By Francesca Donlan
The Desert Sun
May 17th, 2000
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what could a big belly laugh do? In a mix of
comedy and science, medical researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center are going to find
out. They have launched a five year study to determine if a good giggle can improve the
The study, called Rx Laughter, involves showing classic comedies to children and
adolescents suffering from serious illness. If a positive biological response to laughter
is found, chuckling could be heard in the unlikeliest places.
Sherry Dunay Hilber, a UCLA graduate and recent network television executive (ABC and CBS)
created and developed Rx Laughter. She also raised a $75,000 grant from the cable tv
network, Comedy Central. Ms. Hilber spearheads the project as it's Creator, Executive
Director and Executive Producer.
"I am not a physician, but I have seen firsthand the pain and sadness in
hospitals", Hilber said. "Watching a funny video is not going to cure them, but
it helps them feel less alone. I think that the bigger umbrella about Rx Laughter is that
it's not just about laughter, it's about a spiritual component - finding a way to have a
higher quality of life when things are stressful."
Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer sees a lot of kids in pain. As the UCLA cancer researcher and Director
of the Pediatric Pain Program at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, she will head up
the medical research. "It can have tremendous effects on the healing process in
general," Zeltzer said.
Descendants of classic comedians are also involved in Rx Laughter: Bill Marx, son of Harpo
Marx, will join other offsprings of classic comedians including Christopher Chaplin and
Josephine Chaplin, son & daughter of Charlie Chaplin; Chris Costello, Daughter of Lou
Costello; Ronald J. Fields, grandson of W.C. Fields, and others.
Marx, of Palm Springs, said that his 92 year old mother is doing well after recovering
from cancer and three bouts of double pneumonia. "Laughter is part of the reason for
her recovery", he said. "She is still hanging in so well because we laugh like
hell. Every day, we look for the absurd side of things." Marx said that his mother
howls so hard that her stomach hurts. He recently toured UCLA's Pediatric Center with his
wife, and met some of the kids struggling with serious illness. "The more laughter,
the more time is spent taking their mind off of their problems. There is no way that you
can say anything bad about making people laugh", Marx said.
For more information about Rx Laughter", see the www.rxlaughter.org website.
Back to Top