Contestants at America’s first laughing competition at will be judged
on the infectiousness of their laugh and how much muscle control
they lose in the process of chortling, guffawing and giggling.
It’s no joke: The United States’ first-ever laughing championship takes place Saturday in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and a few dozen gigglers, guffawers and chortlers will yuck it up in hopes of winning the coveted title of “California’s Best Laugher.”
We’re serious: It’s a laughing contest and the contestants will compete in events such as “Best Diabolical Laugh” and “Most Contagious Laugh” and face off in “Laughter Duels” to see who can make the other person crack up most.
And while just mentioning the contest is enough to make some skeptics start rolling on the floor in ridicule, it’s part of a serious effort by Albert Nerenberg to raise awareness of the power of laughter…
Nerenberg is a self-proclaimed “laughologist” who started noticing the power of laughter while, inexplicably, watching Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts.
“Before all these fights, there is a stare-down and, many times, the fighters begin to spontaneously laugh,” Nerenberg told AOL News. “They triggered laughter through eye contact and their proximity to each other. This is not uncommon.”
Nerenberg decided to take the laughter to its inevitable conclusion by having contests in which people compete for the best laugh, rather than punch each other’s lights out.
Nerenberg, who is based in Montreal, organized laughing contests in Canada and Japan as part of a documentary, “Laughology,” before he was invited to organize a U.S. Championship in San Luis Obisbo, which was recently declared “America’s Happiest City” by “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“There is a new laughter movement where [people] use principles of contagious laughter in a competitive manner,” he said. “The contests are easy to organize and explain, but it requires a distinction between humor and laughter.”
As Nerenberg puts it, laughter is universal, while humor is cognitive, a learned behavior.
“Laughter is contagious,” he said. “You feel it and then you laugh. It’s hard to fake a laugh, and people mistrust those who do fake laugh because it’s usually coercive — you’re trying to get someone to do something — or it’s hostile.