Every March, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan comes together for LaughFest. This community-based comedy festival features local performers and events around town. Comedy events and shows include: films, stand-up, improvisation, and sketch. Local comedians have the opportunity to perform for the community and in addition, the festival also brings in big-name talent like Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, Anjelah Johnson, Joel McHale, Howie Mandel, Kathy Griffin, Seth Meyers, and George Lopez – just to name a few.
2018 was the first time I was actually back in Michigan for LaughFest. I had the opportunity to see Grand Rapids comedy all-stars like AnnaFlora Somers, Sean Francis, and Joe Anderson perform. Grand Rapids has a thriving arts community worth checking out if you live there or find yourself visiting GR someday.
LaughFest also includes unique events that aren’t just about comedy performances, but the joy of laughter and humor. One of those, Laughter Yoga, was something that I had the opportunity to do with my good friend Allison. I knew of yoga and laughter, but not Laughter Yoga. I was intrigued and thought it would be something fun to try. The best part is that my friend Allison also happens to be the person I love to make laugh the most, so I knew it would be perfect for the both of us to experience together.
Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is the charitable non-profit organization that puts on LaughFest every year. It offers free emotional support for cancer patients, family members, and friends. The great thing about LaughFest is that it is not just a comedy festival; It also raises money for Gilda’s Club to continue to help those affected by cancer. It’s a truly amazing event, because it brings the community of Grand Rapids together for a good cause.
Our adventure with Laughter Yoga took place on the very last day of the LaughFest program. It was a Sunday afternoon, and this event was going to be held at the actual Gilda’s Club location. I had never been there before, so I was excited to see it. Our group included people of all ages and backgrounds. Allison and I prepared by wearing out workout attire to this event, assuming there would be actual yoga work involved. Although we did a bunch of laughter exercises, the best way to describe our experience was very similar to that of a basic improvisation class more so than a yoga class.
Because laughter reduces stress, as does yoga, it would make sense to combine the two. I definitely felt the positive effects of all the laughing that we did that day, but I do think the marketing is a little misleading. It’s a free event so harm no foul, and more importantly, it was fun to do something with my friend and the Grand Rapids community. The thing is though, we were expecting more of a yoga-type class that included laughter. For marketing purposes, yoga sounds more appealing, but I would keep in mind that Laughter Yoga is more similar to that of an improv or intro-level theater class, than a fitness format.
At the end of the day though, being in my hometown and spending the day with one of my best friends made it a really great experience.
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com