3 Reasons I Need to Go to Grand Rapids’ LaughFest 2011

Photo credit: Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Skyline

In my opinion, March is the Midwest’s cruelest month. One day we’re sitting around in sunglasses and shorts, and the next day we have to use a hairdryer to open the car doors. There’s usually not enough snow to play in, but the lakes are still frozen. It’s enough to make a girl reach for the chips and dip. Again.

Fortunately for us, the city of Grand Rapids has just what the doctor ordered: LaughFest, a ten-day festival of stand-up comedy, improvisation, live shows, films, and more featuring nationally-recognized comedians plus emerging local talent coming up March 10 – 20.

What does laughter have to do with health? You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” but perhaps you haven’t heard that a wealth of scientific research backs up that claim. As it turns out, laughter boasts a number of health boosters, from increased immunity to better cardiovascular health.

Betty White

Betty White

Bill Cosby

Bill Crosby

With a lineup that boasts Margaret Cho, Betty White, Bill Cosby, Dan Zanes & Friends, Mac King, an assortment of Michigan’s up-and-coming comedians, and you (grab the mic during one of the community showcases!) LaughFest has something to make everyone in the family laugh, whether you are four or ninety-four.

Laugh my way to better health? I’m in! Here are the three reasons I need to go to LaughFest:

  • A healthy heart and lungs: Okay, I admit it: the last time I got my heart rate up over 80 beats per minute was the last time I went for a brisk fall walk—you know, back in October. Luckily, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have found that laughter helps improve blood flow and may help decrease cardiovascular disease, similar to the way a good workout does. I bet Bill Cosby’s act could make me laugh so hard that I could skip the treadmill for the rest of March.

  • Increased immunity: I feel like lately I’ve been surrounded by a sea of sneezing, snotty, sickly folks—and I don’t just mean my kids. If I’m not careful I’m likely to pick up one of those nasty end-of-winter colds that always hit me by surprise just when the sun has decided to stick around for more than an hour at a time. Luckily, a 2002 study by researchers at Loma Linda University in California indicated that watching funny material (in the experiment, volunteers watched the comedian Gallagher smashing melons) improved the function of the immune system. I’m guessing Betty White’s act alone could get me through the rest of flu season without a sniffle.

  • Feeling no pain (or less of it, anyway): A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that laughter increases tolerance to discomfort and pain. Going by that logic, a dose of the Bob & Tom Comedy All-Stars Show plus the Best of the Midwest performance could wipe out a March-induced headache.

I think I’ve made my point: all those interested in preserving their health should attend LaughFest, a 10-day event that will have you clutching your sides, getting a great cardio workout and fighting viruses with a vengeance.

Bonus: LaughFest is located in Grand Rapids, one of the Midwest’s most vibrant and energetic cities. With great restaurants and bars and world-class cultural attractions like the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and the Grand Rapids Art Museum you’ll find plenty to do while you’re not slapping your knees with laughter. Check out Experience Grand Rapids for a list of area hotels offering special LaughFest packages.

Looking for another reason to head to Grand Rapids this March? All proceeds from LaughFest will benefit the cancer, grief, and support programs offered through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.

Check out a full list of the acts at the Experience Grand Rapids website or check out the LaughFest blog for insider information, interviews with comedians, and to find out how you can take the mic yourself.

See you there!

Meagan FrancisA native Michigander, Meagan Francis lives in St. Joseph with her husband and five children. Her blog is www.thehappiestmom.com.