When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: Is laughter is the best medicine?

In this episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s, I put the old adage “laughter is the best medicine” to the test.

I go through improvisational comedy training and perform live on stage for the first time in nearly thirty years. Plus, I connect with four people who live with Parkinson’s: Glenn Lurie, Kitty Fitton, Phil “Badger” Smith and Paul Mayhew-Archer. They all have turned to stand-up comedy after their PD diagnosis.

Paul Mayhew-Archer, star of the one-man show “Incurable Optimist,” admits he gets a pleasant dopamine rush on stage, but he says it’s not the same as medicine.

“So, I mean, they say that laughter is the best medicine.

“And, you know, it’s rubbish, because in my case Sinemet is the best medicine.”

“But laughter is certainly pretty high up on the list.” Sinemet is the brand name of Carbidopa-Levodopa, the gold-standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

I participated in a series of three workshops called “Improv for Parkinson’s” at Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv Comedy Institute, which concluded with a live performance.

For me, performing on stage was such a rush, it triggered a bloody nose as soon as I stepped on stage and heard the applause and roar of the crowd.

I had to excuse myself before introductions. I quickly shoved tissue up my nostril and clamped my nostrils shut and returned to the stage. After all, the show must go on, but more importantly, improv training taught us to roll with the punches.

With Parkinson’s, improv and life, the more you can be in the present moment and react to what is right in front of you, the easier it all becomes.

Improvisational comedy and Parkinson’s was the focus of a first-of-its-kind research project at North Western University in 2017 in conjunction with the Second City School of Improvisation in Chicago. The results show that despite despite apathy and amotivation being common symptoms of Parkinson’s, which causes frequent absence from other types of therapy or classes, the attendance to improv was strong and consistent. Unlike therapies and exercise classes, the improv workshops were well-attended and enjoyed among patients of PD of varying ages and disease severity.

In regards to measures of efficacy, the only variable that improved significantly was the change in UPDRS part II, which focuses on how difficult the activities of daily living are for people with Parkinson’s. Researchers believe this preliminary finding may be a result of the humor and games that aimed at improving communications skills, stigma, anxiety and quality of life. More research will need to be done before the positive impacts of improv on Parkinson’s are confirmed.

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Twitter: @ParkinsonsPod

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Twitter: @Niki_Reitmayer

Thank you to…

Vancouver TheatreSports Improv Comedy

Dan Dumsha Improv performer, instructor and executive coach has a website www.dandumsha.com and can be found on Facebook @Dan.Dumsha, [email protected] and Instagram @dandumsha

Johnny Kerrigan is in the Vancouver TheatreSports rookie league.

My Improv Troupe:

  • Norm Blain
  • Creston Froats
  • Peter Jarvis
  • Geoff Cohen
  • Richard Froese
  • John Hougan

Glenn Lurie is living in North Carolina. Here is a link to the article that first peaked my interest in Glenn. You can follow him on Facebook @Glennluriecomedian and twitter @GMLurie.

Kitty Fitton can be found at her website www.kittyfitton.com and you can follower her on twitter @kitty_fitton

Phil “Badger” Smith on twitter @phil_badger

Paul Mayhew-Archer has a website http://mayhew-archer.com/and is on twitter @mayhewarcher

 Special thanks to…

Rebecca Gifford, my wife and partner in Parkinson’s, who always laughs at my jokes.

For more info on our presenting partner Parkinson Canada head to www.parkinson.ca.

The toll-free hotline: 1-800-565-3000

Follow them on Twitter: @ParkinsonCanada

Thanks also to our content and promotional partners

Parkinson’s IQ + You – A free series of Parkinson’s events from the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Spotlight YOPD – The only Parkinson’s organization dedicated to raising awareness for young onset Parkinson’s disease and funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

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