Transcript: Loretta LaRoche on Humour and Health | Jun 15, 1998

A man in his forties appears. He has straight brown hair and wears a beard. He’s dressed in a dark jacket over a black sweater with two white stripes.
He sits on a brown leather chair a cross from a woman.

He says LORETTA LAROCHE, YOU
CALL YOURSELF AN MD,
A MIRTH DOCTOR.

Loretta says RIGHT.

She’s in her late forties; she has short wavy black hair and wears a dark tailored suit. She sits on a leather chair across from the interviewer. A small round table with two black coffee cups are on the table.

He continues YOU'RE KNOWN
THROUGH YOUR BOOKS,
THROUGH YOUR PBS SERIES,
THROUGH SEMINARS,
AS SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS
HOW TO USE HUMOUR
TO OVERCOME STRESS.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE
BUSINESS OF UNDERSTANDING
USING HUMOUR TO RELIEVE
STRESS AND HEAL THE BODY?

She answers I THINK I WAS
BORN FUNNY.

A caption below her reads “Loretta LaRoche, Humour Therapist.”

She continues IT WOULD BE INTERESTING
TO KNOW IF THERE WAS
SOME GENETIC
PREDISPOSITION TO HUMOUR,
THERE IS TO
HAPPINESS.
THEY HAVE
DISCOVERED THAT.
YOU DO HAVE DNA THAT
PREDISPOSES YOU TO HAPPINESS.

He asks REALLY?

She explains ABSOLUTELY.
SOME PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER
THAN OTHERS ACCORDING
TO THE CHEMISTRY
THEY HAVE IN THEIR BRAIN.
BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY
PEOPLE CAN REALLY SEE IRONY
AND PARADOX AND ALL THAT,
BUT I WAS EASILY ATTUNED
TO THAT BECAUSE MY WHOLE FAMILY
IS A BUNCH OF NUT BAGS.

He chuckles and says WELL, YOU SAID
YOUR OWN FAMILY
WAS KIND OF AN
ONGOING SITCOM.

She continues IT CERTAINLY IS.
THEY'RE DYSFUNCTIONAL,
BUT THEY NEVER KNEW IT,
SO WE JUST PUT THE
FUN IN DYSFUNCTIONAL.

She chuckles.

She says HOWEVER, ALONG THE WAY,
THINGS HAPPENED IN MY LIFE
THAT CREATED A LOT OF
SUFFERING, OR TRAGEDY,
OR WHATEVER YOU
WANT TO CALL IT,
AND I THINK I PROBABLY
LOST A LITTLE OF MY HUMOUR,
AND I PARTICULARLY LOST IT
WHEN I BECAME A SINGLE PARENT
AND HAD TO RAISE THREE
CHILDREN FOR SIX YEARS,
AND THEN I HAD
TO EARN A LIVING.
HERE I AM, A SINGLE PARENT,
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?
I HAD COLLEGE DEGREES
BUT I COULDN'T -
YOU KNOW, I WAS, WHAT?
OVERQUALIFIED.
SO I STARTED TEACHING
DANCE AEROBICS AT A TIME
WHEN NO ONE ELSE
WAS DOING IT.
GOT A FITNESS CENTRE GOING AND
STARTED TEACHING RELAXATION
AND WELLNESS AT A TIME
WHEN NO ONE WAS DOING THAT.
AND SUDDENLY PEOPLE WERE
COMING AND THEY WERE SAYING,
WOW, THIS IS TERRIFIC.
WE FEEL SO GOOD.
AND THE WOMAN THAT I
WAS DOING IT WITH
DISCOVERED SOME EXCERPTS
FROM NORMAN COUSINS,
WHO SAID, YOU KNOW
YOU'RE FUNNY.
WHY DON'T YOU TEACH A PROGRAM
ON HUMOUR AND HEALING?
I SAID, HOW AM I
GOING TO DO THAT?
SHE SAID, FAKE IT
'TIL YOU MAKE IT.

They both laugh out loud.

She says SO A GROUP OF PROFESSIONALS
CAME, PRIMARILY NURSES,
AND I DID AN ALL-DAY PROGRAM
ON HUMOUR AND HEALING.
I DON'T EVEN KNOW
BASICALLY WHAT I DID THEN
THAT MADE ANY SENSE
BUT THEY LOVED IT.

He puts in WELL, CLEARLY SINCE THEN
YOU'VE DONE A TREMENDOUS
AMOUNT OF RESEARCH
IN THE WORK-

She sighs and says OH, GOD, YES.

He continues AND THE BOOK STARTS WITH
THE MYTHS OF STRESS.

She agrees EXACTLY.

He says AND AMONG THEM, I MEAN,
THEY WERE FASCINATING.
I MEAN, THE NOTION
THAT, YOU KNOW,
ALL STRESS ISN'T
NECESSARILY BAD.

She explains ABSOLUTELY NOT.
YOU WOULDN'T BE SITTING HERE
WITH ME IF IT WAS ALL BAD.

He says WELL BECAUSE I
WOULD BE SOMEWHAT-

She says YOU WOULD BE IN BED
LIKE A BLOB, GOING,
WHAT THE HECK, I
DON'T NEED TO GET UP.
YOU SEE, IT'S A
CATALYST, ISN'T IT?
A CATALYST TO GET YOU HERE,
A CATALYST TO CREATE MORE
SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF
BY DOING A GOOD JOB.
IT'S BALANCING THOSE
PLATES, YOU SEE,

She moves her hands mimicking a juggler.

She continues GETTING THEM GOING AND
KEEPING THEM GOING
BUT HAVING FUN KEEPING
THEM GOING, YOU KNOW?
IF THEY START GETTING
TO BE TOO MANY PLATES,
AND YOU'RE REALLY TRYING HARD
TO KEEP THEM ALL SPINNING,
THEN THAT BECOMES
BAD STRESS.

He nods and says MM-HMM.

She says IT'S CALLED DISTRESS.

He asks BUT IF YOU CAN INSERT
HUMOUR WITHIN THOSE POINTS
OF STRESS, THEN
IT'S A MOTIVATOR?

She says IF YOU TAKE
YOURSELF SERIOUSLY,
YOUR WORK AND LIFE SERIOUSLY
AND YOURSELF LIGHTLY,
YOU HAVE NOW CREATED A
WONDERFUL COMBINATION.

He says MM-HMM.

She continues BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO GO
THROUGH LIFE CONSTANTLY ACTING
LIKE THE VOLGA BOATMEN,
“YO HO HEAVE HO,” YOU KNOW,

She curves her back and slightly closes her eyes.

She says AND YOU WAKE UP EXHAUSTED
AND YOUR WHOLE LITANY IS,
ISN'T IT AWFUL, AND YOU
CREATE THIS GLOBAL WHINING
FOR YOURSELF, IT'S
NOT GOING TO WORK.

He adds BUT THAT'S VERY MUCH IN
THE KIND OF THE WESTERN
CALVINIST ETHOS.

She says ISN'T IT?

He continues YOU DO ALL OF THIS STUFF IN
ORDER TO HAVE FUN AFTERWARDS.
YOU SAY THAT'S THE WRONG
WAY OF APPROACHING THINGS.

She raises her brows and says WELL I THINK LARRY DOSSEY PUT
IT IN A MOST SPECTACULAR WAY.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU
ARE FAMILIAR WITH HIM.

He answers NO.

She tells him HE'S DONE QUITE A BIT
OF WORK IN THE ART
OF THE HEALING PRAYER
AND STUDIES AND THAT.

He nods and says MM-HMM.

She continues AND HE CALLS IT
JOYLESS STRIVING
OR THE SISYPHUS
SYNDROME.

He says MM-HMM.

She explains SISYPHUS WAS A GREEK
GOD WHO WAS CONDEMNED
TO ROLLING A
BOULDER UP A HILL,
BUT EVERY TIME HE
GOT TO THE TOP,
IT WOULD ROLL BACK DOWN
AND CRUSH HIM PRACTICALLY
UNTIL HE HAD TO
ROLL IT BACK UP.
AND IN THE WESTERN PHILOSOPHY,
THIS IS THE ART WE PRACTICE,
JOYLESS STRIVING.
I'LL BE HAPPY FRIDAY.
MAYBE I'LL BE
HAPPY SUNDAY.

He suggests WHEN I GET
THROUGH THIS.

She says WHEN I GET THROUGH
THIS, I'LL BE HAPPY.
MAYBE WHEN I RETIRE.

He says MM-HMM.

She continues AND, YOU KNOW, THEN YOU
DIE AND YOUR FAMILY
GETS YOUR MONEY AND
THEY GO ON A TRIP.

They laugh.

He says ERGO THE HAPPINESS.
WHAT ABOUT THIS NOTION -
ALSO ANOTHER MYTH YOU SAY -
THAT ONLY MAJOR
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
REQUIRE SOME KIND
OF TREATMENT.

She answers WELL, YES, PEOPLE ARE
WAITING TO BURN OUT
BEFORE THEY PAY
ATTENTION.
TO BLOW UP, TO GET TO THE
POINT WHERE THEY CAN'T COPE,
AND IT'S THE LITTLE
SIGNALS ALONG THE WAY
THAT THE BODY IS SAYING IN
ITS WISDOM, HELLO, HELLO,
YOU'VE HAD SIX
HEADACHES THIS WEEK.

She cups her hands over her mouth and asks ANYBODY IN THERE?
WE ARE GETTING MAJOR ACID
INDIGESTION, ARE YOU HOME?

She laughs.

She continues YOUR BACK HURTS,
KNOCK, KNOCK.
BUT, SEE, WE ARE
SO ADJUSTED
TO ADAPTING TO
STRESS, AREN'T WE?
IN FACT, I WOULD THINK
IN THE UNITED STATES
WE'RE ALMOST
STRESS WARRIORS.
WE HAVE NOW TAKEN ON
THIS KIND OF GOAL THAT
I CAN TAKE IT, AND IN FACT
WE SHARE IT WITH PEOPLE
TO THE POINT WHERE WE WANT SOME
KIND OF VALIDATION FOR IT.
YOU'LL HEAR PEOPLE SAY, OH,
I GOT SO MANY HEADACHES.

He says OR WORKING 18 HOURS A
DAY IS SOME BADGE OF-

She says EXACTLY.
IT'S A CULTURE OF BUSYNESS
WHERE SELF-ESTEEM AND
BUSYNESS ARE NOW ANALOGOUS.
IF I HAVE A LOT TO DO,
IF I'M OVERWHELMED,
IF I'M CRAZED AND NOT SLEEPING
AND THEN I'M IMPORTANT.
I'M A VERY
IMPORTANT PERSON.

He says BUT AGAIN, I WAS FASCINATED
TO SEE THAT IF YOU LAUGH
OR THE MORE YOU LAUGH, IT
LITERALLY HAS AN EFFECT
ON YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.

She agrees ABSOLUTELY.

He says AND THAT, CONVERSELY,
IF YOU'RE STRESSED OUT,
YOU HAVE A FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT
RESPONSE IN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
AND IT HAS A DELETERIOUS
EFFECT ON YOU PHYSICALLY.

She explains RIGHT.
WHEN YOU'RE STRESSED, ONE
OF THE MAJOR COMPONENTS
OF STRESS IS THAT YOUR
CORTISOL LEVEL GOES UP.
AND WHEN YOU LAUGH YOUR
CORTISOL LEVEL GOES DOWN.

He nods and says MM-HMM.

She continues SO THAT STRESS AND
MIRTH CANNOT COEXIST.
YOU SEE, THE PHYSIOLOGY
OF STRESS IS THAT
YOU GET UPTIGHT, RIGHT?

She sits upright in her chair.

He says RIGHT.

She continues WHEN YOU'RE LAUGHING,
WHAT DO YOU DO?
YOU RELAX.
YOU CAN'T HANG ON.

She flops in the chair.

She continues HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO
LIFT FURNITURE AND LAUGH?

He smiles and answers IT'S TRUE, THAT'S TRUE.

She says YOU CAN'T DO THE
SAME THING, CAN YOU?

He says WELL, AND AGAIN, I MEAN THAT
A HUNDRED LAUGHS A DAY
IS THE EQUIVALENT OF 15 MINUTES
ON THE STATIONARY BIKE?
YOU ACTUALLY LOSE

BURN CALORIES?

She says WELL, IT'S, 10 MINUTES OF
LAUGHTER ARE ANALOGOUS
TO ROWING ON A ROWING
MACHINE ABOUT 100 TIMES,
SO THERE IS DEFINITELY
AN AEROBIC BENEFIT,
BECAUSE WHEN YOU LAUGH, YOUR
BLOOD PRESSURE GOES UP,
THEN IT'S LOWERED
AFTER THE LAUGH,
AND YOUR BLOOD VOLUME
INCREASES AND YOUR HEART
STARTS PALPITATING
A LITTLE FASTER.

He says RIGHT, RIGHT.

She explains AND YOUR KILLER
T-CELL COUNT GOES UP,
WHICH IS VERY
INTERESTING.
WHEN THEY SHOWED A GROUP OF
HIV PATIENTS A ONE-HOUR VIDEO
OF HUMOROUS EVENTS OR
CANDID CAMERA
, WHATEVER,
THEY FOUND THE KILLER
T-CELL COUNT WENT UP.

He says PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST
POWERFUL DEMONSTRATIONS
OF THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN MIND AND BODY
WAS NORMAN COUSINS' BOOK.

She nods and says RIGHT.

He continues “THE ANATOMY OF AN ILLNESS.”
HIS CHRONIC, ARTHRITIC,
SPINAL PAIN, AND HE WAS
ABLE TO DEAL WITH THIS
BY SIMPLY WATCHING MARX
BROTHERS AND FUNNY MOVIES.
HOW POWERFUL EFFECT DOES
HUMOUR HAVE ON HEALING?
ON YOUR ACTUAL
PHYSICAL WELLNESS?

She explains WELL, NORMAN COUSINS
DISCOVERED THAT WHEN HE LAUGHED,
IT REDUCED THE AMOUNT OF PAIN
MEDICATION HE HAD TO TAKE.

He says MM-HMM.

She continues SO THAT AFTER TEN MINUTES, HE
COULD ACTUALLY GO TWO HOURS
WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATION, AND
EVENTUALLY HE COULD SLEEP
THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT
WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATION.
SO THE IMPLICATION
HERE WAS, AND IS NOW,
IT'S BEEN DISCOVERED, THAT
YOU RELEASE ENDORPHINS
WHEN YOU LAUGH, WHICH
ARE CHEMICAL COUSINS
TO OPIATES, HEROIN,
AND MORPHINE.
SO THAT IN ITSELF REDUCES
THE AMOUNT OF PAIN
IN YOUR BODY NATURALLY.
IT ALSO CREATES A SORT
OF A EUPHORIC MOOD,
AND THIS CAN EVEN
BE DONE BY SMILING.

He says MM-HMM.

She continues IF YOU JUST SMILE, THIS SEEMS
TO TRIGGER SORT OF A CHEMICAL
REACTION OR AN AH-HA IN THE
BRAIN AND WE START TO THINK,
HUH,

She smiles and says I THINK I'M HAPPY.
AND THERE ARE ACTUALLY
MOLECULAR COMPONENTS
TO HAPPINESS, SO THAT WHEN
YOU'RE IN A HAPPIER MOOD,
YOU WILL FIND YOU GET
FEWER COLDS AND FEWER
UPPER RESPIRATORY
ILLNESSES.

He says YEAH, AND YOU MAKE
IT CLEAR, ALSO,
THAT INCREASINGLY THAT HUMOUR
IS BEING INTEGRATED
INTO MEDICAL PRACTICES.

She says ABSOLUTELY.

He continues ESPECIALLY IN HOSPITALS
WHERE HUMOUR, CLOWNS-

She adds COMEDY CHANNELS.
HUMOUR CARTS.

He says NOW FOR SOME PEOPLE,
I MEAN, YOU KNOW,
MAKING FUN OF - OR PEOPLE
WITH CANCER MAKING FUN OF
THEIR CONDITION, THAT SEEMS
MAYBE CALLOUS AND CRUEL
AND INAPPROPRIATE.

She shakes her head and says WELL, NO, IT'S NOT
ABOUT MAKING FUN,
AND NO ONE IS
DOING THAT.
IT REALLY, IT'S
A COMPLEMENT.
IT IS A COMPLEMENTARY
TOOL TO WHAT'S HAPPENING
TO ALLEVIATE
SUFFERING AND PAIN.

He says RIGHT.

She continues AND I HAVE MANY LETTERS
FROM FOLKS WHO HAVE TOLD ME
THAT THEY'VE WATCHED MY
VIDEO DURING CHEMO,
AND A LOT OF THE VIDEOS
ON HUMOUR ARE USED NOW
IN HOSPITALS, IN WAITING
ROOMS, BECAUSE, SEE,
WHEN YOU LAUGH A FEW MINUTES,
YOU RELEASE TENSION,
AND NOW YOU'RE MORE
OPEN TO TREATMENT.

He says RIGHT.

She says SO YOU'RE NOT LOOKING
LIKE A DEAD PARROT
WHILE ALL THIS
IS GOING ON.

They laugh out loud.

He says ON THE OTHER SIDE OF
ALL THE JOYS OF LIFE,
THERE ARE ALWAYS SOME VERY,
VERY HARD TIMES THAT PEOPLE
EXPERIENCE ON THEIR
JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE.
BUT YOU MAKE THE
POINT THAT, YOU KNOW,
NO ONE EVER SAID ON
THEIR DEATHBED, YOU KNOW,
GEEZ, I WISH I HADN'T
LAUGHED SO MUCH.

She says OR GONE TO THE
OFFICE MORE.

He asks OH, THAT'S RIGHT, GONE
TO THE OFFICE MORE.
BUT HOW IMPORTANT IS HUMOUR
IN MAINTAINING OUR OPTIMISM,
OUR EVENKEELEDNESS, I GUESS,
IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING ELSE
THAT MIGHT BE
GOING ON AROUND US?

She answers WELL, I CAN'T EMPHASIZE
ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS.
IT IS THE LIGHT AT
THE END OF THE TUNNEL.

He nods and says MM-HMM.

She continues IT'S THE WEAPON THAT
HELPS PRESERVE THE SOUL,
AS VIKTOR FRANKL SAID IN
“MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING.”
I MEAN, IF YOU READ “MAN'S
SEARCH FOR MEANING,”
IT GIVES YOU GOOSEBUMPS.
IN THE DEPTHS OF THIS
CONCENTRATION CAMP,
PEOPLE FOUND HUMOUR WHICH GAVE
THEM HOPE AND WHEN HE CAME OUT,
HE INVENTED LOGOTHERAPY AND
HE USES TRAGIC OPTIMISM
AS ONE OF THE KEYNOTES OF THIS
PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOLOGY.
AND IT GIVES US
HOPE, DOESN'T IT?
IT GIVES US HOPE.
I MEAN NO ONE
THRIVES ON DESPAIR.

He says RIGHT.

She says YOU KNOW, IF YOU
WAKE UP AND GO,
LIFE'S GONNA BE AWFUL
'TIL I DIE, YOU KNOW,
YOU'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE A
SENSE OF OPTIMISM ABOUT LIFE.

He nods and says MM-HMM.

She continues I'M NOT DENYING THAT
LIFE HAS TRAGEDY.

He tilts his head and says MM-HMM.

She says SOMETIMES IT'S
DOWNRIGHT AWFUL,
BUT WHAT I TELL PEOPLE IS,
IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO SUFFER,
DON'T PRACTICE.
YOU'LL HAVE PLENTY
OF OPPORTUNITY.

She laughs.

He smiles and says RIGHT, RIGHT.
IT ISN'T SOMETHING
YOU HAVE TO
WORK AT A LOT.

She says THAT'S TRUE.

He says WELL, LORETTA LAROCHE,
YOU'RE AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT,
AND I WANT TO THANK YOU VERY
MUCH FOR JOINING ME HERE TODAY.
IT'S BEEN A
REAL PLEASURE.

She answers OH, IT WAS A DELIGHT TO BE
WITH YOU, AS WELL, THANK YOU.

Watch: Loretta LaRoche on Humour and Health