Level II - Project Descriptions



Humor Academy Directors:       Kathy Laurenhue, Melissa Mork and Nila Nielsen

Study Group Advisors:               Kay Caskey, Judy Oliverio and Laurie Young

Academic Instructors:                 Joyce Saltman, Lee Berk


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.



Morning Moments With Maia... Conversations of Love and Laughter; a radio show that pushes the positive

- Maia Aziz P.S.W., C.L.Y.L.


Maia Aziz is a social worker, Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, writer, and radio host who works as Chief of the Rehabilitation Program in Specialized Schools for West Central Montreal Health in Montreal, Canada. Maia serves as President-Elect for AATH and her writing has been featured in Inspirations News, Your True Colors Magazine, and The Positive Psychology People. Each Sunday on Morning Moments With Maia...Conversations of Love and Laughter, an eclectic lineup of compelling guests join Maia for heartfelt and sometimes hilarious discussions. Taking "We should go for coffee!" literally, these are conversations of love, laughter and life.



Smiles To Go! Take-out for the :) Hungry

- Barb Best


My Humor Project goal was to write and publish SMILES TO GO! Take-out for the :) Hungry Co-authored with Global Laughter Ambassador Barbara Grapstein. This short & sweet picture book of smiles from around the world was written and published celebrating World Smile Day and the universal power of the smile. It is for sale on Amazon in the U.S. plus India, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Australia.


Proceeds from eBook sales go to AATH/The Association of Applied & Therapeutic Humor and a variety of humor and healthcare nonprofits.


My second goal is to write FIND YOUR FUNNY: The LOL Survival Guide for Teens a book that will serve as a valuable and fun resource for teens, parents, counselors, and therapists.


What do you get when a comedy writer and a therapist write a book together?

• A humor survival guide designed for ages 12 and up. No Kidding! A best buddy with benefits of the LOL kind.

• Help teens discover the power of humor to deal with stress and teach them strategies to add more laughter to their lives.

Written with Dr. Joanne Jackal, LCSW, Ph.D.; Pub. date: October 2015.



Write and Implement Online Health and Humor Class

- Kay Caskey


The Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness Department at Western Michigan University asked my co-teacher, Laurie Young and me to convert our Health and Humor on-campus class to an online 3-credit class.


Our first response was “Oh no, it can’t be done.”  We needed the interactive planned teaching techniques to demonstrate the healthful benefits of shared laughter, prove the “catchiness” of a group laugh and show the cohesion and bonding that takes place when people laugh together. To paraphrase E.B. White, students dissecting humor alone on line—will surely kill the whole idea of healthful humor just as a frog, when dissected, dies in the process.


After an intensive six months, we came up with a seven-module class comprised of 14 lessons, with numerous articles from current news publications, Ted Talks, You Tube videos, etc. We used resources from many AATH members and the best textbook we could find: Using Humor to Maximize Living, Morrison, Mary Kay, (2012). This 3-credit class was filled the first day of registration. (No frogs were killed in this project.)



Aging Hilariously

- Brenda Elsagher


For my project I designed a keynote on “aging hilariously” bringing stories from my caregiver’s perspective based on funny moments with my parents. I presented it and it was well accepted by social workers and health care professionals, and long term care facility managers and owners. With the interest in humor and aging, I had hoped to write an anthology gathering many other's tales of people who would contribute on this subject of “Aging Hilariously.”  What surprised me was that hilarious stories did not come in; tee hees, but no hilarity. I conducted a focus group of women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to discuss Aging Hilariously. The conclusion yielded the title was erroneous—while there are moments of hilarity, overall, aging is more challenging than funny. Clearly, I would need to change the title of my book and keynote going forward.  The afternoon was filled with laughter and reflection with a reluctance to end the discussion. This may prompt workshops on embracing aging with humor going forward. The new title of the book is called: Your Glasses are On Top of Your Head. Finding the Funny, Adventures in Aging and it is coming out the summer of 2015.



World Healing Headband Project

- Barbara Grapstein


Healing Headbands Project is a nonprofit organization based in Sea Cliff, New York whose purpose is to inspire and integrate laughter with the arts, while developing a healing mindset. Our core program is made up of three components; LAUGH, CREATE, HEAL. This is the foundation that helps healing communities realize their fullest potential. Through laughter exercises we awaken the creative mind. We also encourage painting on pre-sized poster boards, a means to express and capture the moment.


The goal is to build a foundation of joy as a whole consciousness and through the creation process we hold the power to heal. Happiness is a state of mind and the healing headband is a reminder to wear it every day. Over the past year, we have reached several communities with the Healing Headbands Project and a growing request to integrate the project into schools, hospitals and organizations. We are ready to make this happen and to take our work to scale. We will train hundreds of young leaders that embody the ethos of our mission to share our world-healing project.



Happy Lucky Me

- Masako Kusakari


The name of this project is "Happy Lucky Me.” My objective for this project was to increase the number of smiles in Japan. I created a "Humor & Communication" class where I taught open and playful communication. I used a lot of body language and vocal variety exercises to instill these healthy habits. The class learns that English language and culture helps them use their body language to express emotions, learn the power of play, and laugh. Once the Japanese give nicknames to each other and engage in interactive improvisation games, they become enthusiastic and engaged. I made more than 100 people smile. In addition, I entered a Seminar contest with a ten-minute presentation called "How to make a smile that changes your life.” 400 people participated. The contest was recorded on DVD and influenced others to find their funny bones as it is being distributed countrywide. I also competed in a Toastmasters contest with another motivational speech titled "Happy Lucky Me.”


As an AATH member and enthusiast, I continue to teach Japan about the benefits of humor, smiling, and laughing. I would like to increase the numbers of smiles in the air by 20% by 2020 when we host the Olympics



Humor Heals Heroes

- Judy Oliverio


My project was called “Humor Heals Heroes.” My objective of this program was to expose laughter therapy and humor to a most vulnerable and struggling population. Many Veterans find tears, but far less find laughter in their hearts as their rucksacks are heavy with mental, emotional, and physical pain. I taught them how to lighten their mood and their burdens by teaching the benefits of humor, where to find the funny, and how to incorporate humor into their civilian life. My project was all based on military references and humor, so they could relate to that important time in their lives. My presentation reached 10 Veterans and 20 VA staff. All Veteran’s moods increased by a measurable 2 points, using a 1-10 scale of mood level. This was just the start of my lifetime mission to increase awareness of Veterans and VA Staff on the importance of laughter in recovery for our brave Veterans with PTSD and other illnesses. The project has led to a humor booth for nurses week, an in-service using humor to reduce workplace violence, a nurse teaching hour,  and a hospital wide training for staff to improve the care and trust of Veterans through humor. Although the project started small, it has turned into a huge humor operation. Operation “Humor Heals Heroes” will heal the world, one Veteran at a time.



HAPI Rounds for Staff at a Cancer Treatment Hospital

- Katherine Puckett, Ph.D., LCSW

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s hospital in Zion, IL, more than 1,300 experienced and dedicated physicians, Magnet®–recognized nurses and other clinicians, leaders and support staff work together to provide comprehensive cancer treatment to adult patients from all over the country. While the staff finds their work very rewarding, there is an inherent amount of stress due to the patient population, the fast pace of the environment and the volume of work to be done.


The objective of this project is to promote stress relief, engagement, enhanced well-being and self-care for the hospital staff through Humor, Appreciation, Play and Inspiration (HAPI-ness). HAPI Rounds will be conducted throughout the hospital by Mind-Body therapists on a monthly basis. Most staff is too busy to attend sessions focusing on these topics, so we will surprise them by taking mindful pauses, activities and materials to their department meetings, nursing stations and other work areas. Examples include:


  • Humor: laughter exercises, relevant cartoons, funny stories
  • Appreciation: notes from patients and fellow staff letting them know how much they are valued
  • Play: flash mob dance, hula hoops, silly putty
  • Inspiration: inspiring quotes and stories, beautiful nature photographs, simple but powerful self-care tips.



Joy Over Toys

- Erika Ruiz


Everybody wants to be happy! And parents are not the exception. Of course, children are a great source of joy and laughter – but when raising children, we tend to take ourselves way too seriously to the point of losing our natural ability to laugh or find humor in our daily living activities. Unfortunately if our children do not see adults laugh, their laughter potential is also at risk of diminishing. Laughing with our loved ones is not only healing, but it is also a way of bonding while simultaneously boosting fulfillment.


Joy over Toys focuses on playing without any toys involved, so parents and children have an opportunity to share silly moments that will help add more laughter/humor to their lives. It’s not a secret that relationships and happiness go hand-in-hand, so adding a little mix of laughter and humor will improve any parent/child relationship.


In this interactive workshop, I walk participants through the benefits of laughter and how to implement Laughter Dynamics. It’s a complete workout based on Laughter Yoga that combines laughing, singing, dancing, playing and brain fitness that is engaging, fun, and provides physical activity for any age. And there is no need to have physical toys—just pure humor and laughter. Participants receive a red nose at the end to remind them that To Laugh is to Love.



How Initiating a Study can result in Positive Change in Standard of Care, i.e. The Effect of Psychiatric Consultation on Assessment of a Bowel Rehabilitation Program on Patients after HIPEC

- Dr. Laura Sunn


Nearly 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in the year 2014, 8% will present with peritoneal carcinomatosis . Only a minority of these patients will be offered cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic peritoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). In addition to GI symptoms of advanced disease the majority of patients, upon evaluation, present with a degree of malnutrition and mental stress that varies from moderate to severe, which is rarely addressed in the pre-surgical or immediate post-surgical periods. The present study aims to determine the significance of a rehabilitation bowel program for subjects who have undergone cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC for peritoneal surface malignant disease during the post-surgical period.


Initially the arms of this study were to include enhanced Mind Body, Massage and Alternative Nutritional recommendations.(Humor and Music Preferences, Abdominal Massage and Chewing Gum). After initiating a feasibility pilot including Psychiatric and Pain Consultations pre-op and daily rounding post-op the surgeons elected to make this a standard rather than optional intervention.



Does Humor Work 4 You? A Wholistic Model for Local 2 Global Community Health and Wellness

-  Helen Stuckey Risdon Weaver


The objective of this project was to explore and document how humor works as a Quality of Life improvement tool. I participated in the HA II conference calls, developed and fine-tuned my 10-question “Does Humor Work 4 You?” online survey, tested this survey, and pitched the concept to businesses.


My education and search for the tribes to collaborate and flesh out the Wellness Oriented Mutual Aid Network (WOMAN) model for healthy individuals, families, businesses, organizations, and communities continues.  In my local environment, people relate to me as regular “Helen” even when I stay in character.


My Power Point documents how humor has assisted me this past year.  My cast of costumed characters including the “Sisters, Sue”, “The Tooth Fairy”, “Major Prudence Wright, MP” and “Amelia Earhart” traveled to national meetings, visited nursing home residents, hospital patients, staff; volunteered time for community events, and provided health edutainment. This playful medium allowed people of all ages the opportunity to interact with “my character” if they made eye contact or initiated conversation with me. The playful banter & laughter made me feel my Quality of Life goal was met for them and me.


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