"Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed...."

-Genesis 17:17 (one of only two laughs in the Bible)


"We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can."

-Will Rogers


"Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine."

-Lord Byron


"On one occasion I told Einstein a joke to which he responded with one of the most extraordinary kinds of laughter I have ever heard, then or since. It was rather like the barking of a seal. It was happy laughter."

Professor Pais


"When pygmies laugh it is hard not to be affected; they hold on to one another as if for support, slap their sides, snap their fingers and go through all manner of contortions. If something strikes them as particularly funny they will even roll on the ground."

Colin Turnbull

The Forest People


"Then it came-real laughter, total laughter-sweeping us off in unbounded effusion. Bursts of laughter, laughter rehashed, jostled laughter, laughter defleshed, magnificent laughter, sumptuous and wild….And we laughed to the infinity of the laughter of our laughs….O laughter! Laughter of delight, delight of laughter. Laughing deeply is living deeply."

Milan Kundera

The Book of Laughter & Forgetting


"If only men could be induced to laugh more they might hate less, and find more serenity here on earth."

Malcolm Muggeridge


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

-Proverbs 17;22


"And frame your mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life."

Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew


"If you can make a man laugh, you can make him think and make him like and believe you."

-Alfred Emanuel Smith


"The first thing to be done is laughter, because that sets the trend for the whole day. If  you wake up laughing, you will soon begin to feel how absurd life is. Nothing is serious: even your disappointments are laughable, even your pain is laughable, even you are laughable."


The Orange Book



"Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable."



"What has so far been the greatest sin here on earth? Was it not the word of him who said, ‘Woe unto those who laugh here?’ ….he did not love enough: else he would also have loved us who laugh."




"What monstrous absurdities and paradoxes have resisted whole batteries of serious arguments, and then crumbled swiftly into dust before the ringing death-knell of a laugh."

Agnes Repplier

"A plea for Humor" points of View (1891)


"Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks."

Henry Bergson


"Humor is a prelude to

faith and

Laughter is the beginning

Of prayer."

Reinhold Niebuhr


"The greatest enemy of authority, therefore, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter."

Hannah Arendt

On Violence


"Not by wrath does one kill but by laughter."


Thus Spake Zarathustra


"The study of laughter dates from the first efforts of our species at self-contemplation and is documented in the most ancient philosophical writings. The earliest surviving theory of laughter is from Plato(427-348 B.C.), one of the first and foremost of history's men of letters. Plato's considerable attention to laughter derived more from his fear of its power to disrupt the state than from delight with its practice. In his Republic, Plato discussed the negative consequences of abandoning ourselves to violent laughter. So as not to corrupt the young guardians-in-training of his ideal state, he went so far as recommending that literature be edited to delete mention of gods or heroes being overcome with laughter."

Robert R. Provine

Laughter: A Scientific Investigation


   "Contagious laughter provides some extraordinary displays of human group behavior. We first examine a plague of laughter in Central Africa that disrupted schools for several years. Lest you think that such outbreaks are confined to Africa, we turn next to an epidemic of "holy laughter" that started in North America and is sweeping through Christian Pentecostal churches around the world, leaving worshipers "drunk in the spirit"...."

Robert R. Provine



"Our mouths were full of laughter and our tongues sang aloud for joy."

-Psalms 126:2


"Laughter, while it lasts, slackens and unbraces the mind, weakens the faculties, and causes a kind of remissness and dissolution in all the powers of the soul; and thus far it may be looked upon as a weakness in the composition of human nature. But if we consider the frequent relief's we receive from it, and how often it breaks the gloom which is apt to depress the mind and damp our spirits, with transient, unexpected gleams of joy, one would take care not to grow too wise for so great a pleasure of life."

-Joseph Addison


   "Laughing revivals" offer an intriguing contemporary manifestation of this "old time religion" that provide fascinating case studies in the power of contagious laughter. In the article "Laughing for the Lord, " Time magazine (15 August 1994) reports the growing popularity of "laughing revivals" among many groups, including the otherwise reserved Anglicans. This "holy laughter" is the adoption of a practice already established in the more flamboyant services of the Pentecostals. Even the historic Cane Ridge (Kentucky) Revival of 1801 had a "laughing exercise."

Robert A. Provine



  "The resurgence of "holy laughter" today is centered at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, headed by pastor John Arnott. The Toronto Fellowship was influenced by American-based South African Pentecostal revivalist Rodney Howard-Brown, whose services feature outbursts of laughter. Visitors experiencing holy laughter in Toronto carry the "Toronto blessing" back to their home congregations in the tradition of "apostolic succession," propagating this church-specific laughter in what is becoming known in church circles as the "Toronto wave." The Tidal wave of holy laughter is spreading worldwide."

Robert A. Provine



"Laughter is wine for the soul-laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness."

Sean O’ Casey

The power of Laughter: Weapon against Evil

Fifty Famous Essays


"Is it that nothing, no experience good or bad, no belief, no cause, is, in itself, momentous enough to monopolize the whole of life to the exclusion of laughter? Laughter is our reminder that our theories are an attempt to make existence intelligible, but necessarily only an attempt, and does not the irrational, the instinctive burst to keep the balance true by laughter?"

Alfred North Whitehead


   "Laugher can be the most unpleasant sound; it's an essential element in mob conduct and is part of the background noise of taunting and jeering at lynchings and executions. Very often, crowds or audiences will laugh complicitly or slavishly, just to show they "see" the joke and are all together..."

Christopher Hichens

letters to a young contrarian


Thousands turned out in (Bombay) to celebrate World Laughter Day and shout "I am the happiest person in the world." Organizers now want a laughing competition in the Olympics and there are plans to get India’s huge workforce to start ever day with 20 minutes of deep breathing and laughter-but without any need for jokes. It seems it’s the anti-dote for stress-related disorders such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Might not have the desired effect on the boss if there’s too much of it in work time.

Financial Times


Laughing Music

"The Okey Laughing Record  (still available from Rhino Records)

"Laughing Boy Blues" by Woody Herman

"Laughing in Rhythm" by Sidney Bechet & his New Orleans Footwarmers"

"Hyena Stomp" by Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers

"Haste Thee, Nymph," from Handel's oratorio L'Allego, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

"I am the Walrus" by the Beatles

Book: Laughter: A Scientific Investigation by Robert R. Provine

Book: "A Brief History of the Smile" by Angus Trumble

Book: "Laughing: A Psychology of Humor" by Norman N. Holland





© 2001



Back to Chrestomathy           Next Page