“I am lost in this moment. I am feeling pure joy. I am at peace”
This sounds like a mantra or meditation. But, I am actually talking about my experience of participating in a laughter competition. What? There is a competition for laughter? Yes, there is.
During the first ever American Laughing Championship in 2013, I embraced the experience wholeheartedly. As I laughed with other competitors, we started a contagious laughter chorus. Then, the audience added the melody of this beautiful sound. With each laugh, I laughed harder and eventually I reached a meditative state where the room fell away and I felt lighter than air…all while laughing to the point when I could not stop.
Finding My Inner Laughter: Finding Myself
That, I believe, was the first time in my life I wasn’t concerned about anything else except being in that very moment. I didn’t care one iota if I was being judged for looking utterly ridiculous or for doing anything wrong. Guffawing so hard that you collapse on stage is not pretty or glamorous. When you think about it, the look of laughter is not pretty. We contort our faces in ways that don’t look natural or that make us look like we’re in pain or ready to cry. But, it didn’t matter. I was in a state of pure bliss. Throughout our lives we are told to hush, hush who we are, hush our joy, hush our laughter, hush our feelings, hush our spirit. Not being able to live as our true, authentic selves is heartbreaking.
Light the Laughter Spark Wherever you go
For a year and a half after winning the laughter championship, I brought the trophy with me wherever I went—speaking engagements, social trips, and humor events. Although I am the only first-ever American Laughing Champion, I am not the only one who can laugh, connect, and experience the benefits of laughter. The trophy has served as an ambassador for laughter; a spark to ignite the conversation of the benefits of laughter; and has led to living in the moment. As I traveled coast-to-coast and to Canada with my trophy, I witnessed and experienced spontaneous laughing interactions. My trophy and I served as a catalyst for laughter. People were intrigued by the trophy. They were also intrigued by a woman carrying around a trophy as it if were the Stanley Cup. Simply by reading what was inscribed on the trophy—“Best Laugher in America”—they would burst into laughter! The interactions continued with talking about laughter championships, the last time they laughed, and the benefits of laughter. And, without fail, as our fun laughter interlude concluded and I walked away, my newfound laughter friends continued their laughter among themselves. After one interaction, I heard one woman say to her husband, “Wow! That was so much fun! Frank, remember when we used to laugh like that a lot? We need to do more of that!”
As I smiled and walked away, I thought to myself, “My work here is done.”
“There are two ways of spreading light—to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
I realize it is my duty and responsibility to live out loud, let my laugh out, and live my life with gusto enthusiasm; simply by doing that, I hope to be an inspiration for others to do the same.
About the author: —Julie Ostrow is the First-Ever American Laughing Champion and Humor, Laughter, and Improv Coach. She coaches groups and corporations how to use humor, laughter, and improv techniques to improve communication, connection, and creativity www.GoFindTheFunny.com