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Laughable Wisdom: a Professional Clown Reports from the Trenches

New Book by Louise Speck, a Clinical Clown, provides eye-opening new perspectives on why we laugh and what it means for the world.
  • <strong>Tickles 'n Tears by Louise Speck</strong>
    BOSTON, MA, April 26, 2016 /24-7PressRelease/ -- When it comes to explaining the ineffable joy of humor, Louise Speck isn't clowning around. In Tickles n' Tears (Trafford, paper, $21.00) her uplifting new meditation on the psychology of why we laugh, Speck tackles some heady topics--from why humans have a sense of humor in the first place, to the connection between humor and bodily catharsis. If that sounds like it might be a little dry, it's a good thing Speck is a professional clown.

"Talking seriously about humor is a slippery job," says the author who writes under her clown name, Spec. "It's like trying to catch moonbeams." In Tickles n' Tears she catches oodles of them, and presents them in a breezy, fun style that makes you feel as if you've just come back from the circus. There's wisdom here to be sure, as well as eye-opening new perspectives on why we laugh and what it means for humanity. But mostly, Tickles n' Tears is about making people feel good, as you might expect from someone who works as a Clinical Clown.

Speck, who has done graduate work in counseling psychology and lectured at MIT, works at nursing homes and other care institutions bringing her background in special needs to bear, in order to make people feel . . . happier.

"Clinical Clowning can be amazingly effective as a therapeutic tool," she explains minus her expressive make-up and the spring-wobbling hand on her hat, which is part of her work outfit. "It's wonderful for communing with people of diverse backgrounds and emotional states, often in difficult situations." Speck, as Spec, has practiced the technique at institutions around the world. "I work with the elderly, people with dementia, and traumatic brain-injury patients. The beautiful thing about humor is that you don't even need language. Color, music, silliness--they all touch the humor place. I work with a lot of lower-functioning elders. We laugh and they feel better. Maybe they forget why they were laughing. But the affective benefits definitely linger."

Speck (and her alter ego) view humor as a mechanism for insight. Most often it celebrates our foibles, our shortcomings, and all of the myriad things that can, and do, go wrong in life. There's humor in how we deal with things going wrong--as well as the way we fool ourselves to keep up our illusion of invulnerability in the world.

"Invulnerability is one of the three I's in my psychology of humor," says Speck who lectures on the neuroscience of humor. "The other two are "Identity and Imagery." Identity includes empathy. The ability to identify with and feel what others feel is the emotional bedrock of all humor, not to mention civilization itself. Imagery is the ability to see situations from more than one perspective. Combine them with our very human need to not feel vulnerable, add a little joy and, boom: laughter, mirth, amusement, silliness, and the physical benefits that come along with them.

Humor can be used all sorts of ways: aggressively, defensively, and as a way of dealing with what Speck calls "the ups and downs and imperfections built into the cosmos." The more moments, she explains, that we genuinely find humorous, the better we can cope. "Humor can make the unacceptable acceptable. It's why stressed-out emergency room doctors may write FTF (Failure to Fly) on the chart of a suicide jumper, or opt to describe a leg wound as "Grade A Sirloin."

"Humor encourages us to embrace the reality of our existence," Speck says, in what turns out to be a surprisingly uplifting and joy-inducing read. "We have potential, we have plans, and we have pervasive imperfection. By embracing it and rejoicing in it with humor, we go past acceptance to delight in reality just the way it is--tickles and tears, warts and all."

Louise Speck, a Boston-area Clinical Clown known as Spec, works with institutionalized populations around the world. She has a background in counseling psychology, education, and special needs. She studied hospital clowning and practiced with other professionals before visiting locales and residents of all ages. She participates in the brain-injury network of survivors.

For more information, please visit www.ticklesntears.com.

Media contact: Victor Gulotta
Gulotta Communications, Inc.
617-630-9286
http://www.booktours.com
victor(at)booktours(dot)com


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