter and neurotransmitters. A quick Google search came up with many references. I recently attended a workshop where the leader encouraged hearty laughter at the end of an affirmation.

Nov. 17 2007 09:14 AM
Louis Fernandez from Naples, Florida

The reason women don't laugh at the Three Stooges is because they are not funny. Except, maybe, for that woo-woo-woo sound that Curley makes.


Nov. 17 2007 06:23 AM
Maria Shehata from NY, NY

Reactions! People's faces reacting to a situation. Or even a reaction to a punchline gets me more than the punchline itself.
straight men. humor that isn't spoon fed to you. Not a fan of slapstick at all.

and this persons comment:

"Posted by: Mortimer Owakahui November 15, 2007 - 03:16PM

I'll tell you what doesn't make me laugh.

Weird names."

Nov. 16 2007 03:15 PM
virginia from Brooklyn

There was an article in New Life magazine by Dr. Michelle Alpert, D.O. where he states that one minute of laughter is worthed $10,000 in biochemicals, had you buy them from a lab.

Nov. 16 2007 01:59 PM
SE from NYC

Amy, I think you're fabulous, but one note: Donald O'Connor sang Make Em Laugh in Singin In the Rain, not Gene Kelly.

Nov. 16 2007 01:46 PM
mce from midtown

***** Make Em Laugh from Singing in the Rain is sung by Danny Kaye - not Gene Kelly.

Nov. 16 2007 01:44 PM
Megan from NYC

What about people who laugh like donkeys? It seems to be almost an inverse laugh....and it always stops me in my tracks. Do people do this on purpose? Is it contrived?

Nov. 16 2007 01:38 PM
tony from nyc

What a non-funny guest! no joke.

Nov. 16 2007 01:33 PM
Edward G from NJ

According to Mel Brooks, comedy is all about, "Juxtaposition, juxtaposition, juxtaposition!" He may have been talking about his particular approach, but it's true of most great comedy.

Nov. 16 2007 01:11 PM
Leon Freilich from Park Slope


Jokes that last and linger,

Told in bar or spa,

Cap a laugh with insight--

HA-ha becomes a-HA.

Nov. 16 2007 01:09 PM
Linda from Floral Park, NY

Monty Python...the skits, the movies, Spamalot...just listening to the opening music of the old BBC show starts me giggling with anticipation!

Nov. 16 2007 11:55 AM

30 Rock, in a number of ways.

It's words, character, it's society, it's attitudes. Plus, of course, just a bit of slapstick.

Also, Fay is not given her due as a comic actress. She's really quite brilliant in the role.

Nov. 16 2007 11:53 AM
Mary Grace Dembeck from Westport, CT

Almost any writing by Stephen Leacock or Robert Benchley makes me laugh. In a good way.

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush make me laugh, too ... but NOT in a good way.

Nov. 16 2007 11:32 AM

My boyfriend knows how to make me laugh. His humor is off-the-cuff and he says a lot of hilarious stuff in jest. When he does this my laughter becomes contagious, and soon he's laughing too. Thing is, I'm laughing and peeved at the same time.

The Chris Rock Show makes me LOL.

Nov. 16 2007 11:08 AM
Betty Arce from Bronx, New York

Just about any Marx Brothers film. Gets me laughing every time.

Nov. 16 2007 11:06 AM
Judith from Brooklyn

When my niece, Marguerite, would bounce in one of those baby bungee seats that hang from a door frame. I could watch her for an hour straight.
Something about her facial expression-it was like a scientist learning about movement, very serious/inquisitive between bounces as she observed the mystery of the mechanism from on tip-toe doing a half-pirouette.
And then a full-on ear-to-ear grin when she made herself bounce full tilt via deep knee bends: that triumph of control that someone with little control delights in.
Then back to the contemplative, langourous non-bounce.

Nov. 16 2007 04:34 AM
Fred from N. Babylon, Long Island

I so enjoy watching the tv sitcom, "Two and a Half Men." Its risque humor is consistently sharp, fresh and brilliantly acted by an ensemble featuring Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer and young Angus T. Jones. I smile and laugh throughout the entire half-hour.

Nov. 16 2007 02:02 AM
Mark W. Miller from Frenchtown, NJ

Whenever I watch the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, I roar with laughter, especially the "Drive-by fruiting" scene. My wife will begin to laugh just watching me crack up over that silly movie.
But more recently, and I mean this respectfully, your program with the three comedy writers talking about the "writer's strike" made me laugh. It made me think, since when in America has anyone cared about, wrote about, or broadcast anything meaningful about the beating all of organized labor has taken over the past twenty-five years. Where have our comedy writers been?

Nov. 15 2007 10:40 PM
Erica from Manhattan

Why is is that when I am with certain friends they bring out the "funny side" of my personality and others do not. For example, a good friend of mine Paul, every time we get together we both feed off eachothers humor and for hours we are laughing at eachothers comments and so are the people around us. But, I am not nearly as funy in most other situations or with other friends. Why is it that certain people bring out the comedian in me while others do not? Please explain.

Nov. 15 2007 10:10 PM
Stacie, a from New Jersey

ps, she's only 4 years old.

Nov. 15 2007 08:43 PM
Stacie, a from New Jersey

My daughter.

She is autistic and finds common sayings very funny. LIke "it's raining cats and dogs." She looks out the window and seeing only rain points at me while laughing, "that's a joke, right?" She cracks me up on a daily basis.


Nov. 15 2007 08:41 PM
Liz from Washington Heights

First, I strongly dislike profanity or mean-spirited humor.

I love Carol Burnett's old variety show- except the mean spirited "Eunice" character and her family.

Mel Brooks' 2000 year old man is still very funny- even after 40 years.

Mel Brooks said "Ad-libbing is a lot more fun than remembering."

Ms. Burnett and Mr. Brooks were both masters of ad-libbing.


Nov. 15 2007 05:34 PM
Lisa from NYC

My dog . . . and other dogs. He is especially funny when he lurches uncontrollably at skate-boarders. They are safe--he is on a leash.

Nov. 15 2007 04:41 PM

When I was directing plays, I would always try to include a piece of slapstick, just for those people--my current girlfriend is one--who lose it when someone gets humorously hurt. There was always at least one person in the audience who would loudly respond in childlike glee.

Some people watch an entire Seinfeld going dryly, "hm, very funny; oh, that's humorous, very clever, yes." Then burst out in uncontrollable gales of laughter when Cramer does one of his falls.

There's an entire decades-long TV program based on slapstick, of course--America's Funniest Home Videos. Their musical compilations can make my girlfriend positively incontinent.

Nov. 15 2007 04:26 PM
Mortimer Owakahui

I'll tell you what doesn't make me laugh.

Weird names.

Nov. 15 2007 03:16 PM
Tania from ny

Old British sitcoms-Are you being served?
Faulty Towers.
Their timing and wording is so spot on, every time!

Nov. 15 2007 02:42 PM
CH from NYC

MPFC Live at the Hollywood Bowl featured a skit I had never seen before. It is a "lecture" given by Graham Chapman in the history of the jape. I have since watched it many times, but it never ceases its ability to make me laugh out loud. It can be viewed here:

And the antics of Rowan Atkinson as The Blackadder (particularly the first 2 seasons) have never lost their edge either.

Nov. 15 2007 02:06 PM
LBS from New York, NY

Blooper reels almost always make me laugh. There's something about watching an actor flub a line or cope with something unexpected that I find really entertaining and funny.

Nov. 15 2007 01:55 PM
Brian from Brooklyn, NY

this always makes me laugh:

Nov. 15 2007 01:47 PM
Lori from Manhattan

my husband...very witty and quick w/ a joke

Nov. 15 2007 12:34 PM
Greg from Brooklyn

Jack Benny. I can be passing a television and see a sketch from one of his "programs" from the 50's that I've seen 50 times, and chances are quite good it will make me laugh again.

Nov. 14 2007 02:41 PM

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