For your entertainment and amusement, an extremely well-written investigation of laughing
"Though the episodes are usually transitory, they will occasionally erupt as intense, prolonged outbursts where bodily fluid containment is placed in jeopardy as the hapless victim collapses into a moist, quivering, rhythmically-vocalizing mass. Alarmingly, the phenomenon is highly contagious, and in extreme cases, it can even lead to death. Taken together, these remarkable bizarre symptoms are known as laughter
, and although it is universal among human races and cultures, its processes and purpose are not yet fully understood."
I learned from this essay that there was actually a thing called the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic.
I also learned that inappropriate laughter is a symptom of Kuru disease, which afflicts people that practice cannibalism, and is universally fatal.
Oh, and as for the people that died laughing:
"Additionally, on at least three verifiable occasions, laughter has triggered a state of sharply reduced animation known as death:
- England, 1975: Fifty-year-old bricklayer Alex Mitchell died while watching the television show The Goodies. The episode depicted a kilt-clad Scotsman using his bagpipe to deflect a vicious black pudding intent upon attacking him. After twenty-five minutes of uproarious laughter, he died of heart failure as his wife watched helplessly. She later penned a letter to The Goodies, thanking them for making her husband's final moments so pleasant.
- Denmark, 1989: Hearing-aid maker Ole Bentzen died while watching A Fish Called Wanda. During a scene featuring John Cleese, Bentzen began laughing so hard that he was seized by a heart attack and died.
- Thailand, 2003: Fifty-two-year-old ice cream salesman Damnoen Saen-um awoke his wife when he began laughing boisterously in his sleep. She was unable to wake him, and he died after two minutes of continuous laughter, presumably of heart failure or asphyxiation."
Thanks to Mental Floss
for the link.