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Globe West Arts

Laughter is best medicine; so here's to your health!

By Denise Taylor
Globe Correspondent / April 9, 2009
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Researchers have found that a funny thing happens when you laugh. Blood pressure goes down, depression decreases, and your immune system gets a boost. So, in the pursuit of your good health and mood, here are a selection of upcoming comedy acts, a couple of laughter workshops, and a light-hearted family show.

Chortle rescue plan
Fresh from his satirical run for the presidency (which, by the way, he thanks you for not supporting), comedian Jimmy Tingle is back with his "Laughter Stimulus Plan."

At upcoming shows in Arlington, Newton, and Shirley, he'll share his unusually creative solutions to the crises we face.

Global warming? Wind farms are great he says, adding, "I would go even further. This is America. There are lots of windy places. Why can't we put some of the windmills on the breakdown lane of the Mass. Pike?"

And wait until you hear what he has to say about the gas tax - and cow-made methane.

Jimmy Tingle, 8 p.m. Saturday and May 9, Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington. Tickets: $25; $20 in advance. 781-646-4849. www.regenttheatre.com. Also, 7:30 p.m. April 30, New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newton. Tickets: $25. 617-964-3424. www.newartcenter.org. Also, 8 p.m. May 16, Bull Run restaurant, 215 Great Road (Route 2A), Shirley. Tickets: $25; $20 in advance. 877-536-7190, www.bullrunrestaurant.com, www.jimmytingle.com.

They're way off-Broadway
When it closed after nearly three years in 2007, "Jewtopia" was the longest-running off-Broadway comedy in New York history.

Now, the comic duo behind this riotous show, Bryan Folgel and Sam Wolfson, make their Greater Boston debut this weekend with three performances of "World of Jewtopia" at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton.

"World of Jewtopia," 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday at Leventhal-Sidman JCC, 333 Nahanton St., Newton. Tickets: $30-$22. 617-965-5226, www.lsjcc.org, www.jewtopiaworld.com.

Laughter workshops
"Certified laughter leaders" Lisa Wessan and Lynn Caesar are up on all the latest medical research detailing why cracking up is good for you.

"The actual physiological event of laughing gives your muscles a massage, it lowers cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can be very destructive to the body. It increases immunoglobulin A, which helps prevent colds. It also increases oxygenation, communication, and electrical activity in the brain, which improves memory and retention," said Wessan, a licensed clinical social worker based in Chelmsford.

"There are cardiovascular benefits from laughter," said Caesar, a licensed psychologist based in Arlington. "Others have studied the effect on the immune system. It decreases blood pressure after you've laughed for a while. It produces endorphins to help manage pain. Studies are being done in workplaces on how laughter improves morale and creativity."

"But these are things we all intuitively know," said Wessan.

"When people come into my laughter workshops, they usually look kind of gray and glum. After they laugh for an hour, they're pink and glowing and ready to take on the world."

The women have private counseling practices, but run laughter workshops on the side. Through a mix of movement, general silliness, and fake laughing they trick the body into real laughter - and once the giggling starts, it's usually contagious, they report.

"People come for two main reasons. For social reasons and for the health benefits," said Caesar.

She founded the monthly Arlington Laughter Club in 2004, which is a daytime, drop-in class. An evening workshop, led by club member Lorraine Lombardo, begins May 11.

Wessan usually offers private laughter therapy training to health professionals throughout New England. But at least once a month, she offers a public workshop as well.

Her next public laughter sessions will be held in Pepperell, at the town's recreation center, on April 23 and June 26.

"The laughing family is growing," said Caesar. "I just finished training my fourth group of certified laughter leaders, and I'm delighted that more and more are starting groups. Every community should have its own laughter club."

Arlington Laughter Club, 11:30 a.m. on the fourth Monday of every month, at Church of Our Savior, 21 Marathon St., Arlington. Beginning May 11, the club will also meet on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Fee: $5 per person family. www.joyofkidding.com.

Pepperell Laughter Workshops, 10:30 a.m. April 23 and 7:30 p.m. June 26, Pepperell Recreation Center, 1 Hollis St., Pepperell. Tuition: $18 per session. To register, call Gayle Bosworth at 978-433-7856. www.mirthmaven.com.

One tree at a time
The whole audience will become part of the action when the Piti Theatre Company presents a light-hearted nature fable, "Elmer and the Elder Tree," at the Amazing Things Arts Center in downtown Framingham on Saturday.

Dressed in colorful costumes, the theater duo from Shelburne Falls dance, leap, joke, and clown their way through this original story about a city dweller who loses his job and heads to the country, only to find his imagined paradise is a desert. But planting one tree leads to more and more, Elmer discovers, and soon he has created a new forest, and a good new life.

Jonathan Mirin, a former standup comic, brings mirth to the show, and Swiss dancer Godeliève Richard adds whimsical choreography.

"Elmer and the Elder Tree," 2 p.m. Saturday, Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis St., Framingham. Tickets: $8; or $12 with art and theater workshops after the show for ages 5-13. 508-405-2787. www.amazingthings.org. Also, at Boston Playwrights Theatre on various dates May 1-17. Info at www.ptco.org.

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