What happens in our bodies when we laugh? – Comedy Central Live 2018

Celebrity gossip time! Oxygen and magnesium are dating!





In other news, Einstein has finally finished that theory about space he has been working on.



It’s about time too!


Anyone know how you plan a space party?



Well, I guess you just plan-et!


Okay, okay! I’m sorry! I don’t think I will be fulfilling my dreams of becoming a science comic any time soon unfortunately. But I am a HUGE comedy nerd. I am always watching stand up comedy TV shows or searching for tickets for the next live show. So, you can imagine then that I jumped at the chance to spend my weekend laughing my head off when Comedy Central Live came to Southampton. A weekend long festival featuring some of the country’s best comedians and some amazing up and coming talents too. We got the VIP tickets which in hindsight now was an inspired idea as we got entry into all the main tent shows to see the biggest names, plus a little goodie bag which had a reusable water bottle in it which pleased the scientist in me – good green & eco points CCLive! But I must say I was hugely impressed by the other lesser known talent there was around. I probably laughed more at their material than the big names – so it has given me even more names to know search for gig tickets for. My highlight of the day was meeting my comedy idol Jimmy Carr, but also chatting with and watching an up and coming star Emmanuel Sonubi. You heard it here first! He was amazing! Watch out for his name at a gig near you soon and he was such a lovely guy too & shared probably too many rugby stories with us. Plus he is a pretty good singer we found out after watching his performance on Amusical. A man after my own heart with a love of musical theatre! My favourite set of the day though had to go to the amazing Chris Ramsey. I could totally relate to the slow cooker problems! hah! & I did have a good chuckle at the more interactive part of Jimmy Carr’s show though after members of the audience had text in their jokes and requests. Although the festival had a major meltdown on the Saturday event, by the time we got there on the Sunday they had resolved the issues they had and we had an amazing day out. Can’t wait to go to the next one. We need more live comedy festivals if you ask me!


That’s my mini review over – time for the science!

As I was sat there roaring at joke after joke and meeting some of my comedy heroes in person, I couldn’t help but think about what was going on in my body & my brain when I was laughing – after all laughing is an incredibly weird thing if you think about it! So, I wanted to bring a little bit of the science behind laughter to you guys today so I am going to switch from the awful jokes to something I am much better at – the science. I promise for the rest of this blog post I will only make science puns … periodically! Okay sorry – I couldn’t help myself! I will stop now!


Did you know there is actually a proper name for the study of laughter? It is called gelotology! Yes, there are actually scientists out there who are gelotologists and get paid to study this! Laughter is hard to define. It’s these series of unvoluntary noises that we make when we find something humerus – okay I mean humorous! – and it’s one of the first reactions we ever express that uses at least 15 facial muscles, our respiratory system and our brain. As babies we all instinctively laughed out loud at some point without being taught how to!

Us humans laugh on average 17 times a day. But what actually happens in our brains that allows us to react to all my hilarious science jokes. Laughter involves a huge amount of our brains and each region has specific tasks which I have found completely surprising and fascinating.

Let’s start off with the left side of your brain. This part analyses the words and the structure of the joke or the pun. The frontal lobe of your brain is involved in emotional responses and social emotions and becomes hugely active during laughter. The right side of the brain actually performs all the analysis for you to understand the joke and get what it funny about it. The motor parts of your brain also come into play and help you to move, and make that sound that everybody loves – laughter. Or might get those tear ducts going if you are creasing yourself laughing or rolling on the floor if it is that hilarious. They help generate your reaction whatever that might be!


But the best thing about laughter is not that it helps with social bonding, or even that it gives you a mood boost, but actually that it is good for your health! It really is true that laughter is the best medicine for a number of different reasons proven by science! For example, a study by the University of Maryland has linked laughter to the healthy function of blood vessels which can lower your risk of a heart attack. Laughter boosts your heart rate too & increases the production of antibodies that can strengthen your immune system. Particularly a type of immune cell called natural killer cells or NK cells; which are a type of white blood cell that can attack cancer or any foreign pathogen trying to infect your body. Laughter is also one of the best stress relievers – another perfect reason for me to head to Comedy Central Live to celebrate my PhD thesis submission & to help me get over those feelings I was experiencing. A good bout of roaring laughter can help to relax the muscles in your entire body for up to 45 minutes. Great if you’ve had a stressful week at work, not so great if you end up wetting yourself because you are laughing so hard. But another actual scientific reason behind a common phrase! If you are also not feeling that gym session today, then maybe you should watch your favourite comedy set instead. Why? Well Dr Gulshan Sethi, a doctor of cardiosurgery, says that ‘laughter is like internal jogging’. It helps to tone all your internal organs and strengthens your abdominal muscles. So, if you are looking for those washboard abs but aren’t feeling the sit ups, looks like you need to it the comedy clubs instead.


I just want to clarify that this is in no way medical advice, but just the slightest peek under the surface of the science, mainly the biology & biochemistry, that goes on when we laugh. I haven’t even gotten started on the physics of laughter! But if there is one thing to take away from this is that a good old laugh is going to make you feel better – whether it’s because you are bonding with friends or loved ones, or if it’s reducing your perceived physical pain – yes studies have shown that too!

So, get out to a comedy show, watch a comedy film or ring your funniest friend a call! Get laughing! And as laughing is contagious, you’ll be helping others too! I can’t leave you without one last science joke though – sorry! – so here it goes. Drum roll please…..

A photon checks into a hotel and is asked if he needs any help with his luggage.



He says ‘No, I’m travelling light’!



Do you have any questions about any of the science or the studies that I have mentioned in today’s post? What would you like to know more about? Have you got any cool science jokes, or facts about laughing? Maybe you have read an awesome study about the effects of laughter. Share them below in the comments.


Science love.


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