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Eugene Weekly : News : 4.14.11

Laughter Medicine

Comic speaks to City Club

By Alan Pittman

On one of the first sunny spring days after six months of rain, the atmosphere at City Club of Eugene was positively giddy as local comic Leigh Anne Jasheway explored the human gag reflex.

"The biggest joke is it's 64 degrees and sunny and you are all in here," Jasheway told the seasonally affected crowd gathered atop the Eugene Hilton on April Fool's Day.

With a fake flower wrapped around her head, Jasheway launched right into the jokes. "This is the only place in the world where tie dye is considered a neutral color," she said.

Jasheway, an old Eugene Celebration Slug Queen, said in Eugene you can get gussied up as the royal gastropod and "nobody even notices."

Jasheway said she tried the hormone therapy patch to control hot flashes but it didn't work. "I wore it over my left eye for a week."

Jasheway said people are peppered daily by angry talk radio and news media reminding us to be "angry or to panic." People need a humor antidote, she said, noting "levity is the opposite of gravity."

"There is too much going on in the world that it's too hard to process without an element of comedy to it," she said, pointing to the success of comedy news shows.

Jasheway said she appreciates a good joke. Once, she said she commanded her wiener dog to "stay" while getting out of her car in a parking lot. "You know, I just usually put my car in park," a bystander commented.

Five-year-olds laugh 400 to 500 times a day while grownups laugh only 15 times a day on average, Jasheway said, citing research. About 40 percent of adults laugh only once a day, while another 40 percent push the average up by laughing 90 times a day, she said. "Why is it 5-year-olds are so much smarter than we are?"

"We need to engage more frequently with our sense of humor," Jasheway said. She said other research had shown that laughter helps with tension headaches, diabetes and colds. "It's better than a flu shot," she said.

Laughter also helps with fertility between the sheets, according to Jasheway. "If you are trying not to conceive, do not watch funny things at night."

"It's simply about opening yourself up to finding more things funny," Jasheway said. "When we type LOL, we are not actually LOLing."

Jasheway said that research has shown that laughter produces basic mammalian benefits of reducing tension and fear, and bonding within groups. "Go on YouTube and type rats laughing," she said of one experiment with a grinning researcher tickling rodents.

Inspired, Jasheway said she got down at ground level with her wiener dog to try and make him laugh — heh, heh, heh — when a delivery man walked to the door. "I guarantee you, that is a good way to make a UPS man laugh."

Jasheway said she doesn't know how to make your cat laugh. "Nobody owns a cat."

Jasheway said adults carry too much "negative baggage around" to enjoy laughter like kids. She said a server once apologized to her obese friend for the long line at Burger King. "Sorry for the wait," she said. "Honey, I have weighed this much for so long it really doesn't bother me anymore," he replied.

City Club members rose to the occasion with humorous questions. "I have been a City Club member since before the City Club was a joke," quipped Arnold Ismach, former UO journalism dean.

The City Club video cameraman pulled his sweatshirt over his head and Nancy Willard, another former Slug Queen, sang a few lines of what sounded like opera.

"You catch the mood of the people you spend the most time with," Jasheway said. "You might consider dumping a depressing friend," she recommended.

Or, Jasheway, said, find laughing children to spend more time with. "Do not stalk children, make sure it is children you know."

Jasheway said, like many women, she prefers the self-deprecating humor over the sarcastic "rant comic" humor. She said she was once in a bathroom stall when she exchanged banter with a woman in the next stall. "How are you?" the woman asked. Then the stall neighbor asked, "What are you doing?" Then, "Can I come over?"

Finally, the woman said, "I have to hang up now, there's a moron in the stall next to me."

EWEB Commissioner Bob Cassidy asked Jasheway for a joke to make a certain dispassionate reporter, who shall go unnamed, laugh. It was something about a squirrel in her underwear.