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June 16 , 2011

The Laughter Factor


I WAS DELIGHTED TO RECEIVE THIS NEW SUBMISSION BY Dr. Daniel Keller.The Laughter Factor presents laughter and humor as a form of therapy.The author claims laughter is essential to the emotions, the body and soul, and the survival of civilization.

We all know that 'laughter is the best medicine' and Dr. Keller succeeds in proving this theory in his book.Humor is at the core of a whole and healthy personality.Kellar adroitly describes the healing power of laughter – based on case studies from individual and group therapy sessions.He notes that we, as humans, neglect the power of laughter in our lives by taking humor for granted.We ignore the healthy impact of a "good" hearty laugh on the body:

What happens, when our cheeks blush and our belly shakes the spasm of a guffaw, is more than a good feeling.Our vocal cords are sounding an elixir as old as Solomon's praise of a 'merry heart.'And modern medicine tells us that we are measurably cleansing our somatic pores.We now know that laughter catalyzes the endocrine system.Our pituitary gland releases pain-reducing chemicals.Endorphins and enkephalins trigger the sensation of pleasure.

With a clear and lucid style, Keller offers the reader a wealth of information that applies humor to therapy, laughter, and life as a preventative medicine of salvific proportions.This makes for insightful and entertaining reading.

“Dan Keller’s book touches what I felt when I wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Both I and Randall Patrick McMurphy suggest you read it.”

– Ken Kesey

“Keller’s book reminds us that laughter is the best medicine, far better than a dose of medicine. I recommend The Laughter Factor without a single reservation.”

– Virginia Durr

“Dr. Keller writes about humor with humor. He proves his point in story after story that humor really does make a difference.”

– Conrad Hyers

“I am delighted to see a book of the caliber Dan Keller has written on the role of humor in psychotherapy.I believe its value will be in the stories it tells.”

– Gerald Piaget

“Keller’s work is masterful. It probes the light side of life, and the philanthropic justice of laughter.”

– Tonea Stewart

“Keller reminds us that when we go off the rails, laughter picks us up and puts us back on track.The Laughter Factor is a terrific book.”

– David Bouchier

One may judge the importance of a book partly in terms of content and partly in terms of need. On both counts Dr. Keller’s The Laughter Factor is important. There is a dearth of literature available to the psychotherapist that applies humor theory to humor therapy. Anyone who has done counseling surely senses that humor – on the part of both therapist and client – can be a significant ingredient in the healing process, yet few have given the matter systematic reflection and application. Freud made a preliminary effort in this direction in his Wit and the Unconscious, and Keller draws upon his study; but many aspects of the subject remained to be developed, especially the uses of humor by the counselor and client. The Laughter Factor corrects this lacuna in our knowledge.

Before Freud, none other than the great American therapist Mark Twain credited healing powers to humor (and to his profession) when he wrote in Tom Sawyer of the old man who “laughed joyously and loud, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot, saying that such a laugh was money in a man’s pocket because it cut down the doctor’s bills like everything!” That, in essence, is what Keller’s book is about, including a chapter on recent research indicating the various positive effects of shaking up the details of one’s anatomy from head to foot in hearty laughter.

A book that might profitably be read in conjunction with Keller’s book is Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which in its own way is also an exploration of the importance of humor – and of the lack thereof – in the context of psychotherapy. When the rabble-rousing, free-spirited Randall Patrick McMurphy is committed to the State Hospital for the Insane, his first impression is quite revealing of the disastrous effects of therapy without humor:

That’s the first thing that got me about this place, there wasn’t anybody laughing. I haven’t heard a real laugh since I came through that door…Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.

There is an allegory here for the situation Keller’s work aims to correct. Humor is an essential dimension of the whole and healthy personality. Without a well-developed sense of humor, something fundamental is missing; the corollary to that is illness. Humor involves the peculiarly human capacity to stand back and apart from one’s situation, to see things more clearly and objectively – and also more honestly – and to take oneself and one’s circumstances less seriously. There are many other positive functions of humor, but this one alone should have given humor greater attention than it has received.

The Laughter Factor provides a wealth of material that can be used in both ways: as part of the therapeutic process, but also as preventative exercise. One of the best features of the book is that it is not written in heavy jargonese, but is very readable and practical. The author does not fall into writing overly seriously about humor, and thus open himself to the charge that only those with little sense of humor are capable of writing books about it. Keller writes about humor with humor. And these are not theoretical proposals either; he has used humor and cultivated humor over years of counseling. And, judging from the many cases he cites, his various uses of humor in therapy have been very successful.

A helpful feature of the book is that so many examples and suggestions are offered from the author’s own experience in individual and group therapy. A sensitivity to the great variety of individual situations and needs is also much in evidence; a diversity of cases are cited, and in each case the technique is adapted to the individual. The frequent use of anecdotes from his own counseling gives not only concreteness to the text, but makes of it interesting reading. Most importantly, one can visualize many ways in which humor can be introduced and encouraged in one’s own counseling.

In story after story, Keller proves his point. Humor really does make a difference. The Laughter Factor fills a void in the literature, and very readably so.


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