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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Permalink

Radiolab: Laughter


We all laugh. This hour of Radiolab asks why.

If you look closely, you'll find that humor has very little to do with it. We ask what makes us laugh, and how it affects us. Along the way, we tickle some rats, listen in on a baby's first laugh, talk to a group of professional laughers, and travel to Tanzania to investigate an outbreak of contagious laughter.

Is Laughter just a Human Thing?

Aristotle thought that laughter is what separates us from the beasts, and that a baby does not have a SOUL, until the moment it laughs for the first time. Historian Barry Sanders, author of Sudden Glory, says that according to Aristotle, this moment of "human ensouling" is supposed to ...


How Does Laughing Affect Us?

In this segment, we explore the rise and fall of a group of professional laughers hired to laugh for money on Fran Drescher's show "The Nanny." Then JoAnne Bachorowski, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, says that giggling girls have more power than you think. She studies the sound of laughter, ...


Contagious Laughter

We travel across the ocean and back to the year 1962, to a girl's boarding school on the outskirts of a rural village in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where an epidemic of contagious laughter broke out. Producer Ellen Horne investigates and her search for an explanation brings us back to the ...