Laughter is the best medicine

Dr. Joel Goodman is serious about his mission to help people get more smileage out of work and life.

In 1977, Goodman founded the Humor Project in Saratoga Springs. It's the first organization in the world to focus full time on the power of humor, he said.

The Humor Project sponsors workshops and boasts a speakers bureau with more than 100 speakers who can give talks on such topics as humor and health, laughter and learning and humor in parenting. It has a bookshop that offers books, videos and props, and each year, it sponsors an international humor conference. This year's edition is slated for June 20 to 22 at the Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George.

"The conference really is an oasis of sorts," Goodman said. "It's a way to literally and figuratively get away from it all."

The conference isn't meant just for standup comedians or other people who make a living being funny. Goodman said that in a typical year, 25 percent of the participants are from the business world. Another 25 percent are health care professionals and 25 percent are educators. The remaining 25 percent are a mix of occupations: clergy, writers, turf grass growers, undertakers. "You name it," Goodman said.

The common bond participants share is that they want to get more "smileage" out of life, Goodman said, invoking one of his favorite catch phrases. The conference aims to do that by "helping people develop humor in life and on the job."

To that end, the conference will offer more than 20 sessions. Topics include "Taking Serious Things Humorously and Humor Seriously," "Dealing with Difficult People with Delight and Lightness: Get Glad Not Mad" and "Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Comedic Care Rx to Survive and Thrive."

That last one speaks to a theme that Goodman is passionate about. For years, "laughter is the best medicine" was dismissed as just a cliche. But research has shown humor really can add years to your life.

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