DESCENDANTS OF COMEDY LEGENDS LEND SUPPORT TO UCLA RESEARCH
INTO BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER IN ILL CHILDREN
Descendants of classic comedians Charlie Chaplin, Lou Costello,
W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton and Harpo Marx have joined forces with
entertainment industry colleagues and UCLA doctors to explore the
healing potential of humor in a unique partnership called Rx Laughter.
In this melding of medicine and comedy, researchers at UCLA’s
Jonsson Cancer Center, The Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA
and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital have begun
a research project that evaluates the immune responses of children
to laughter. If researchers find a positive biological response,
classic TV and film comedies could be incorporated into the care
of ill children to ease stress during procedures such as chemotherapy
and to promote healing.
Sherry Dunay Hilber, a UCLA graduate and network television executive,
created Rx Laughter. As executive director, Hilber hopes to see
the project expand into a comedy and entertainment system for pediatric
patients and adults at UCLA and other hospitals nationwide.
Members of the Rx Laughter Advisory Board include actor Christopher
Chaplin and Josephine Chaplin, son and daughter of Charlie Chaplin;
Chris Costello, daughter of Lou Costello; Melissa Talmadge Cox,
granddaughter of Buster Keaton; author/producer Ronald J. Fields,
grandson of W.C. Fields; and musician/composer Bill Marx, son of
Harpo Marx. (A full list of advisory board members is attached.)
"The thoughtful support of the families of these comedy giants,
other members of the entertainment and medical communities is extremely
gratifying, Hilber said. They are carrying forward a legacy of laughter
that has entertained generations. It’s incredible to consider
that this timeless work may ease the physical and emotional pain
of ill children."
Principal investigators for Rx Laughter are Dr. Margaret Stuber,
a UCLA cancer researcher and professor in the Department of Psychiatry
and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, UCLA cancer
researcher, professor of pediatrics and anesthesiology, and director
of the Pediatric Pain Program at Mattel Children’s Hospital
Funding for the five-year study comes in part through a $75,000
grant secured from the cable TV network Comedy Central.