Monday, September 6, 2010

One A Week Reviews #39: Laughology

A Canadian documentary I reviewed for DVDsnapshot. I think you'll find it's worth a few... laughs? (*Groan* sorry, couldn't resist)


Laughter... Plato hated it. The Bible discouraged it. The school you went to, probably, banned it.

The first ever feature documentary about the subject, Laughology is a "screamingly funny" groundbreaking odyssey into why we laugh and those who would stop us.

When filmmaker Albert Nerenberg realized he needed to lighten up after a family tragedy, he goes on a quest to find the cure for seriousness. What ensues is a journey to discover the meaning and power of laughter in a world that desperately needs a good laugh.

From the opening treating the subject like the outbreak of a terrible, infectious virus, Laughology is a thoughtful and playful documentary about laughter: what is it and why do we need it?

Albert Nurenberg was touched with far too much death in his family's lives and was inspired by his child's laughing to find out how to get his own laugh back. As he discovers, all babies learn to laugh on their own. It's a universal behavior everyone expresses, even animals, who's panting sounds are the evolutionary root and cousin of human chuckles. We express joy through laughter and it heals us.

Anthropology, medical sciences, religion, entertainment and education are all checked-in with on this trip through the human history of the healthiest of all contagions (excepting, of course, the African outbreak of "Laughing Disease," which is covered in the doc). Turns out society has a long history of surpressing joy and encouraging seriousness (and here I thought it was just in my life). Some of the anecdotes include how "laughtracks" can calm caged, nervous dogs and a look at "Professional Laughers." Hired originally to be the audience for the TV show "The Nanny" (due to security threats to Fran Drescher), this crew of "Pros" were hired on the QT by several shows and for a golden while, were very lucky people with the enviable job of sitting around together and just laughing. What a marvelous job.

Best of all are a visit to the Inuit to learn of their laughter games and strongly encultured respect for the power of laughter and a look at Norman Cousins, a man who possibly healed himself from a degenerative disease through overdosing on "Candid Camera." Being reminded you won't survive if you don't express joy in your life is something we all need to hear.

Watching people laugh thoughout the hour, you might find yourself going from a straight face, to a grin, to perhaps being inspired to laugh a little yourself. Even if much of it seems forced in the documentary, it's still a reminder that we need to share laughs.

Extras on Laughology include the trailer and some 40 minutes of extra/extended interviews including a look at what the "Laughing Yogi" teaches, which by all rights would make for a killer youtube video. The film is presented in English and in Widescreen, but no subtitles or other options.

A quick hour-long documentary about laughter, you might find yourself smiling along. Not necessarily as joyful as it could be, it's hard to be critical of any story as good natured as this look at laughter. You'll be booking a trip to go visit the Inuit and play their laughing games.


1 comment:

  1. I loved Laughology. Really a breakthrough.