World Laughter Day: interview with Jacopo Fo - Ocarina Player


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    World Laughter Day

    Interview with Jacopo Fo

    17/05/23 Children's education

    The World Laughter Day was celebrated on May 7. Instituted in 1998 by Indian physician Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Yoga movement, this day aims to promote the value of laughter and its benefits.  “Laughter is a universal language that we are all able to speak, on this day, when we celebrate laughter, the whole world embraces in a chorus of laughter to bring a sign of hope and peace to all the nations of the earth” (M. Kataria).

    And it is precisely on this occasion that Ocarina contacted Jacopo Fo to talk about his experience. Author, actor, director, illustrator and creative artist, Jacopo Fo is also and above all an activist of laughter. He has always been a firm believer in the fundamental importance of laughter in human life, so much so that he is a great advocate and practitioner of laughter therapy.

    “Laughter is great for our health. When we laugh, we move a series of muscles, the brain, the lungs, we do like an internal massage to our body… A good and healthy laugh is therefore a real medicine that encourages the production of endorphins, providing physiological and psychological well-being.”

    In his deliberately demented and provocative style, Jacopo Fo appealed to the Italian Ministry of Health to make Laughter therapy a permanent treatment in Italian health institutions. He even asked for the introduction of a ticket to buy humorous books or DVDs at a reduced price in pharmacies instead of drugs, as well as the possibility of free access to comedians’ theater shows through the mutual insurance system.

    “Every doctor should prescribe at least 10 minutes of laughter a day to his or her patients. Those who do not laugh have problems, they are sick. Many scientific researches have demonstrated the beneficial effect of laughter: laughing intensely can even slow down incurable diseases, hence the usefulness of comic books and films, comic theater, jokes…”.

    In this respect, the Laughter yoga, invented by the Indian physician Madan Kataria, has the fundamental objective of producing well-being through laughter. Thanks to this unique method, everyone can laugh without jokes, without humor and without comic gags, in short, it is a revolutionary way of laughing without reason and without conditions.

    “In 1997, the first major seminar on the subject of Laughter therapy was held at the Free University of Alcatraz, in which Kataria also participated. It was an extraordinary event. It was from there that the clown and comedy therapy movement gained popularity in Italian hospitals, because at that seminar we managed to train 300 people.

    Kataria taught us that there is an infantile and physiological mechanism of laughter, and that this is the basis for the yoga of laughter. At first I didn’t understand what it was all about, but then the teacher started to make us laugh as a form of exercise, and then to produce real laughter, which is encouraged by eye contact with the other people in the session and by the typical playfulness and joy of children. We then start to laugh so much that it becomes natural and we forget the usual inhibitions and formalities of adult life.

    Children laugh much more than adults. In fact, it has been found that a child laughs between 300 and 400 times a day. As they grow up, adults laugh about 80 times a day. According to Jacopo Fo, this is due to a generalized fear of comedy, a sense of ridicule and intelligent humor.

    “Our society is based on intimidation, anxiety, discipline and not on passion, play, sharing. There is an old saying: ‘Laughter abounds in the mouth of fools’. On the contrary, the one who does not laugh is stupid, dominated by fear, multi-tasking obligations and existential anxieties.

    Our rational brain has a stereotyped mechanism, and when it is contradicted by the child brain (by jokes, unexpected stories), that’s when we start to laugh. Laughter corrects, cleans the brain. It often happens that we argue furiously and that, thanks to a joke, laughter takes over anger”.

    The demented yoga invented by Jacopo Fo aims to revive the non-rational mind, the one linked to trust in instinct and creativity; to rediscover the power of intuitive thinking, to favor the body listening and lucid dreaming.

    “It is a journey in which we discover a range of potentialities of the creative mind, a way to approach our true being in a playful and non-disciplined way. To this end, during the classes we experiment with fun and unusual techniques such as massaging, stretching, scratching, lifting on a handstand like rock stars…things that make us feel good.”

    The demented yoga classes are held at the Free University of Alcatraz, one of Jacopo Fo’s biggest projects, located since 1982 in the countryside between Gubbio and Perugia. A place of vacation and culture, dedicated to well-being, art and the spread of beauty and good practices.

    “At Alcatraz we have tried to spread knowledge that expands people’s possibilities, through shows, conferences, family activities, courses and disciplines such as yoga, Zen art, creative writing, massages… We also organize activities for school children that teach them to mix nature and body awareness with a sense of humor.

    This summer we are planning many activities for teenagers and children: we’ll offer courses where, through storytelling, forest exploration and games, the young participants can discover and get in touch with nature”.

    You can find the complete calendar of activities at Alcatraz HERE.