Laughter On Call started as a way to bring some much needed comic relief to my mother. However, in the year since the idea of hiring a comedian to work one-on-one with her to make her laugh, it has become a company that offers so much more.
The first growth spurt happened when I was out talking to executive directors of various Los Angeles senior residences, putting a face to the name of the writer of the article many of them had read in AARP. I was able to share with them in person the amazingly positive effect that hiring a comedian dedicated to making my mother laugh, using specifics from her own life, had on improving the quality of life. How that even well after the comedian had left for the day, my mother was more engaged with her community, eating again, singing and of course, laughing. “That’s lovely, truly,” Patricia Murphy said to me, at the time the executive director of Belmont Assisted Living in Hollywood. “But what I’d like is for you to come in and train my staff how to do this. Do you think you can do that?” Do I think I can do that? I shouted enthusiastically in my head. Does an Alzheimer’s patient like to eat ice cream? Of course I can do this! I have been teaching stand up for over 20 years. And I wrote a prescriptive book about how to laugh more in your marriage, “Take My Spouse, Please,” just a few years ago using the curriculum from a class in stand up I taught at UCLA in the adult ed program for ten years. I’d been giving seminars teaching couples how to laugh more since then. “Oh I know I can do that!” I responded.” “Great,” she said, “I want a leadership workshop, a staff workshop and a workshop for the families, so everyone can have these tools.” Which is exactly what I created, three workshops outlining the same basic principals, but tweaked to respond to the specific demands of each of these groups. We ran these trainings first at Belmont Village in Hollywood last March and I have been traveling around teaching them in LA and several other states since. It has been my extreme pleasure to share these simple tried and true comedy tools to help the entire Alzheimer’s community learn how to break tension with appropriate humor, build relationships between the staff and leaders in senior residences and help families of loved ones find moments of shared laughter.
Once these were under way and I was meeting with more and more communities, other requests came in. “I want a comedy show!” the director of the memory care floor at a home in Marina Del Rey exclaimed from across her desk. “Can do,” I replied, not knowing exactly who I would bring in that moment, but once again certain I could deliver. And we did. Four of us showed up on Saturday afternoons ready to bring some stand-up comedy to folks in various stages of the illness. Some of them got the jokes, some didn’t. But all of them were engaged and entertained. Yet another activities director asked me for some storytelling, “But not just talking at them, something where they participate.” I talked it over with one of my comics, and she suggested doing a kind of long-form improv – often referred to in the Improv world as a “Harold,” – with the residents. Now we also offer Interactive Storytelling. We arrive with several story lines in mind and then take suggestions from the residents for the details of the story from where it takes place, to the names of the characters, to the twists and turns of the plot.
We are 100% committed to keeping everyone awake, engaged and entertained!
Last but certainly not least, you don’t have to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s to call on Laughter On Call! You don’t even have to be a senior. I recently received a call for someone wanting laughter in his back yard for his spouse’s 50th birthday. A week later the Showtime comedian Kira Soltanovich showed up and brought the stars down in a backyard performance that made everyone laugh till they cried.
In a world where words often don’t hold their meaning, I can tell you with unflagging confidence, Laughter On Call is exactly what it sounds like. We are on call to you and your family and your residence to bring as much humor, chuckles, giggles, guffaws and belly laughs as possible to your door, and even leave with you with the skills to help create more of it long after we have hugged everyone and slipped away.