Friday, April 24, 2009


Getting paid to laugh at work? Sounds pretty ridiculous. But wait, if you look at the evidence of how valuable it is to laugh—even at work—it's actually ridiculous to not laugh.

Laughter yoga in the workplace is starting to catch on and for good reason. Here are some of the benefits of it:

• Boost to morale 
• Improved personal/professional performance
• Enhanced teamwork, trust and enjoyment at work
• Increased energy and ability to manage stress
• Enriched quality of work/life balance
• Heightened workplace creativity
• Improved customer care and service delivery
• Decreased absenteeism, burnout and turnover
• Improved productivity and organization
• Fewer accidents and compensation claims
• Overall better employee health

In 2007, a study was done in the US to determine the effectiveness of laughter yoga in the workplace. Workers were asked to participate in a laughter session for just 15 minutes a day. Within weeks there were significant improvements in all areas studied, with positive changes of 100% occurring in a number of areas. It is particularly interesting to note the long-lasting effects of the laughter interventions. Click here to read more.

I am proud to say that two of my laughter yoga students have undertaken the task of forming and leading a workplace laughter club. Teresa Gonyer and Kathy Shea (below) work in Minnepolis, Minnesota at the Board of Pensions office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). They promote wellness within the ELCA so a laughter club makes perfect sense for their office.

I made a visit on their office last week and got to meet some of the fellow laughers, such as Tammy Devine (picture with me below), who is the ELCA Board of Pension's Wellness Manager, and an excellent laugher, I must say.

Below is a segment of their laughter club showing off their laughing talents.

Here is an interview I did with Kathy and Teresa about their corporate laughter club.

Laura: How did you decide to start a laughter club at work?

Kathy: I did what we call a Share and Learn (30 minute presentation to fellow employees about what makes you well) on the value FOR ME of practicing intentional laughter. That presentation included something about laughter yoga and a news clip about you. Teresa loved it so much, she wanted to get involved. Others liked it as well so we started a laugh club. As we got more serious, Teresa and I signed up for your training workshop and become certified laugher yoga leaders.

Laura: When did you begin?

Kathy: The presentation was in fall 2007. We started laugh club in Jan 2008 then got certified April 2008, have continued laugh club (with some significant breaks) since then.

Laura: How often do you meet?

Kathy: Once a week for 15 minutes.

Laura: What has the response been? 

Kathy: We now maintain an e-mail mailing list of about 15 active, interested folks. At any one session, we’ll get 3-6 attendees.

We paused at one point to re-consider due to low attendance and decided to survey our list of 20 people. In response to the question: How do you feel at the end of a laugh session, 92.9% answered “better.” When asked the primary reason for not attending, 87% said “work obligations.” When asked: To keep laugh club at the board, would you be willing to attend more often?, 73% said yes.

We've had some complaints about the noise the laughter club creates. So one of our ongoing challenges is to find a location that doesn’t create problem noise for those who are not participating.

Laura: How has laughing by means of the wellness tool of laughter yoga changed your life?

Kathy: I get most benefit from laughing intentionally on my own. It’s empowering to know I can feel better just by taking that simple step – wherever I am. A regular laugh club experience adds that wonderful group dimension.

Teresa: Overall, I feel better! I enjoy laughing with others, I laugh watching others laugh. I get a kick out of watching others create their own laughter exercises that we now use in our laughter sessions.

Laura: Do you have any advice for those looking to use laughter yoga in a corporate setting?

Kathy: Here are my suggestions...
• Emphasize the health benefits and stress reduction possibilities
• Don’t exceed a time commitment of 15 minutes
• Don’t attempt more than once a week
• Don’t go low-profile like we did after some initial push-back. Instead, push the benefits.

Below is a video clip of Kathy and laughter club member, Susan Ahrens, demonstrating their original laughter exercise called "Throw Your Head Back and Laugh Like a Man Laughter"! Try it yourself, it really gets you laughing.

So there you have it, laughter clubs at work are a great thing! Do you have a club at work you'd like to report? Do you have any other advise for the rest of us? If so, please e-mail me at

Monday, April 20, 2009


"Ha ha ha! Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Ha ha ha!" That's what we said throughout our worship service yesterday as we celebrated Holy Hilarity Sunday at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lansing, Iowa.

Yes, that's me—preaching in my pink wig, boa and opera gloves. Have you ever seen such levity in church? Well, perhaps I'm the only preacher to wear such a bright shade of pink but I'm not the only pastor to celebrate the Easter season with humor and laughter. Christians all over the world, you see, are resurrecting an ancient tradition of celebrating the Easter festival with humor and merriment. 

Church historians tell us that there is considerable evidence that during the early centuries of Christianity, Easter celebrations went on for days and even weeks. With it, the tradition of “Holy Hilarity Sunday” developed. This custom of celebrating the resurrection with lightheartedness is especially rooted in the religious life of Eastern Europe.

The theological reason for it is that the resurrection can been viewed as God’s great joke on the devil. You see, the devil thought he’d won: Christ had been crucified and was now dead in the tomb. Then three days later—ha ha ha—Christ is risen! It’s the unexpected ending that makes it funny. Some call the resurrection the "banana peel" of the Christian faith, the "cosmic pratfall." For indeed, because the resurrection, God has the last laugh.

And we can laugh, too, because the joy of the Lord is our strength. Laughter is a holy thing that helps us embody the exciting reality that Jesus is risen from the dead. Now death has no more sting. We can even laugh in the face of death, fully confident in the redemptive power of God.

Two years ago, I read about the tradition of Holy Hilarity Sunday in The Lutheran, the official magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the Christian denomination in which I am an ordained minister). I found it to be an exciting option for worship and since our church had just launched a laughter club, we decided to try celebrating Holy Hilarity Sunday ourselves.

We have now held three such Holy Hilarity Sundays and it has been an absolute delight. These celebrations have kept worship attendance up on the Sunday after Easter—a traditionally low attendance day across the denominational lines.

At this service, people are invited to wear silly hats and costumes. My laughter hat collection is quite large and so I bring them in to share. It is hilarious to see the funny things people wear to worship. Many get creative and make their own hats with flowers, bows, rabbits and other animals perched upon it.

This year, Bob Wood of Desoto, Wisconsin (below) wore a costume with two sets of arms. “This way, when I fold my hands in prayer is has twice the power,” he joked.

Carol Schaefer (left) wore a resurrection hardhat covered in butterflies and amazingly adorable, mismatched polka dotted shoes (below). How about that for "church shoes"?

Gary Bahlmann (right) wore the Holy Hilarity T-shirt his wife, Gayle, made him last year. On the back of the shirt, it has a greeting to the people who normally sit behind them and declares them all “West Pew Friends.” This playfully pokes fun at our tendency to always sit in the very same pew.

We introduced some playful songs this year as well. These included interactive Sunday school songs that are fun for the whole family. We also debuted two original laughing songs from my laughter album, Today is a Laughing Day. Not only that, we did the “Bunny Hop” to the song “Lord of the Dance.”

Throughout the service, the praise word “Halleluia!” is replaced by a burst of hearty laughter, which also expresses praise.  We also do the passing of the peace by shaking hands, joyfully looking into one another’s faces and laughing (also known in laughter yoga as the laughter greeting). And, of course, I collect some appropriate church and Easter jokes to tell during the sermon.

Here is my favorite Easter joke:

Three sillies die in a freak banana peel accident and arrive at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question: "What is Easter?"

The first silly is eager to respond. He says: "Oh, that's easy, it's the holiday in November when everybody gets together, eats turkey, and is thankful..."

"No!" replies St. Peter, and proceeds to ask the second silly the same question, "What is Easter?"

The second silly replies, "Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice fir tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus."

St. Peter shakes his head in disgust, “Can’t anyone get this simple question?” So he poses it to the third silly: "What is Easter?"

Now this silly is very confident. He says: "I know what Easter is. Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating at the last supper and  but he was betrayed by one of his own disciples so the Romans came and arrested him. They flogged him and made him wear a crown of thorns. They crucified him between two criminals with a sign over his head that read 'the king of the Jews' and when he died, there was a great earthquake and the curtain in the temple was ripped in two. The centurion who saw it said, 'surely this was the son of God.' Then his followers buried his body in a cave tomb and they rolled a huge stone over the entrance to seal it.”

Saint Peter can hardly contain himself, he nods his head and approvingly says, “Yes, yes!”

But then the silly continues: “And every year the stone is rolled aside and Jesus pops out, and if he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter."

May we all live as joyful resurrection people today and every day. Christ is risen, indeed! ha ha ha!

Visit my sermon blog to see more pics and read my Holy Hilarity sermons:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


April 3rd through the 5th was a weekend to remember as 12 laughers descended upon Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Ferryville, Wisconsin for a hilarious Laughter Yoga Leader retreat. They were an enthusiastic group with loads of joy and creative energy.

Above is the entire group at graduation (double click for a larger view).  Back row: Connie and Dennis De Lorme, Michelle Erschen, Nancy Martinson, Belle Dokter, Deb Olson, and Carol Larson. Front frow: Ellen Hackbart, Mike Kueny, Jody Ross, Beth Murphy and Nancy Greenwald.

Belle and Laura ham it up for the camera.

Dennis, Connie and Mike show their true laughter colors.

In the video above, Mike Kueny and Deb Olson share what it was like to experience Laura's Laughter Yoga retreat.

The newly certified Laughter Yoga Leaders are:

Connie De Lorme
2379 Jade Place NE
Rochester, MN 55906

Dennis De Lorme
2379 Jade Place NE
Rochester, MN 55906

Belle Dokter
29629 Jug Run Rd.
Frazeysburg, OH 43822

Ellen Hackbart
Austin, MN 55912

Michael Kueny
112 North St.
Madison, WI 53704

Carol Larson
Hillsboro, WI

Nancy Martinson
302 Kirkwood St. E
Lanesboro, MN 55949

Deborah Olson
2030 Century Hills Dr. NE
Rochester, MN 55906

Jody Ross
5912 Dupont Avenue So
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Please contact them if you need a Laughter Yoga Leader. They are geared up and ready to laugh!

Nancy Greenwald, Michelle Erschen and Beth Murphy (above) lead the Madison Laughter Club in Madison, Wisconsin. They were originally trained in Laughter Yoga by Sebastien Gendry in April of 2007. They came to the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga for a refresher course and had a fantastic time. They'll tell you all about it in the YouTube video below. For more information about the Madison Laughter Club, e-mail them at:

The next Laughter Yoga Leader training seminar has just been scheduled. 

June 5-7 - Lansing, Iowa

Visit the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga site to learn more and get registered. 

Want a Laughter Yoga seminar in your area? It is possible! Just e-mail Laughing Laura at to inquire.