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The Spirit of Satire: How to Get a Laugh

  • Story Highlights
  • Study shows that people with heart disease laugh less than people without
  • Check out comics at comedy clubs and open mic sessions
  • Comics' podcasts, blogs and Web sites also provide rich material
  • "Laughter clubs" encourage people to sit back and enjoy a chuckle
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By Brigid Delaney
For CNN
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(CNN) -- It's boom-boom time for comedians and satirists. They pack out tents at music festivals, clubs and pubs and fill up the prime time slots on TV and radio. They have colonized multimedia with podcasts, vodcasts and blogs. So if you need cheering up or feel like a laugh, there have never been more places to get it.

Ricky Gervais

Comic Ricky Gervais, who released "The Podfather," a series of podcasts

Open mics

Get ahead of the pack and be among the first to discover the next big thing, by heading to an "open mic" session at a pub or comedy club. "Open mics" are forums for anyone to get up on stage and try their hand at making you laugh. You'll probably see a mix of stinkers and real talent -- but as each performer only gets a short amount of time, if they really suck you won't have to put up with it for long.

Open mics are essential for up-and-coming comedians as it allows them to get used to an audience and test out material. So be kind, and try not to heckle too hard.

Comedy clubs

Comedy clubs book more experienced acts, so the talent won't be so hit and miss. Check out the gig listings in your local paper for what's on and which big names are in town. Check the reviews before you commit, or ask around and find out who's hot right now in the comedy world. Many comedy clubs also offer dinner-and-show deals.

Books

It's a rare skill being able to make people laugh while reading a book -- but notable comic writers who have the golden touch include PG Wodehouse, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Joseph Heller and Ben Elton.

Some books, like Elton's, are obvious comic novels with laughs from the start, while in others, the humor sneaks up on you.

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If you're in a bad mood or feeling a bit down, nothing beats a dose of PG Wodehouse, particularly his Jeeves series about a hapless young aristocrat who depends on his clever butler to get him out of scrapes. Britain's Daily Telegraph said, "There is a rebounding, undefeatable innocence to the whole set-up. Waugh or, later, Kingsley Amis, were sometimes funnier: but nobody has been simultaneously as funny and as uplifting as Wodehouse."

Newspapers/ Magazines

Unfortunately there's a lot of dross out there in newspaper-land, with too many columnists falling into a pattern of being pseudo-outraged or hung up on a certain issue: being a yummy mummy, being single or being gay.

The best columnists bypass all of that and celebrate the absurd and whimsical: Craig Brown in Britain's Daily Telegraph's "Way of the World" on Saturdays is a treat, while David Brooks in the New York Times, and Charlie Brooker in Britain's Guardian newspaper are all guaranteed to raise a chuckle and provide some respite from pages of grim reality.

Podcasts/vodcasts

Missed the gigs of your favorite comedian or prefer to laugh in the comforts of your own home? Comedians such as Ricky Gervais have shows available only on podcast (the Gervais show was called "The Podfather") that you can download from the Internet to your computer or portable music player.

Radio

Breakfast radio hosts can be funny but they can also be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes the edgiest comedy can be found on alternative or community radio stations where the hosts are not too reined in to be funny.

Theatre

While the the rapid-fire belly laughs found in a stand-up club aren't often found at the theatre, many musicals and plays have a comic element. Current funny musicals in London's West End include cheeky puppet show "Avenue Q" and Monty Python's "Spamalot." Check out Time Out or your local paper for plays by writers such as Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn, Stephen Sondheim, Moliere, Ionesco, Samuel Beckett or Oscar Wilde. Many of these playwrights have been making audiences laugh for centuries.

Laughter clubs

Joining a Laughter Club may seem a bit odd at first. It involves standing in a circle and just laughing. You'll have to force the laughter at first, but once you get going the laughter becomes infectious.

Many scoff at laughter clubs but scientists have found that there are health benefits to having a good chuckle, no matter how artificial the situation.

Research into the physiology of laughter shows that joining laughter clubs can improve your overall health and well being. And hey -- if there is an absence of genuinely funny people in your life, it may be worth trying to track some down to make you laugh, even if you do look kind of weird while you're doing it.

When we laugh we lower our blood pressure, it increases the blood flow to the heart and pumps more oxygen into the blood. It also strengthens artery walls.

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Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at stressful situations helps mitigate the damaging physical effects of distressing emotions.

The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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