The Healing Power of Humor
-- Updated April 6, 2010 --

The latest healthcare initiative.

The latest healthcare initiative. . .
The above image is courtesy of Go Fish by J.C. Duffy
For more great J.C. Duffy cartoons, please go to Cartoon Bank.

Welcome!™ is a division of™. DearShrink is an Internet Mental Health Center hosted by Ron Sterling, M.D., a General and Geriatric Psychiatrist who also specializes in psychotherapy and relationship and family therapy.

    The mission of this page is mirth. Although the idea that humor may have healing powers has been around for some time, it is not until recently that scientists have been able to study it more thoroughly. On this page you will find a range of serious and delirious discussions and resources regarding humor and health.

    On a more personal note, I apologize for not updating this page as often as I had hoped and promised to do. Hmmm... another broken promise, eh, Ron? My last update before today, January 4, 2010, was April 2008. You might ask "What have you been doing that is so important you would get so far behind on this humor and health page?" And, you would be correct in asking. Are you ready for the answer, and will the answer be enough to atone for my sins of omission? I guess we will see.

    I have been working very hard on a humor project, so hard in fact, that it has left very little time to keep any of updated properly. The results, to date, of the project that has taken over what some may say is most of my life can be found at Yes, that is what I wrote --

    Duckies Rule! is a project which is based on images of rubber duckies which I have created to use in books, calendars, greeting cards, and other products. Rubber ducky images were chosen for many different reasons, but, primarily because such images represent optimism and resiliency, and, well, because they put smiles on people's faces. Putting smiles on people's faces, bringing out the "kid" in us -- I would call those laudable goals. So, I hope you can forgive me for letting and, specifically, get a little out-of-date. It has been for a good cause!

              Best wishes, Ron Sterling, M.D.

A Real Comic in the Field of Psychiatry?

    Yep, there is a real, certified psychiatrist doing comedy for at least part of his living. His latest performance took place in early December 2009 at KI's Restaurant in Cardiff, California. His name is Howard Richmond, M.D. Check his website at
A Psychiatrist in the Comics Section?

    Yep, J.C. Duffy, the creator of other cartoons such as The Fusco Brothers brought psychiatrist, Dr. Norman Floyd, to cartoon life (and, then he killed him off... or, is that, put him to sleep?). Reportedly, this is the only psychiatrist that existed in a daily cartoon strip in recent history. It consisted of just about everything from rants to raves and lots of poking fun at psychiatry and psychiatrists. This was not your mainstream, politically correct cartoon series. You can view selected cartoons and read more about Go Fish by clicking here.

Have You Heard This One?

    CNN and many other news outlets just couldn't wait to post the news about the world's funniest joke. Yah, sure, it is good, but the world's funniest joke? (that would be Ron Sterling, M.D.) believes that the joke now declared to be the world's funniest (how long will that last) is really the world's funniest written joke. Several television broadcasts related to the joke made it clear that the joke does not do well when told verbally or when listened to. It works much better when read to one's self. Want to read the article and the joke? Go to CNN article posted October 3, 2002 -- Official! World's funniest joke.

New York Times Discussion of Laughter (March 13, 2007).

    On March 13, 2007, the New York Times published an article entitled "What's So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing." It explores the sociology of laughter and humor -- that is, what is laughter's true meaning in a social and psychological context? The article does not explore the results of laughing on our health. Since the New York Times often does not keep its links to articles current beyond two weeks, the following links are to Adobe Acrobat versions of the article and the message board that allowed discussion of the article.

Does Laughter Heal?

    • Seattle P-I article posted March 14, 2006 -- Humor has fans in medical circles.

    • From The Detroit News, posted April 12, 2005 -- Drop pounds by laughing them off -- an article about Katie Namrevo of Bellevue, Washington, who wrote the book "Laugh It Off! Weight Loss for the Fun of It."

    • From the University of Maryland, posted March 9, 2005 -- University of Maryland School of Medicine Study Shows Laughter Helps Blood Vessels Function Better.

    • Dr. Madan Kataria Believes It. Dr. Kataria, a physician based in Mumbai, is credited with founding the original Laughter Clubs of India in 1995. From there, the laughter has been infectious. You can do a search at any major search engine using "laughter club" or you can visit the following Web sites to find out more about Laughter Clubs.

    • Michael Miller, M.D. Seems to Believe It.  WebMD's latest homage to humor is dated February 5, 2001. Kathleen Doheny reports in Lighten Up! about Dr. Miller's studies on heart disease and laughter.

    • Supports the Concept. Go to their Humor Page to read about the therapeutic benefits of humor and laughter.

    • If you asked Robin Williams the question "does laughter heal?," the unequivocal answer would be "yes." The same answer would come from the lips of the real Patch Adams. If you don't remember the movie Patch Adams, it was the ground-breaking, blockbuster movie that has best captured the concept of humor as a healing power. If you saw the movie, you know that it also taught many other "lessons." Even though Patch Adams was widely panned by most movie critics, it was embraced by most viewers. It set a 1998 box office record for a film released on Christmas Day.

    • Sometimes, a simple story can have a big impact. The real Patch Adams, who is a true believer in the healing power of humor and a more humane practice of medicine, established Gesundheit! Institute to promote just that. I invite you to view the Gesundheit! Institute's Web site.

So, Does Laughter Really Heal?

    They are seeking an answer to that question in Southern California (imagine that... haha...). One has to wonder what Hollywood will do if they find positive, unrefutable scientific proof of the healing power of laughter. Will Hollywood sitcom advertising exploit it and will Hollywood start seeking NIMH grants for sitcom production? Hmmmm.... Check the RxLaughter® Web site for the details on the laughter research.

    Many of us truly believe that the perspective allowed by humor has healing properties. It is, of course, particularly healing with respect to people who are "too serious." To laugh or cry? Sometimes, it helps to do both. Perspective, balance, and centeredness have definite positive effects on our mental state and behavior as we traverse life's peaks and valleys.

Who Said "Laughter is the Best Medicine?"

    You can look forever in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, The Columbia World of Quotations, and Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, and you won't find the answer. Why is that? Because the quote does not exist. "Laughter, the Best Medicine" is actually a Reader's Digest Magazine column that has been around almost as long as the magazine has existed. However, it is rumored that Reader's Digest stole the phrase from God or whoever it was who wrote the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 17:22: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

    Laughter and humor, of course, are not exactly the same thing. Just about anyone can laugh. Even hostile people can laugh. Sometimes, they have more fun laughing at others, which can be just plain mean. I think the Bible got it right (egad, I said that?). It is the merry heart that counts, not how many funny television shows, movies, or videos we watch or how many funny stories we read. Which reminds me, want to know who owns It's the name of a nursing home in New Jersey.

A ticklish question.

The above image is from Natural Selection by Russ Wallace.
"A ticklish question."

Links to All Cartoons on the Site.

Cartoons and Jokes about Medicine, Mental Health and Counseling.

Medical Sites With Pages Devoted to the Healing Power of Humor.

    For convenience, links will open in a separate window.

    • gives a brief introduction to the concept and, so far, the short history of humor therapy.

Books and Articles About the Healing Power of Humor.

Individuals Devoted to the Healing Power of Humor.

    For convenience, links will open in a separate window.

    • Stand Up for Mental Health. Stand Up For Mental Health is a course that teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental illness. Their acts look at the lighter side of taking meds, seeing counselors, getting diagnosed and surviving the mental health system. Designed by David Granirer, a counselor and a stand-up comic, Stand Up For Mental Health aims to reduce public stigma around mental illness and spread a message of hope and empowerment.

    • Allen Klein, M.A., The Jollytologist, is an award winning speaker and author who shows audiences how to use humor to deal with not-so-funny stuff.

    • Loretta LaRoche, is an international lecturer, stress management consultant, and best-selling author who helps people take themselves way less seriously (really!).

    • is Jim Pelley's place to let you know about his seminars and workshops. "Laughter Works Seminars is dedicated to providing the highest quality, most humorous presentations humanly possible; packed with tools and skills for a more productive work place." Check the Mirth Management page for some interesting stories.

    • Stuart Silverstein, M.D., presents his humor tips and articles at

    • is where Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D. warns us -- "Humor may be Dangerous to Your Illness."

    • Larry Wilde, is the founder and director of the Carmel Institute of Humor, a well-known motivational humorist group.

    • Jest for the Health of It, is Patty Wooten, RN, BSN. Often called "The Queen of Jest," she is a leading national expert in the field of therapeutic humor. Among other things, Patty's site has a nicely maintained list of humor links.

Private and Public Institutes Devoted to the Healing Power of Humor.

    For convenience, links will open in a separate window.

    • HaHa Institute is humorist Karen Williams place on the Internet to let you know about her presentations about humor and stress in the workplace.

    • Humor for Your Health, Inc., is Dan Gascon's company site founded "to empower people to greater health and happiness with the understanding and application of their own unique sense of humor."

    • The Humor Project, maintains that it is "the first organization in the world to focus full-time on the positive power of humor" -- a big claim for such a funny group. Check out their bookstore and their magazine Laughing Matters.

Sites with Lists of Links Devoted to Medical Humor and Humor Topics.

Thank You for Stopping By!

    We invite you to come back to this page often. We promise to change cartoons often and to add new material frequently. Have a great day, and keep on smiling!

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