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Level II - Project Descriptions




Humor Academy Directors:       Mary Kay Morrison and Karyn Buxman

Study Group Advisors:               Kathy Laurenhue, Laurie Young and Shirley Trout

Academic Instructors:                 Joyce Saltman


Here is a brief description of the Level II Projects for the Humor Academy this year. Level II of the Humor Academy involves both research and application of humor practice in an individual’s chosen field of study.


Making Ordinary Lives Matter: A Journey Best Navigated with Laughter

- Jay Allen


The objective of this project was to reinforce laughter as an intentional, simple behavior to enhance general quality of life. The format included chapters of information on voluntary simplicity, personal values that build community, ideas on striving to be a courageous follower/ leader, and laughter as the most economical form of natural healing/prevention.


My procedure included researching the use/misuse of laughter in mental health emergencies with the conclusion that your journey towards an ordinary life that matters will leave an extra- ordinary legacy.



Adding Therapeutic Laughter to a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rehabilitation(CBTR) Program for Chronic Pain Patients

- Mary Laskin


A 30-minute session was added to an existing 6 week CBTR program offered to chronic pain patients in an HMO organization. This included both a didactic session and an audience participation session. It started with a brief overview of the benefits of laughter and humor, a laughter exercise session, principles of Good Hearted Living, and a summary of ways to add laughter to one’s life.


Chronic pain is a condition that affects millions across the world. It affects more people in the United States that Diabetes, Cancer or Heart disease combined. Acute pain is part of our normal physiology, warning us when something is wrong. Chronic pain is when the nervous system goes wrong- pain signals firing for months or years. The definition of Chronic Pain is pain that lasts longer that 3 months past the expected healing time.


Individuals with chronic pain report that it impacts almost all aspects of their life, including their work, family life, relationships, and recreational activities. The inability to participate fully in these aspects of their life can lead to mood disorders, and physical deconditioning. The “gold standard” of treatment for chronic pain is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which engages participants to change negative thoughts and behaviors that can increase the pain experience.


Kaiser Permanente San Diego’s Pain Management department in an outpatient clinic that offers a 6 week CBTR program, meeting twice weekly. It is co-facilitated by a Pain Psychologist and Pain Physical Therapist. The core components of the CBTR model are thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These components constantly influence each other, as well as pain. Helping the chronic pain patient to identify this connection and ways to change their impact on pain is the goal of CBTR. Topics traditionally included at our department have been stress management, sleep hygiene, relaxation, meditation, pacing, and exercises to combat the deconditioning that is common in the chronic pain patient.


Some of the earliest research on humor and laughter was in the area of its effect on pain. There have been many studies that show that the use of humor can increase pain tolerance and pain threshold levels. Studies also support the benefits of laughter and humor to affect moods and attitudes. The topic of Therapeutic Laughter was introduced as a trial during one of the CBTR sessions. The patient response was positive, so it was decided to include it in the curriculum of the CBTR program. The pain psychologist’s comments after that first session, “I have never seen that patient so animated!” (He was referring to a chronic pain patient who also suffered from clinical depression, who normally presented a flat affect.) The content has now been offered regularly since May 2013. It is included late in the program (Session 11 of the 12 sessions) in order to allow the group members to develop some comfort with each other before participating in the laughter exercises. Evaluation is done by verbal statements from the patients, and a question included the overall program evaluation administered at the end of the six-week program.



Humor and Aging: a Brief Online Course

- Kathy Laurenhue


As an instructional technologist, I have written hundreds of hours of multi-media training materials related to the field of aging, including more than two dozen courses for the company Activity Connection. As the name suggests, these courses are primarily related to activity programming in long-term care settings. Each course is 20 - 25 pages long and includes discussion questions, section summaries, and a post-test. While each can be offered as a simple print course, each is instead offered online, and those who successfully complete it, are given CEU credits. As my Level II Project, I am using this same format to create a course called Humor and Aging. My initial goal is for it to be offered through the AATH website resources as a simple downloadable file, and perhaps later in a more interactive format. (Whether this could be an item for purchase on the site has not yet been determined.) I would like to also offer it to Activity Connection so that AATH can be known to their mail list.


The Humor and Aging course is based in part on a presentation I gave at the AATH conference in 2012, which had the following two goals:

  1. To show that humor is VITAL to healthy aging
  2. To BROADEN the definition of humor related to aging


Humor is not just about one’s sense of humor – an ability to laugh easily over the absurdities of life – but also about maintaining good humor, a positive attitude for well-being. Three critical – backed by science – elements for that good humor are:

  • Ha-ha – Not just being able to laugh, but having a strong social network of people to laugh with
  • Aha – Having endless curiosity, a desire to keep learning and growing
  • Aaahhhh – Finding one’s meaning in pleasure and play



Parenting Style, Emotional Intelligence, and Humor Style

- Melissa Mork


As a clinician, I can’t help but marvel at emotional resilience. How does one become emotionally savvy? Why might the child of indulgent parents grow up to feel inferior? How does the child of harsh parents use humor for coping? As a researcher, I am fascinated by research on the constructs of emotional intelligence, parenting, and humor. Surprisingly, these constructs have never been investigated together…until now.


The purpose of this present study is to explore the potential relationships between emotional intelligence, parenting styles, and humor styles. Surveys were administered to over 400 undergraduate and graduate students at an upper-Midwestern private university, using the Schutte Self-Report Emotional Intelligence Scale (SSREI), Buri’s Parenting Authority Questionnaire (PAQ), and the Humor Style Questionnaire (HSQ). Results will be discussed and the implications of these findings will be addressed in terms of potential directions for further research. Conclusions may benefit ongoing research into the development of humor and the interaction of humor and emotional intelligence.



THE PRINCIPAL DIARIES: Principles for Leading with Humor and Heart

- Nila Nielsen, Ed.D.


As a former elementary principal, I often felt the pressure that results when educational leaders must ensure students obtain mastery of a defined curriculum. I found humor to be the answer to reduce the stress and build a positive school environment.


For this project, I compiled examples of how school administrators and school leaders infuse humor to create a warm, fun and caring learning environment. The Principal Diaries is a sampling of real-life experiences shared in a light-hearted format. Its purpose is to help others learn how to laugh at the little things, bounce back from the big things, and find joy in the unexpected.

The infusion of humor by school leaders may need to be intentional at first, but it will quickly become easy, especially considering they are surrounded by kids! The Diaries also encourage implementation of this humor with an uplifted heart - one that encourages gratitude and kindness. The result will be a positive, caring environment where a central theme of ‘learning with humor and heart’ will prevail.


When The Principal Diaries: Principles for Leading with Humor and Heart is published, it is my hope that it will serve as a model for others to improve education - one smile at a time.



Leo: The Neighborhood Dog Or: The Comedic Canine and His Fantastic Adventures

- Jae Pierce-Baba


Objective: To create a series of stories that feature a 110 pound chocolate lab dog named Leo whom was himself rescued as a puppy and the joy and humor he brings to his neighborhood (and the world). This simple series will focus on the powerful force of the ties of emotional energy and connection of dogs and the human species. Through various scenarios-when there is a perceived problem situation, Leo will appear and through humorous intervention and just plain doggedness …Save The Day! He may be in different roles; perhaps as rescue dog finding a missing person, an assistance dog to blind, deaf or autistic people, saving homes and people from an environmental disaster like a gas leak in the neighborhood-that all incorporate positive intervention, love, kindness and the joyfulness that only Leo can bring.


Dogs can make us laugh, lick our tears away, and give unconditional love no matter how we look, act or our political or social leanings. There are many compelling reasons why dogs have been considered Man’s Best Friend for centuries.


Leo stories will have a situation and it will end in humor and with a positive ending. Leo is a happy dog that looks on the bright side of any situation and always sees his bowl half full instead of half empty. Leo encourages others to be the best they can be and to choose happiness instead of unhappiness.


Rationale: Dogs can be companions to those people that are stressed in their jobs, or personal life, those that suffer from physical or mental handicaps, depression, life situations beyond their control. This project’s goal is to be passionately committed to inspiring and empowering canines (Leo) to bring joy to others.

  • In a colorful and childlike design. it will appeal to dog lovers of any age.
  • This book will be done in rhyme or maybe rap.
  • It will include animated pictures – life action photos of Leo.
  • A stuffed Leo dog doll to accompany book.



Let Your Laugh Out: Living Your Life with Gusto and Enthusiasm

- Julie Ostrow


I share my thoughts on what it meant to me to win the American Laughing Championship. When I won the laughing championship and held up that trophy with joy and utter pride, I believe it was the first time in my life I fully embraced my accomplishment and was not worried about anyone else. I realize that, at first, that sounds selfish. However, if you’ve lived your life pleasing others, then you understand where I am coming from. I didn’t worry for even a fraction of a moment whether someone else felt bad because I won. Looking back on my life, I realized I played small so others wouldn’t feel small. When I was in the throes of the laughing championship, I was in complete and utter bliss. Boy, was I oozing with endorphins!! Because I was so lost in the moment of pure and utter joy, the whole room simply fell away. It is said that the endorphins that are released when we laugh are the same ones that are released when we meditate. That makes sense to me. You could say I was in a meditative state. I could hear the humming roar of laughter from the audience and could feel their love and support.


As the first "American Laughing Champion", I have seen and experienced people laughing simply because of the words that are on the trophy: "Best Laugher in America." I have met many people... all who are captivated by the concept of a laughing championship. Just talking about the laughing championships makes everyone I encounter laugh or smile.


I share my experience of having won the laughing championship and share what I believe about having won: The laughing championship wasn't just about me winning best laugher. It was about making more people aware of laughing for no reason. I believe that my laughter trophy is an Ambassador for Laughter. Since it does not have a voice, I am its voice. I have witnessed how the Laughter Championships bring joy to people's lives and make even more people aware of laughing for no reason.


Not only has the trophy opened doors for me to radio interviews and speaking engagements but it has also become a channel for people to become aware of laughing for no reason. It has been fascinating and enlightening to see and experience. I bring the trophy when I give my humor and laughter presentations and use my laughter championship as a platform for demonstrating to others how to “Let Your Laugh Out...Living your life with gusto and enthusiasm.” I realize it is my duty and responsibility to live out loud, let my laugh out, and live my life with gusto enthusiasm. Simply by doing that, I shall be an inspiration to others to do the same.



EVATEC Model for Transforming Higher Education Teaching: Developing a Web-based Brochure

- Shirley Trout


University educators representing a wide range of disciplines have been challenged to engage students, rather than lecture at them. This challenge is especially important for educators preparing professions for practice, such as health care, medicine, psychology, law, and others. The “flipped classroom” is one in which traditional lectures are videotaped and assigned as homework so class time can be used for problem-solving and learning explorations.


But how do educators effectively engage students when many (higher education educators) are lack expertise in pedagogy (teaching) science? Effective, practical models are needed to assist educators as they seek to engage learners in a pedagogy of engagement (“pedENG”).


EVATEC is an acronym representing the six steps an educator must address when designing instruction that engages learners, whether for the classroom, on-line course, lecture hall or simulation. Created by curriculum designer Shirley Trout, PhD, MEd, and nursing educator Jan Boller, PhD, RN, the EVATEC model is especially useful for higher education professionals already committed to the flipped classroom, but not sure of how to engage students, meaningfully. It answers the question, “So, I’ve ‘flipped.’ Now what do I do?!”


The six “steps” are considerations educators must address when engaging learners and refer to: The Evidence, the Venue, the Activities, the Twists, the Expressions, and the Conversations. While each model component requires specific consideration, this presentation focuses on the development of a practical, web-based resource that summarizes the key considerations of each of the six EVATEC elements. This resource is relevant to the humor community because humor is the highest-value Twist possible within that model consideration.


The Twists are ways an educator does something different with an Activity that make students think differently during and about their assignments. Twists can range from conventional to highly unconventional, the latter of which are strengthened by the incorporation of a humorous component. Educators trained in this model have reported that the Twists are what make this transformation model unique and more effective for engaging learners in higher-order thinking and learning-for-understanding.


Humorous Twists enroll students in incongruous dilemmas that generate unique opportunities to explore a subject, both concretely and as abstractions. In so doing, educators are able to direct Conversations beyond a single, concrete problem, topic or scenario and link learning, conceptually, as well as practically. Plus, humor-based Twists increase students’ attention, struggle with incongruity and surprise, and help students “cut to the chase” of any learning assignment. When used in conjunction with non-humorous Twisted Activities, humorous Twists increase the comparative depth and breadth of Conversations, thus enhancing learning even further.



Always in My Right Mind: How humor healed my soul after a hemispherectomy

- Beth Usher


In 1987, I had the entire left side of my brain removed due to a rare brain disease called Rasmussen’s Encephalitis. For the two years leading up to this radical surgery, I suffered over one hundred seizures a day. I lost the right visual field in both eyes and the use of my entire right side. I learned very early on that humor and laughter could lighten the mood in the doctor’s office - That a joke could make the x-ray technician laugh and like me a little more. That the person who drew my blood for tests would look forward to seeing me because of my smile. Laughter and humor came in handy even with the kids in my classroom. Seizures can be frightening not only for the person having them but for those who watch them happen. I would make fun of myself coming out of a seizure and make my classmates laugh to put them at ease.


My goal with this project is to create an hour-long presentation on how laughter and humor helped a young girl survive the brutal effects of a devastating illness, coma, and years of physical therapy, bullies, disappointment and loss. My presentation will include a first-hand account of my experience through illness and recovery using humor and laughter. I will share details about my journey from the very first seizure to how we found help as well as the many wonderful people we met along the way. It is my intention to show others struggling with difficult situations, illnesses, disappointments and loss that laughter and humor can lighten their burden and create pathways of understanding and support with caregivers, friends, family, teachers and others. I am committed to a life of laughter and humor and I would love to be a good will ambassador for AATH through my presentations.



Health and Humor On Line Class

- Laurie Young


The objective of this project is to transform a three-credit Health and Humor college class, currently offered only on campus, into a course offered on-line.


In the early 1990s my co-teacher Kay Caskey and I created and have since taught several classes for the Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness Department at Western Michigan University. Our very first class, Health and Humor, has been a good fit for the department, adding a new dimension to other offerings, that include Expressive Arts, Nutritional Wellness, Healing Through Movement, Love and Forgiveness, Biofeedback, and Meditation.


The university, looking to hold down costs and increase enrollments, has expanded their Internet offerings and asked us to consider this option for our classes. We converted one of our classes this past fall and it was a challenge to create a course that would interest and engage our students, who may reside 1,000 miles from campus, while making sure that everything we did was accessible on-line to everyone, including people with various disabilities. It fact, one of our students last fall was a blind woman from Florida.


This project will lay out the framework and proposed lessons for this class and next year I will work with Kay to create the actual lessons. This project will result in a completely new class as all of the videos and handouts we have created over the years will be no longer usable and most of our classroom activities will no longer be possible. Because humor and laughter is so social, turning this into an on-line class presents special challenges.



Adding Humor to a Cancer Keynote

- Wendy Treynor


The inspiration for embarking on this journey stemmed from my desire to create a more humorous keynote for cancer survivors and caregivers, based on my upcoming book "The Gift of Cancer: Turn Your Tragedy into a Treasure," to help further lighten their load.


For this project, I read chapter 2 of "The Comedy Bible" by Judy Carter to learn stand-up comedy structure, which has three parts:

  • In Step 1, you essentially say, "You know what's really funny about ______[fill in the blank with topic of interest]?"
  • In Step 2, you say something true that is general, insightful, and brilliant, so people agree and identify with it.
  • Finally, in Step 3, you throw the audience off by acting out a really funny follow-up to the statement you made in Step 2, using present-moment dialogue, and pretending to be the other person and yourself.

At first, I had difficulty being funny, because I endeavor to always speak the truth, yet when it comes to humor, exaggeration and taking an unexpected left turn--dashing expectations-and moving into the realms of imagination seem imperative, so I took an exhilarating and liberating dive into these realms!


Next, I filmed myself telling these jokes and posted this video on the following, secret YouTube site for your viewing enjoyment: http://youtu.be/tNpkvwlqmec. In the process, I discovered and saw a new side of myself! Next, I added these jokes, in written form, into my keynote script for "The Gift of Cancer: Turn Your Tragedy into a Treasure"-a script which also doubles as a short book--a very condensed version of my longer, upcoming, self-help memoir with the same title.


Now, you, your patients, and your loved ones facing cancer can experience heartfelt humor thanks to the chiseling and making of a "funny, female, cancer survivor speaker" from the clay of myself through the kiln of AATH and the Humor Academy! Thanks for the good times and sunshine of your ever-joyous hearts! Feel free to send me a line or visit anytime at ICanHeal.com and ICanHeal.TV.


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