Wellness: Comedy as Medicine

May 2 2013, 12:15 PM

When I lived in New York City, I went to at least one comedy show a week. Not the big ones at A-list places like Caroline's, but the smaller East Village and Lower East Side venues where comics and writers from The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, and every great TV comedy show use to hone their material. Covers topped out at $5, and there was no drink minimum (and at $2 a can, a PBR wouldn't have broken the bank). Rififi's, Sweet, Totally J/K, ASSSSCAT 3000, The Big Terrific Comedy Show: they all offered a respite from the undeniable energy—and stress—that comes with a New York City address. Laughter, it turns out, helped me survive in the big city.

Studies have shown that laughing enriches the blood with oxygen, releases the brain's feel-good endorphins, and stimulates circulation. All that pent-up office tension—mental and physical—just melts away once you hear a good punchline. With that tension gone, your immunity increases when your body doesn't have to shoulder stress and instead, it can spend its energy fighting off other serious illnesses. Laughter is so powerful it can even be a painkiller, an effect that increases when you're laughing with a group of people.

Since I moved to Denver a year ago, I haven't sought out comedy like I once did (turns out the Rocky Mountains do a lot more to lower stress than Central Park). But when I do need a fix, luckily, Denver's full of laughs: Chris Hardwick tonight and Jay Mohr at next week at Comedy Works, sketch and improv at the Bovine Metropolis Theater, The Deer Pile, and more. I may not need the stress relief like I used to, but might as well fight off the next cold with something a little more fun than a flu shot.

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