501c3 nonprofit corporation  

Home | Supporters | Media | News | Wellness Projects | Reference | Donate | Contact | About

Photos | Audios | Videos | Press Articles

August 1, 2002


 "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp -- or what's a heaven for?
- Robert Browning


Press Article


Tickets Go On Sale August 1 at the UCLA Central Ticket Office (310) 825-2101

August 1, 2002 -- Television sitcom star and standup comic Ray Romano will headline a comedy benefit at UCLA's Royce Hall to raise money for Rx Laughter, a Jonsson Cancer Center study examining the effects of laughter and humor on the immune systems of sick children and adolescents. Tickets for the September 27 benefit go on sale today (August 1) at the UCLA Central Ticket Office. For tickets, which are priced at $30 (general admission), $60 (priority seating) and $125 (VIP seating and post-event cocktail reception) call (310) 825-2101 between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit www.uclalive.com. Appearing with Romano, star of "Everybody Loves Raymond" on CBS, will be Kevin James, star of the CBS show "The King of Queens," and standup comedian Wendy Liebman.

Proceeds from ticket sales will fund research for Rx Laughter, a first-of-its-kind study that is scientifically testing the theory that laughter really is the best medicine for children and adolescents dealing with painful procedures and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. The five-year study was launched in February 2000 with a seed grant of $75,000 from cable TV network COMEDY CENTRAL. Researchers have completed the first two phases of the study - determining which classic and contemporary movies and television programs make children and adolescents laugh and testing the impact of laughter and humorous distraction on pain tolerance in a small group of healthy study subjects.

Preliminary data from this small pilot study indicates that watching funny movies and TV programs helped study subjects to better tolerate pain. The next phase of the study, which the benefit will help fund, will examine the advantages of humor over other types of distraction and the benefits of laughter for children and adolescents undergoing medical procedures such as blood draws.

Leading the study are Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, cancer researcher, professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Anesthesiology and director of the Pediatric Pain Program at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, and Dr. Margaret Stuber, cancer researcher and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

"Our ultimate goal is to help children who are hospitalized and getting treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, where the immune system is vital and improving it could be life-saving," Stuber said. "It's already been suggested that if you make people laugh, they don't get as anxious and they deal better with pain and do better in the hospital. What we don't know, and what we hope to find out, is whether laughter actually makes a physical difference in such things as speed of healing."

Stuber and Zeltzer will monitor physiological aspects of the stress response, such as heart rate, blood pressure, palm sweats, the levels of a stress-related hormone called cortisol, and various other immune system factors to see if laughter can be used to help young patients.

Rx Laughter is a cooperative effort between cancer researchers and the entertainment industry. The founder and president of Rx Laughter is Sherry Dunay Hilber, a veteran primetime network executive. Hilber brought her proposal to Stuber and Zeltzer, who worked closely with her to develop a study plan.

As an extension of Rx Laughter, Hilber designed an in-hospital comedy channel for pediatric hospitals. The system will include special interactive devices to allow very ill children in protective isolation areas to laugh together while they watch funny programming in separate hospital rooms. The comedy channel system is being put into place now at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.

"I want to understand how comedy programs can be integrated in treatment procedures to improve immune function and reduce pain and anxiety," Hilber said. "As we learn more about how Rx Laughter's research can help seriously ill children and adolescents, we can implement an Rx Laughter Hospital Network at several hospitals at one time, with an interactive component that allows children and their families in treatment areas to communicate."
Hilber hopes the benefit, which is underwritten by COMEDY CENTRAL and Adlink, will raise $100,000 for Rx Laughter. Supporting sponsors of the event include PacifiCare and Wolfgang Puck Wood-Fired Pizza.

A four-time Emmy nominee for "Everybody Loves Raymond," Romano launched his standup career in New York in 1984 and has performed at comedy clubs nationwide. His role in the hit CBS sitcom has also earned him nominations for two Screen Actors Guild Awards. In 1999, he received the Television Critics Association Award for outstanding individual achievement in comedy. He also won a TV Guide Award for actor of the year in a comedy series.
Best known as Doug Heffernan on "The King of Queens," James also began his career as a standup comic. He got his big break at the 1996 Montreal Comedy Festival and then was cast in a recurring role in "Everybody Loves Raymond" before landing his own sitcom on CBS.

Liebman has performed standup comedy since 1984 and is best known for her unique timing - the punch line comes after the joke seems to be over. She's a regular guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and has appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

For more information about UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, its people and resources, visit our web site at www.cancer.mednet.ucla.edu.