COMEDY: The Science of Laughter @ The Core | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Clever bods at Newcastle’s The Core are delving into the science behind things we ordinary people take for granted. Academics will be invited to give light-hearted explanations on a variety of subjects, from beer to flying, storytelling to jokes. On Thursday 22nd October, improv maestros The Suggestibles will be joining forces with Dr Kai Alter from the Institute of Neuroscience and Dr Adam Morton from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology to discover the science behind comedy.

The Suggestibles’ Ian McLaughlin tells us more about the project.

How did you originally get involved in this project?
Matt Bratton from Creative Space Management has guested with the Suggestibles a few times. He’s a brilliant Improviser and a fungi. He knows that I’m a bit of a science geek, and after a few beers one night suggested that it might be a fun thing to do.

Before you got involved with this project, how much did you know about the psychology and science of laughter?
I’ve always been interested in what makes people laugh and why. I knew about the roots of laughter from an evolutionary point of view, and how rhythm and repetition is a drug for the brain, but was amazed to find out just how important laughter is for social bonding.

On the night itself, a number of professors will be talking about the science of why we chuckle but will you be adding additional entertainment to the evening?
We have a couple of real scientists joining us for the night and I will be guiding the audience through the current ideas around laughter – and yes, there will be silliness.

The Suggestibles are masters of improvisation – do you think it’s easier to get a laugh from that kind of spontaneity compared to scripted comedy?
Apart from a script, there is no difference between scripted and unscripted comedy. It still follows the same rules of engagement. It’s all about riding the wave. Improvisers follow the audience where ever they want you to go. Stand-ups imagine where the audience want to go – we both get it wrong sometimes.

Have you found out if there’s a scientific reason behind why laughter is contagious? Is it at all like yawning?
Laughter is a way to empathise with other people – it’s a communion that is hard to replicate in isolation – we rarely do it on our own – that’s why there are laughter tracks on sitcoms that try to recreate a pseudo-social environment. Yawning is the same, but interestingly you never get yawning tracks on Strictly Come Dancing!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about the science of laughter from being involved in this project? Or would that be telling?
The rule of three.

Have you personally learned anything from this experience that you might use for productions in the future?
Farts are funny.

The Science of Laughter takes place at The Core, Science Central, Newcastle on Thursday 22nd October at 7pm. Entry is free.


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