Editor-at-large Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. So this week you made him screech fake laughter at strangers.
You know what genuinely makes me laugh? The fact that when ordering a glass of port in a bar, you can point at a bottle and say,‘Give me the one that says “cock burns” on it.’ Well, that and colleagues’ faces when you respond to their suggestion that you ‘touch base’ with, ‘Which base?’
But there’s no time to wait for a weak gag opportunity at laughter yoga. ‘You can’t leave it to chance to laugh,’ explains our tutor, Lotte Mikkelsen, at a session organised by Loco Film Fest. ‘Your body can’t distinguish between genuine and fake laughter, so you’ll feel happy even if you fake it.’ Yep, real amusement’s overrated. Explains how Frankie Boyle gets gigs.
We all greet each other. But instead of saying ‘Hi,’ we bray big peals of artificial laugher. It’s pretty awkward.
‘We want to encourage ourselves to be childlike and playful!’ chirrups Lotte. Then she has us clap our hands and chant ‘Very good! Very good! YAY!’ Next, we talk into our hand like it’s a phone, occasionally holding it up to someone else’s ear. Then we pretend that we’re listening to something so funny, it makes us honk like a brass band tumbling down a hill. It’s still awkward, but it turns out that other people’s idea of a fake chuckle actually is really funny. One woman sounds like a hysterical gibbon. Another is like a car reversing over a set of bagpipes. Soon I’m genuinely laughing. But the same isn’t true of everyone. As Lotte urges us to squeal like a faulty boiler (perhaps not her exact words), one punter grunts, ‘What is this? A Bee Gees vocal warm-up?’ Lotte laughs. ‘See?’ he says, ‘I dunno if that’s part of the exercise or not!’
Then it’s time for the ‘genuine laugh’ and we’re asked to lie down. Unconventional. Not least since when I’m lying down in company, chortling’s not what I want to hear. Not again.
We close our eyes and are told to ‘let the real laughter out’. People start tittering. I get nothing. The titters becomes belly laughs. Still nothing. The Bee Gees grump roars out a big fake burst of Brian Blessedesque amusement and screams, ‘GORDON’S ALIIIIVE!’ And finally, I giggle. And you know what? I do feel happier than at the start of the class. For once, I had the last laugh.