“We have to do this! This is important! This is amazing!” were the words Chris Pollitt spoke after trying Laughter Yoga for the first time in 2007. He knew he’d caught the laugh bug, and he immediately started co-leading a monthly laughter group.
Since then Chris has become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and has shared his laughter around Vancouver, at a contest in Montreal, a conference in California and at a cruising altitude.
Filmmaker of Laughology, Albert Nerenberg, referred to Chris Pollitt as a ‘Laugh-lete’. Having known Chris personally for several years, and from my interview with him in February, I think this an apt word to describe a man who loves to laugh and has skill for sharing it.
Seia: “How did your Daily Laugh Project come to be?”
Chris: “I’d been working for a software development company for seven years, [when] I found myself, along with over 3000 of my co-workers out-of-work.”
After a few long days, Chris decided to turn his frown upside-down and started a company called Universal Laughter. His first project, A Daily Laugh, involved filming himself laughing in a variety of ways.
Chris: “I would do famous laughs, like Elmer Fud, Daffy Duck, Les Nessman (from WKRP), [and] the pirate laugh “a-ha-ha-ha ARR”. Every day, a different laugh and I’d put it on YouTube. [I would] go out and find complete strangers and laugh with them! I actually meant to stop after Day 100 but by then there was such momentum. I wasn’t even trying and it on for another 30 days.”
During the 130 Days of Laughter, Chris laughed with Vancouver police at the Car-free Day events, with a band at the Jazz Festival, flight attendants at 30,000 feet (on the way to Costa Rica) and (after landing) the pilot.
Seia: “Did laughter help you deal with stress after loosing your job?”
Chris: “Absolutely… it got me up and dressed and out the door. I had a mission. I had a purpose. It’s crucial: structure, purpose, and socializing all of these are important for emotional health – (I’m a career counsellor now, so I should know). It was a time of wonder, happiness, healing, and connection. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been laid off!”
Seia: “In Laughter Yoga, we laugh and we explore other forms of emotional expression. You seem to be very transformed by this kind of non-laughing laughter exercise.”
Chris: “In my mind there are two kinds of laughter exercises:
1) Exercises that stimulate laughter, and are fun!
2) Exercises that are powerful that have a real incredible healing potency to them. They’re fun but there is deeper work going on, and whether you’re aware of that deeper work, it still works.”
Seia: “What is one of your favorite laughter memories?”
Chris: “[During the] Yogathon at UBC, I was walking around looking at booths and this woman jumped out and started laughing. I thought, that’s a very strange thing to do! Why would this person be laughing? I don’t even know this person! I looked down and saw I was wearing my Laughter Yoga shirt, it all clicked and I began to laugh! Then, we found out that was the exact time they were trying to do a meditation. We had to quickly quiet ourselves [laughter].”
Seia: “What brings you the greatest joy?”
Chris: “Bringing other people joy.”
Seia: “What is one of your favorite quotes from Dr. Kataria?”
Chris: ‘Life is serious. Death is serious. It is time to take laughter seriously.’ “He’s absolutely right. Laughter is powerful. Laughter is healing. Lets not wait for it to happen, lets make it happen.”
Chris has a bounty of beautiful laughter stories, and I am grateful he took the time to share some of them with me.