Doc filmmaker to hold laughing contest
Last Updated: March 5, 2011 2:00am
LOS ANGELES - So there was this American state called California with one of the highest unemployment rates on the continent and citizens fretting about losing their homes to foreclosure ... when in walks this Canadian guy.
Yes, it's Toronto documentary filmmaker Albert Nerenberg to the rescue of the depressed and anxious around here next Saturday when he brings his movie, Laughology, to a film festival just north of L.A.
Before and after the showing of his documentary, Nerenberg will host a laughing contest and a so-called "Laughter Yoga" class.
It's the first time Laughology, released about a year ago, has been invited to screen in California and Nerenberg said he'll do his best to lighten the mood.
"I'm not sure I can cheer them up too much, but I can make them laugh," he said of the screening-and-chuckling events to be showcased at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival March 12.
"It's clear that with practice, people get better and better at laughing, even if they're miserable SOBs."
It was Nerenberg who came up with the idea of hosting a laugh contest to coincide with screenings of his film. The contest is organized as if it's a wrestling contest such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, although Nerenberg says he's a "laugher not a fighter."
In essence, he who laughs the hardest during the competition wins. Of course, the championship is meant to be ironic because, after all, everyone who laughs wins.
Nerenberg's first laugh competition was in Montreal; the second was in Japan. The upcoming one in California will be the third.
"It's a competition of positive values instead of negative to try and prove that we humans aren't really so bad," he said.
Wendy Eidson, director of the annual filmfest in San Luis Obispo -- a coastal town in the wine region that's a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles -- said she heard about Laughology after it was screened at a local library, and then personally tracked Nerenberg down.
"I love the film. It really stands out from the usual depressing fare and I wanted it in the festival," Eidson said.
Nerenberg "did a great job talking about the science of laughter and it's not something that people usually think much about. I found it fascinating," she added.
The laugh contest -- as well as the Laughter Yoga class (Nerenberg didn't invent this, but you can guess what happens when people start laughing during a downward dog) -- is expected to be a huge draw.
Eidson wants people to know, however, that San Luis Obispo is a much happier town than other neighbouring cities such as L.A. or San Jose. Indeed, a recent book by a National Geographic writer says it's one of the happiest in the world because of the quality of life and friendliness.
Which is all the more reason that San Luis Obispo host Laughology. The town, with Nerenberg's help, can show others how it's done.
Linda Massarella, a Canadian writer in Los Angeles, writes every Sunday about notable Canadians living in L.A.
Reposted from the Toronto Sun