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Comedy Central, Jonsson Cancer Center



Press Article


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The 5-Year Study, Called "Rx Laughter"™ First Multi-Year Project to Combine the Entertainment Industry with the Medical Sciences to Study the Impact of Humor in Research, Health Education and Therapy on Health in Children and Adolescents.

NEW YORK, January XX, 2000 – Is laughter really the best medicine? COMEDY CENTRAL and the UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center think it just might help. As part of the network’s continuing pro-social program "Comedy Rx," COMEDY CENTRAL has provided a $75,000 research grant to UCLA to study how to most effectively use humor to reduce pain and to prevent and treat disease in children and adolescents. Humor will also be studied as a tool to instruct and educate pediatric patients and their parents on health issues and as a form of therapy to ease the emotional problems that can result from physical illness. The 5-year study, called "Rx Laughter™," is the brainchild of Sherry Dunay Hilber, an entertainment industry executive who created and brought this project to Margaret Stuber, M.D. & Lonnie Zeltzer, M.D. of the UCLA Departments of Psychiatry & Pediatrics respectively, and specialists at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA,. Ms. Hilber then approached Comedy Central to participate in this unique collaboration because of their interest in the possible connections between humor and health.This unique collaboration is the first multi year project that combines the Entertainment Industry and the Medical Sciences, together with the expertise of UCLA, to study the benefits of humor in research, health education and therapy for children and adolescents.

"We are both happy and proud to support the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center,the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA & The UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in this important research study that has the potential to improve the quality of people’s lives," said Larry Divney, president and CEO, COMEDY CENTRAL.

"We know our programming is entertaining but to think that we may discover that comedy and COMEDY CENTRAL is literally good for you is a very exciting proposition."

Says "Rx Laughter"™ Creator Sherry Dunay Hilber; "Comedy Central is well-known and very highly regarded for their prosocial commitment as evidenced by their successful "Comedy RX" program, and their desire to continue to find potential ways that laughter and humor may be used as a healing resource. I am extremely proud and thrilled that an organization of the caliber and integrity of Comedy Central, together with the world-renowned UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center, have agreed to join forces through "Rx Laughter" ™ in this way. We hope that others within the entertainment community will be as excited about joining in this unique endeavor as well."

"Rx Laughter" will include participants of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and socio-economic groups. This 5 year project will focus on interventions for children and adolescents undergoing painful procedures or difficult treatment for serious illnesses . Using a combination of carefully-selected classic cartoons and television, some COMEDY CENTRAL programming, and classic films such as Abbott & Costello, the Marx Bros, Charlie Chaplin, and WC Fields,

"Rx Laughter"™ will be comprised of three elements: research, health education, and therapeutic entertainment.

The goal of the three elements will be to further the knowledge about the relationship between humor and health, and hopefully implement those results into the treatment of children and adolescents with both serious and minor illnesses.

The research element will attempt to verify that laughter can actually aid in the healing process and in pain management. Specifically, there has been some suggestion that laughter can help the immune system fight disease. The research component hopes to determine if this is indeed the case. The Health Education/Entertainment element will concentrate on educating and instructing patients about their illness and treatment in an energetic, interesting and, most importantly, comedic fashion. The objective of this element is to make the patient a more active participant in his/her treatment by making it more interesting to learn about their illness and treatment. The third element, therapeutic entertainment, aims to alleviate the stress of illness and to reduce pain in pediatric patients and their families through the use of humor.

The project leadership team includes: Sherry Hilber who is the Creator, Executive Producer and Executive Director of "Rx Laughter" ™ with experience as a primetime network executive overseeing creative & management aspects of primetime comedy series for the past several years; Margaret Stuber, M.D., UCLA Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Director of Child Psychiatry Liaison Services at Mattel Children’s Hospital atUCLA; ;and Lonnie Zeltzer, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics & Anesthesiology, Director, Pediatric Pain Program, The Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, and Associate Director, Patients and Survivors Division, Cancer Prevention and Control Research Branch, UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center. Both Drs. Stuber and Zeltzer are active members of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. This pilot study is planned to be included into the new state-of-the-art UCLA Hospital, expected to open in 2004, where there will be an emphasis on the healing of the mind to better heal the body.

It has been repeatedly shown that laughter can promote well being. That’s why COMEDY CENTRAL partnered with affiliates in 1998 to start the pro-social program, "Comedy Rx," in order to heighten awareness of the positive effects of laughter, and make positive contributions to local communities. "Comedy Rx" has three levels of participation for affiliates. They can choose a "Heavy Dose" by creating a comedy event with the proceeds benefiting a hospital, hospice or similar health care facility; a "Medium Dose" by sending a comedian to perform at a hospital or similar care-giving facility, or by collecting books and video tapes for a laughter library; or a "Light Dose" by running "Comedy Rx" Public Service Announcements or selling a sponsorship.

"Comedy Rx" events have benefited many local hospitals across the country in addition to organizations such as Gilda’s Club, The Wellness Community, American Cancer Society, United Way, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Chris Farley Rebos House, American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes.

COMEDY CENTRAL, the only all-comedy network is currently available in over 62 million homes nationwide. COMEDY CENTRAL, a registered trademark of Comedy Partners, is a 50-50 joint venture of Time Warner Entertainment Company and Viacom. COMEDY CENTRAL’s Internet address is http://www.comedycentral.com.