I recently read a blog from Dr Kataria responding to an actor who said he could easily laugh on command and was wondering what more Laughter Yoga could teach him (a lot!). Dr K’s reply was outstanding as usual, and I took the liberty to build on it. Here it is:

Laughter Yoga is different from other fake laughter in that it is practiced exclusively as a form of healthy exercise and not just an enactment of emotions. When actors act, they are not doing laughter as an exercise; it is a part of their play and entails different thought processes. On the other hand, Laughter Yoga is done as a form of an exercise and does not rely on any reason or sense of humor. It is purely a physical act and not a mental phenomenon.

Here are some significant differences:

  • Motivation: Health vs Job Necessity. Laughter Yoga practitioners laugh for themselves, not anybody else, because they want to feel good and be healthy. Health is a priority.  Actors on the other hand “must” laugh if this is part of their role. They are therefore concerned about skills for performance. Health is not their main concern. They are doing it just for a living.
  • Inner Feelings: Freedom vs Stress. Laughter Yoga practitioners are not being judged because they always laugh on their own terms as and if they want. This gives them freedom from anxiety of performance because there is no performance. Actors on the other hand suffer from the stress of being judged all the time as they have to perform. If their performance does not get the required appreciation of others they won’t have a job much longer.
  • Motivation: me vs them. Laughter Yoga practitioners and motivated by a feeling of well-being, whereas performers are motivated by the audience and their judgments.
  • Audience: active vs passive. In Laughter Clubs / laughter yoga sessions there is no audience. Each person is an active participant, which means they have no time to think and be critical. Everybody’s ego is on vacation and all you have is happy chemistry without thoughts shared by everybody at the same time.  Actors on the other hand are primarily performers. They have to face audiences who are passive participants most of the time. People who are not engaged physically have a lot of opportunity to think and be very critical.
  • Technique: on demand vs on command. Laughter in Laughter Yoga is done on demand (I laugh if and when I want to) whereas actors laugh on command (not laughing is not an option if it is part of a role. If you don’t laugh you simply don’t get the job). This may appear to be a subtle difference, and yet it has major implications. Clowns and comedians frequently experience lots of sadness and depression in their private life, and occasionally even commit suicide. This is unheard of in the Laughter Yoga world. Look at it this way: some people have the gift of “being” funny. Funniness is part of their very being and it is what they exude. They barely need to talk. Anything they do will make people laugh. Some one day decide to make laughter their profession and come up with a show, and the show takes them on the road by necessity: even if you are funny it’s both very hard to make people laugh at the same jokes /pranks every day, just like it’s very hard to reinvent yourself and come up with 1.5h of new jokes and pranks every single day. So the show is a hit and they go from city to city and people love it. Everything seems to be great and perfect, except that it’s not. For the vast majority of comedians and clowns, quickly the show will stop becoming enjoyable. It will just be the same thing over, and over, and over, and yet over again regardless of how they feel inside. Every night they’ll have to be in top shape and pretend they’re at the top of their game. “Being” soon becomes “pretending”.

You can read the initial blog at www.laughteryoga.org

Read Sebastien Gendry’s answers to more Laughter Yoga Frequently Asked Questions!