Applied and Therapeutic Humor

People with a great sense of humor are often described as not taking them selves too seriously. But I know a group of people who take their humor very seriously: the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor

aath Humor Academy

Humor is so important, borderline vital, for a person with a disability or illness. I’ve been there. The nurse who took me from dying of embarrassment to laughing with gusto at the situation within 2 minutes flat: she changes lives. Laughter (+ prescription strength meds) are the best medicine. You can go to school to earn a prescription pad; the gift of humor is much more rare and so infinitely valuable. Now there is a group to prove just how right I am! I like it when I’m right…

A brief history: AATH (formerly the American Association for Therapeutic Humor)  is “the home for humor and laughter professionals.”  Since 1987, they have been committed to advancing the study and application of humor and laughter. Over these 26 years, this non-profit has grown into:

[An] international community of humor and laughter professionals and enthusiasts… AATH provides its members the education, cutting-edge resources, and supportive community they need to excel in the practice and promotion of healthy humor. –

These people really do take their humor seriously. They hold a Humor Academy each year. It is a year-long program with 3 levels all aimed at scientific research in the field of Humor Studies. And this is a legit program! They offer graduate course credit (through Portland State University) and certificate options. Topics include theory, occupational applications, etc.

AATH isn’t just composed of funny nurses or even just healthcare professionals; they come from a variful stock including: scholars, counselors, funeral directors, business executives, HR managers, educators, clergy, hospital clowns, speakers, trainers, etc.

aath- funny troops

Wait a minute. I know I got your attention with that list. The AATH Annual Conference is likely the only place you’ll find this eclectic mix all in the same room. Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the elephants in the AATH room roster. Okay, Funeral Directors. If any place mixes less with humor than the sterile, serious, tragic, diseased walls of the hospital…it’s a funeral parlor. I’d like to see a funeral director try to crack a joke there. Either he is part unicorn-elf-fairy and masters it in a way words cannot express and minds cannot fathom, or…he gets slapped a lot.

Next, Hospital Clowns. This is not something I’ve ever encountered or even heard of prior to AATH. Luckily, it was addressed in the latest AATH newsletter (Dec. 2012). It featured an interview with Barbara Grapstein. Don’t know her? Neither did I. I checked her (and her blog) out and it turns out that her occupation is listed as “Certified Laughter and Wellness Specialist”. She also happens to be a Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor. Without further adieu, this is what she has to say about Medical Clowning:

Medical Clowning. It was offered through The University of Haifa, which has a three-year program on becoming a medical clown. The program is in English. You actually have an opportunity to go into disaster zones as a clown and help the children and adults somehow feel … human…. Israel is so good – it doesn’t matter what your nationality, or even if you are an archenemy – they will still help the people. They are such a humanitarian nation. -B. Grapstein

Random aside: read this interview for other gems like how “Laughter is a social lubricant” and “why it feels good – like sex”

Finally, the last thing I learned from the newsletter: the World Laughter Tour. I encourage you to visit their page for a quick laugh; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. This is what I call serious humor:

Mission: To create and disseminate an adjunctive therapeutic modality called laughter therapy by properly interpreting promising laughter theories and practices into multi-generational, multi-cultural, systematic health and happiness program;… —

Have you ever had a nurse who made you laugh that made all the difference?

That’s all I’ve got for you folks. I hope you have a seriously funny day!


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