The Health Benefits Of Laughter With Mark McConville
We discuss in this interview:
– The amount of stress people with a chronic illness have to face
– Mental health and how it is different for each one
– How Mark went from stand-up comedy to studying suicide prevention
– The right mindset to approach studying as an adult
– How humor can help as a therapy in different stressful situations
– The importance of self care
– Three key components of happiness
– Hope and social relations
– Creating a laughter library
Introduction – Mark McConville
Clint – Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of laughter and how we can use laughter to assist with mental health or mental ill-health. For many of us who have had a chronic disease for a long time and have struggled with the impact that having such a serious compromise type can place on our mental happiness and well-being. So mental ill-health is widely regarded as a significant personal, professional, and economic problem in today’s society. And today’s guests sincerely believes that there needs to be more emphasis placed on psychological self-care and that everyone deserves the right to lead a happy and fulfilled life. There is a wide range of negative life events that we all experience that can eat away at our mental health, especially when these events are out of our control.
Clint – Today’s guest has a very unique perspective on this, and he has a master’s degree in suicidology, but he’s also an established and very, very funny stand up comedian who I’ve known for about the last 16 years. And he is also an emcee and keynote speaker. And as I said, a very funny man who’s a good, good friend of mine. So I’d really, really like you to enjoy the time with me today with Mr. Mark McConville.
McConville – Clint, it’s so good, it’s so good to see you mate. Like, well, just for your rating that I was casting my mind back to when we used to do, you know, all these comedy gigs, you know, tripping around Sydney and, you know, they weren’t always the most polite establishments, so we’d find ourselves before we did.
Clint – Yeah, that’s right. And what feels funny is that when I’m reading out this sort of like bio that you used to work with organizations, corporations, and stuff, which is appropriate for our conversation today. But I’m more used to saying stuff like, all right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s now time for your headline act please welcome, Mark McConville. Doing the whole (inaudible) it’s a different vibe but we can still have a fun conversation today. And we can, you know, bring a few laughs to what is otherwise a challenging topic, isn’t it?
McConville – Oh, my God. The whole world is being challenged at the moment, and it’s one of those things that now more than ever, we need to really embrace our sense of humor and stay socially connected with everybody. And I like I’ve got to really at the moment with the term social distancing, and I like what they’re asking us to be is physically distanced. We need to be socially connected now more than ever. So I think laughter is a great way to do that. Everybody has got people within their friends, their family that they know has a similar sense of humor to them. So I’m trying to find a way to spend as much time with those people as possible. And I’m like even on doing things like this with zoom like a family get togethers on zoom.
Clint – You get to see him, but not smell them.
McConville – Yeah, like parties.
Clint – Yeah, exactly. We should have done this a long time ago. Our audience, as I just mentioned to you briefly before we got started tends to be going through a lot of tough times. I mean, when you are diagnosed with a chronic disease, you know, you can sometimes go into a downward spiral. Because the outlook for something like inflammatory arthritis, not an immune disease, is lifelong disease management with some serious medications that may have side effects for some people and there’s a lot of pain involved. And so with that, you know, mental health becomes a real challenge. And, you know, I’ve known that you have been an expert in this for many, many years. And, you know, the time is finally upon us. And, you know, it occurred to me just like one of that subconscious sort of promptings, I was actually at the zoo with my family. I’m pushing the frame around with Aidan in it and I thought I got to talk to Mark. It just came to my head looking.
McConville – While you are thinking of mark, were you looking at the monkeys? I want to know what animals were in front of you while you were hoping it wasn’t like the elephants or some (Inaudible) like a rhinoceros or something that mammals (inaudible) would like to think. It was like the cute and cuddly penguins or something like that.
Clint – Yeah, we did see the koalas that day, so it might have been, you know, more of a cuddly vibe. You reminded me of a story that is a true story, a very close friend of mine that I used to work with before I got into stand up and it was back in my technology days. Her name is Apinya, and she’s from Thailand like a classic Thai lady. And she married as white Aussies as you can get. And on their first date, she requested that they went to the zoo. And I quote, so that he would find me more attractive because the only things to look at were the animals, she’s a hoot mate.
McConville – Did it work?
Clint – It worked and they are already married. So tell us about your first of all, give us a little background in getting into stand up and then we’ll talk about how you got into, you know, becoming really a just a mental health expert. And then we’ll get into a whole bunch of tips and actionable stuff that we can do. Because at the end of this half-hour or whatever we do together, I want everyone to be able to have some really useful things that they can do so they feel better and feel better more often, that’s what we’re after.
Mental Health and how it is different for everyone
McConville – Well, mate firstly, thanks for the invitation to come and have a chat about this kind of stuff. And I just want to start by acknowledging exactly what you are talking about is when you get a diagnosis like you’ve not only got the illness that you’ve got to deal with and the prognosis of, you know, this is going to be a lifelong thing. You’re going to have to manage this over a long period of time. But it is just so overwhelming the amount of information that you are given. So not only are you trying to process your own physical ailment that you’ve got and managed that but you’re getting bombarded from left, right, and center. And everyone’s got an opinion and you’ve got so many doctors telling you this, that and the next thing and it is so overwhelming. And it can, from what I can tell knowing family members that have gone through full-on diagnosis, it’s very doom and gloom to start with and trying to educate yourself is the most important thing that you can do is educate yourself on what. And the thing is what’s going to work for you might not specifically work for everybody else. And that’s the thing in mental health is there’s no one size fits all. You know, like what works for one person might not work for someone else. And the key, I believe, to dealing with a prognosis like that is basically getting as educated as you can as possible and finding what it is that works for you. But getting back to what you are talking about, about starting stand up like I never thought of I never dreamed of being a comedian. I wanted to be an actor, you know, like I was studying at an acting school and I did a little 10 minute stand up comedy or as part of like a cabaret show. And then everyone was going, you never told us you’re a comedian. How long have you been doing that? I said three days and they said, well, that’s your thing and that’s what you need to do. So I continued with the acting course and then I started doing standup. And that’s when the early 2000s mania coming down to Sydney and doing all of those gigs, tripping around, you know, it was a blast. But it’s funny how a chance encounter with someone at a show or after a show can change the entire course of your life. So how I ended up getting into the mental health side of things was, you know, back in the day, I was doing heaps of gigs on cruise ships and I doing 15 cruises a year tripping all around the place, which is amazing.
McConville – And then in 2012, I had a chance encounter with a husband and wife after a show that I did on a cruise ship. We did a light night adults-only comedy show, one hour show in front of probably about seven or eight hundred people in the audience Oh, they are such a blast. And I like everyone’s just there to have a good time. And there’s such a level and it was such a great gig. And then after the show, I’m just hit the bar, you know, having to be relaxing. And I noticed this couple walking towards me, husband and wife, pretty fit, looking probably in their mid to late 30s and the lady is crying. But, you know, full on and I’m thinking what’s going on here? And that’s when I realized that they were coming up to me. I tell you, every time I tell a story, it takes me back to that exact night. So this lady came up to me and she wrapped her arms around me and she said, I don’t know how I can possibly thank you because I have not seen my husband laugh out loud for three years. And comedians get it all the time after shows, you might get someone coming up going over the last the days or weeks or months, I needed that. But, three years so I was like, how on earth can that be possible? So I talk to this couple of hours into the middle of the night. And it turned out the guy was an ex SAS army guy based in Western Australia who three years previously was in Afghanistan and he was conducting a patrol. He kicked open a door and it was booby-trapped and blow up. He was saying that he killed one of these guys and injured him to the point where he couldn’t actively serve anymore. And he is the guy standing in front of me saying, might you have done more for me in one night? Then three years of post-traumatic stress management, counseling and medications, and everything, because you just made me laugh for an hour.
Clint – Hmm. It’s magical.
McConville – And I will say I was pretty funny that night.
Clint – I know we can’t go into specifics, but did you do the wild joke about the wild gets a run?
McConville – Yeah, I guess.
Clint – All right, people can look on YouTube for your works.
The Role of Humor in Psychology
McConville – But I’m going to tell you going it was his wife that really. And I brought this to my attention because she couldn’t understand why it is that the people that were looking after her husband’s rehabilitation and his mental health and his recovering. At no point in the past previous three years had said, are you still able to laugh? Do you still have your sense of humor? (inaudible). It really struck a chord with me because it made me think that maybe there’s more to being a comedian than just simply going and doing shows like this whole laughter’s the best medicine. You know, something’s been around since biblical days, you know. So and this encounter happened at the exact same time that I was coming out of a 15 year run of being on and off antidepressants. So, um, so I always kind of, for the first time in a long time, was starting to think quite clearly because I got myself the, you know, the right GP, the right psychologist, and the right plan. And once you’ve got all of those things in place real change can occur. Unfortunately, I’m sick of I’m sick of antidepressants, I’m sick of talking to psychologists, and I’m just like, you obviously haven’t found the right one yet, because once you’ve got the right combination of people looking after you and you can achieve anything. And so this meeting with this couple happened right at this time. So I got off the ship and I started to look at what laughter does to the body in relation to the physical. Laughter’s the best medicine that led me to investigating the role of humor in psychology. And then that led me to investigating the rates of depression and anxiety and then suicide and attempted suicide.
McConville – And then once I started looking at those statistics, I thought this is an incredible problem in our society. And I just happen to work in an industry that could possibly make a difference, have a positive impact on it. So one thing led to another and I had a business mentor at the time and he said, look at guys, you just at the moment you’re a comedian with a good idea. Because I’ve got this idea of creating a formal link between the comedy industry and mental health. To get to the point where you know, I believe personally that you should be able to go to a comedy club on a Friday night, spend 30 bucks on your ticket, maybe buy one of the comedians, David H for 20 bucks. And then take the receipts to Medicare on Monday and get a financial refund one after (inaudible).
How Mark Had To Go Back To School
McConville – So I said, look, you know, you need to partner with the university, you need to find a university to do research in this area. And that’s how you get your (inaudible) on the board. So in Brisbane, we’re very lucky, we have the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, which is based at Griffith University. One of five places in the world that is on the World Health Organisation Collaborating Committee for Suicide Prevention. So I went and talked to them about, my ideas of creating a link between the comedy industry and mental health and they thought there was really something in it, so they said, you know, you should come and you should come and study this master’s degree in suicidology. And they send me the application forms and I had to ring them up and go, look, I’m flattered, but I’m not your guy this is a post-graduate degree. So you’ve got to have an undergrad in something. I said I left school when I was 14 and, you know, I went and worked in a factory as a welder and like, I didn’t finish high school and I didn’t go to uni. And to their credit Clint, you’re gonna love this. They said we’re going to recognize (inaudible) you for 17 years of being a comedian.
Clint – Now, let me just step in here and let me just add a couple of things to flavor this a little more from my personal experience with you. First of all, you have a heck of a welding joke, that’s another one people need to Google. Second of all, you and I were doing a job together, and I think it was in Townsville, we’re in Townsville. I want to say.
McConville – And can I just say, that was the first time I’d seen you in years, and when you walked off that plane and I’m seeing you’re moving freely and everything, and I’m like, I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe, I remember that distinctly that night, that was a good gig from memory.
Clint – It was, yeah. I think you had the edge over me, but we had both had fun. Now, one thing about that because we stayed and shared a comm you had a room and I shared and it was in another room, but we’re in the same two-bedroom apartment. The thing about that night is we just talked, and talked, and talked, because I had everything to share with you about the updates on my health and my journey. Because, you know, as you alluded to, my freely moving body was not necessarily how it was the time you’d seen me before, probably struggling to hold the microphone and limping and all of the agony and stuff. So we’re talking about that, but the second thing I wanted to share was that this was exactly when you had been offered from Griffith the opportunity to go and study and you had not yet made the decision or you were just teetering on saying yes. And you were you were intimidated, weren’t you? I mean, as you said, this is a serious postgraduate degree. And so for you to go down that path, you knew that you were in for a lot of hard work.
McConville – Oh, yeah, and it was very intimidating, you know, like always never that great at school, and I honestly believe that, you know, you hear it all the time, people that go back and study as an adult, you approach the work a lot differently. And especially if it’s something that you’re interested in, you know, that makes such a difference. So, you know, my first essay, my first assignment that I had to do, oh, we still laughed. But I stupidly thought that they were interested in what I had to say. And then one of the lectures when that is this thing called referencing mate. So look, I’ve got the first year was pretty tough, like I had to get a tutor and learn about the academic style of writing, and especially when you’re dealing with something as intense as suicide prevention and you’ve got you know, you’re learning about research and risk factors and suicide risk assessment and, like it’s very intense, you know, but.
Clint – But you got through it.
McConville – Look, I just did got through it, but I was quite proud of the fact that the year before I graduated, two things that I’m probably the most proud of that come out of that degree was one was learning how to study. And do it and get to the point where I think in twenty sixteen I got awarded the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence, because I’ve had a grade point average, about six for an entire year, which put me in the top five percent of all students. And I was like, wow, that’s pretty cool. And then for the final year, I did my thesis on human laughter education program that I designed specifically for people with stress, anxiety, and depression. And I was very proud of the fact that it was the world first in this field. Like researching humor and the health benefits of it is nothing new that’s been around for decades. There’s so much research from around the world. But everything that I found was in a group dynamic, right. They’ll get 50 people in a room and they’ll measure their blood pressure and their heart rate and then they’ll show them some comedy stuff and then get them to do mental exercises to see if it’s affected their cognition and all this. And everything was in groups. And my problem with that is I approach it from a comedian’s point of view and when will everyone’s sense of humor is different. So if you’ve got 50 people in the room and you’re showing them some comedy movies that the researchers have chosen. It might and I might only strike a chord with 30 percent of the people in the room think it’s funny, and then someone else might be laughing because it’s contagious to people beside them laughing. So to me, all of the data was going to be diluted.
Mark’s Laughter Coaching Program
McConville – So the program that I designed, it’s not a group, it’s a one on one. Like I see the client for an hour, ideally a week for five consecutive weeks, but a one hour session, one on one to five sessions. And it’s the focus on, I think the most important question I ask these people is, what is it that makes you laugh? Because it’s different for everybody, you know, like what, I do a lot of work with first responders and defence personnel, because that’s where it started way back when I met this guy and his wife. And you know what makes a police officer laugh or a paramedic laugh? Could quite possibly offend a primary school teacher, you know. Does that make it wrong? Absolutely not, because in psychological terms, they’re using humor as what’s classified as a level for mature coping mechanism to deal with stress and trauma. You know, it’s been widely researched, you hear this term gallows humor and black humor and all that. But for first responders, emergency services personnel, it’s an incredibly important part of their coping with the job. And I say, yes, that’s kind of where, you know. Where it all started and how I got to being here and doing this, doing this stuff now.
Clint – Well, let me first add, you know, it’s there’s an inspirational story in this already in terms of how you’re able to demonstrate, that leaving school at 14 does not mean that you cannot then at a later age, turn around and become top five percent academic success at a master’s level at a university. I mean, that alone is something as a take away that people can ponder on because I love things like that. It’s just a classic defying the odds and achieving it a way bigger level than what we give ourselves credit for.
Clint – If you did not going back and done that degree, you would have always maybe second guessed your academic abilities and maybe even thought, you know, there’s a lot of people out there smarter than I am. And whilst that is true for everyone, look, you probably hold yourself with a little bit more credibility than what you did before. And that purely for me, having been through a university degree and having achieved some success, also all it does is just give you a little bit of confidence, that’s all I get out of it. I just think, look, if I can get through that and I can achieve that at that level, it just gives you some confidence when the chips are against you and you think times are tough. Well, I got through that, I know I’m not a dummy, so I should be able to handle that. So that alone is inspirational.
Clint – And then the second thing is, I just want us to, now drill down on just this concept of laughter, therapy. And you’re using it in these military and sort of these police force people and stuff like that. I want us to now pick your brains and get tools from you about people with health problems who may not have those sort of line of work, but who just need some tools to get on with their day in a happier state. So what can you give us, Mc?
McConville – OK, well, the big thing that I probably get us to talk about the most is self-care. You know, when it comes to mental health, you know, we’ve got one of the, I tell you what, one of the things the university really taught me was show me the evidence. And I like this. So many people saying, do this for you, it’s good for you, do these whatever. And I say well, unless you can show me some evidence to support what it is you’re talking about. And then when I went through this, I found it really interesting that in suicide prevention, we talk about risk factors and warning signs and all that, but there’s also a big list of what they call protective factors. And this is the realm of self care, where, unfortunately, everyone is so busy leading their lives and working or dealing with raising children and doing everything else, that quite often the self gets shuffled to the bottom of the to do list. When in actual fact and it gets viewed as being selfish all the time to do this myself (inaudible) or whatever. And unfortunately, a lot of people are in that position where they find themselves working, you know, 40, 50, 60 hours a week, getting out when it’s dark, coming home from work, when it’s dark and they’ve got kids and a mortgage and the weekends are filled out with taking kids to sport or whatever, and their own self-care really get shuffled down the to do list.
Three Timely Reminders
McConville – So there’s three timely reminders that I think are really important for the people that might be watching this. And this isn’t rocket science like I’m not reinventing the wheel, these are all things that we all know. But I call them timely reminders because sometimes we just need to be reminded about things. So for me, the top three, there are things in your life that make you happy. The second one is there are things in your life to look forward to. And the third one is, there are things in your life that make you laugh.
What Makes YOU Happy?
McConville – And I think those three in that order are incredibly important. So and when I talk about there are things in your life that make you happy, I invite whoever it is that might be watching to write a list will come up with five things in your life that make you happy, that brings you joy in some way. And more often than not, they won’t be things. Right? There will be people, they’ll be activities, you know, it won’t be, my iPad or whatever makes me, it’ll be my husband, my wife, my kids, my family, I’ve played golf. Whatever it is, have a list of I think about five things in your life that make you happy and bring you joy. And somewhere on that list like for me, I usually talk about my wife makes me happy because of what we’ve achieved something for years, my family, my friends and I like being a comedian. You know, we’re very lucky Clint we know some of the funniest people in this country. But one of the things that makes me happy is me time, and that’s something that, you know, a lot of us shuffle to the bottom of the to do list.
McConville – So if you’re creating a list of five things in your life that make you happy somewhere in that list, think about something that you do for you, just for you, not for anybody else. Is it Photography? Is it reading? Is it writing? Is it listening to music? Is it walking, spending time with your dog or being at the beach or whatever it is? What is it that you do for you? Because it’s incredibly important to have this me-time be part of this top five. Because what that does is when you look at the five things that make you happy like I said, they’re usually going to be people that deals with this risk factor of ill mental health being isolation. And I’m not talking about, you know, physical distance isolation I’m talking about emotional isolation. Being emotionally isolated from your friends, your family, whoever it is that’s in your life, you know. So and that’s what I was talking before about, you know, my ache with the term social distancing, you know, like it needs to be physical distancing and we need to be socially connected. Because if you think about the five things in your life that make you happy, they’re going to be other people. And I say that’s the first one. The second one is.
Clint – But before you move on. It’s interesting that you say that because you would have done this exercise a lot in live sessions with corporate groups and community groups and so forth. And you’ve learnt that for most people that there five things that make them happy, as you said, not things, but actually often people. And, you know, I think that it just goes to show just how much we need that social support, that social connection. And when we have something like a chronic disease, we can often feel and or lack of desire to talk about it because we feel inadequate or we feel like we’re burdening the other person by sharing our problems or gee, I wouldn’t want to go there because it just sounds all too much and I’ll just, you know, keep it quiet. But what you’re saying is that we need to have that connection. We need to talk. We need to share. We need to offload our problems. And that’s right up there with important things that not just what makes us feel happy, but also therapeutic. Correct? Before I make another point.
The Importance of Support
McConville – Absolutely. And you mentioned a word there that I think is incredibly important when we talk about risk factors for warning signs, for self-harm. One of the biggest ones that doesn’t get mentioned a lot, but is very common in people that have got some type of degenerative disease is a sense of burdensomeness. Right? So I’m very specific when I do these talks, like you said, corporate groups or mental health conferences or whatever, that I say, look, if you hear this sentence or something similar. Right? My friends and family would be better off without me around. That is a red flag warning sign that that person is psychologically struggling because in their mind, they honestly believe that’s the case Clint. They honestly believe that I think everyone would be better off without them around. And it’s never, ever going to be the case ever. And you know, I just want to just quickly say, look, if there is anyone that’s thinking about, you know, is my family member, because a lot of the time it’s like you call a drug line, like if you called the, you know, the drug addiction line or whatever, the majority of the time they’re talking to family members and support people. They’re not actually talking to the person that’s got the addiction right? So if you if there’s anyone listening that’s finding themselves in a support role for someone who’s struggling with physical ailments and they’re feeling this burden.
McConville – There’s a really good website called Conversations Matter, www.conversationsmatter.com.au. And it’s basically I send people there, especially around, are you okay? You know, like everyone says, ask if you’re okay, ask if you’re okay. And I think some people may not ask because they think that they are ill-equipped to deal with an answer that might come back. So if you are worried about someone, go to that website that gives you some great tools. But the sense of connectedness is so important, it’s so important.
McConville – I got to tell you, there is no way in the world I could have done that degree without my wife, without the support of my wife, without the support of my family. And everything’s the same. And I like when I’m in the bush and I’m talking to farmers and, you know, I like. Everything in our family is a team effort. When you know, my wife, Sophie’s working flat out doing her job, I find myself on cooking duties, all looking after the house or whatever. And it’s vice versa for the whole time that I was studying she really carried everything. And I say and I would imagine that would really be the case for someone that, you know, physically debilitated as well, it’s it’s a team effort.
Clint – Yeah, almost definitely. And without Melissa, I would never have gotten to the point that I have today. Like, it is absolutely no chance. She was my rock, my support, my everything, and, boy, did we get to some challenging times. You know, you mentioned that phrase, I think, you know, you or the world or whatever would be better off without me. Well, she can verify that I have said that to her in the past, when times were tough, those days that I’ve shared online where I can barely walk. And I was having to go to yoga class for an hour and a half every day just to be able to get out of bed the next day. And I was on the maximum dose of significant drugs and being only and noticing that I was still worsening. My exact phrase was, you know, if I got hit by a bus, you’d probably be better off without me.
McConville – Burdensomeness is a big thing to carry around.
Clint – Most definitely, man. So, and you mentioned, beyond those, you know, listing out five things you said one was spending time doing something by ourselves that we really enjoy, me-time. How often should we be doing that? Or is it a case of them as much as you need?
McConville – Oh, look, it’s one of those things that time management is so hard for so many people like. Recently when covid had lost all my work and then, you know, my father rang up and said all, you know, just been diagnosed with leukemia down in Sydney. Can you come down and look after my business while I’m in hospital getting chemo? And I went, yeah, sure, no worry so. And I’ve forgotten how hard it is to work a 40, 50 hour work week in a job that you might you might not particularly like. And how much of the rest of your life would affect you know, it affects you. You thinking about it at night after dinner on the weekend or come Sunday afternoon, you’re thinking, oh, I’m going to go back to work tomorrow. So I think it’s really, finding what it is that’s working for you. Like, if it means that you’re able to spend some time every day doing me-time things, well, that’s fantastic. But, even if it turns out that it might only be once a week, as long as you’re making a conscious choice. Because what that also does is which leads into the next thing I was going to talk about, which was there are things in your life to look forward to, if you find yourself day to day, struggling in life, like my wife says, we’re all doing life, just simply knowing that you’re doing something on the weekend that’s for you is so important. And I love when it comes to things in your life to look forward to. I invite people to break it down into three timelines. I think about, what can you be looking forward to in the next two days? And then in the next two weeks. And then in the next two months. And this can be something as simple as a phone call, a meal doing something with the kids on the weekends, you know, doing something around the house, finishing a work project, whatever. And I (inaudible) in the two days, two weeks, two months, you know. Like you said, you know, the self-care things, If you can’t do stuff for yourself every day and you go, oh, well, I’m going to be able to get to that on Saturday. Well, then, bang, that’s giving you something to look forward to. Which is incredibly important because what that does is it instills hope, and hope is everything. And I’m sure like you’ve said, you know, there’s been days where you’ve just felt hopeless and there’s nothing to look forward to because you all you can say is day after day of pain and therapy and trying to manage this condition and hope can be it can diminish. And it’s such an important thing to try and find a way to hang on to it.
McConville – How did you manage to maintain? Like, I’m sure there was times where you did feel hopeless. I’m sure there have been times where you’ve been able to grasp on to hope.
Clint – For me, it always came back to some real simple logic. It was, first of all, that one day I woke up and I had joint pain, and the day before I did not have that joint pain. And so the logic for me was something has triggered it. And having a physics background, I thought there’s a cause and an effect. So what is the cause? If I can address the cause, then we should be able to interrupt its effect. And so quite simply, that logical connection to me meant everything, that one day it just started, it must have been triggered by something. Now, the second thing that I hung onto and emphasized as the biggest source of hope was that when I would stop eating, all my pain would go away. So everything would be gone within three days, all my pain. And so I thought all I need to do is work out how I can get those results but still be able to eat. Right? So I hung onto those two things, some things caused it, and when I don’t eat, it goes away. And so I had two pieces of like a convoluted puzzle that I had to piece together, and so it became, in my mind, not a problem. It became a project and the project you’ve got to solve this problem. How what’s going on? If I eat that, what happens? If I exercise twice as long, what happens? And it was just experiment after experiment.
Clint – And then I would get a tiny breakthrough and I would celebrate that breakthrough as if it was enormous, even if all it was a five percent reduction in my inflammatory markers in my blood. But I would just be I would really, really condition my subconscious mind to celebrate that as that being the most important thing. And the hope that when I thought about hope so much and like yourself, have talked about this on stage to corporate groups and so forth, as from a sort of an inspirational keynote talk sort of angle, I describe Hope as having a game plan from getting to a to b. A road map that you can see and that you can understand and you can follow. And that lack of hope is feeling there is no way to get to where you want to get to. And in some cases, for some people without a health problem, that might be, you know, they can’t see a way to ever have a holiday or get a break or whatever it is that they’re wanting to get. But with a health condition like mine, for me, it was, how do I get rid of this pain? And so for me, the hope came back when I could see things that are working and therefore I felt I was on a path. Then a path that would take me to where I hope to be, which was to be able to have kids and to do so, I had to get off the medication that I was on. So that was my journey and becomes one of them now. In fact, that’s almost scripted, come here.
Clint – Say hi to the microphone.
McConville – You beautiful smiling face.
Clint – Yeah. Say thank you. He doesn’t do anything at low volume.
McConville – Yes. The performer in him.
Clint – Where have you been? Trampoline.
Clint – Ok, this is a good friend of mine, Mc, and we’re actually recording this and we’re going to share it to a lot of people, OK? Well, yeah.
McConville – So you’re going to be famous.
Clint – Do you like being famous? Yeah, Ok good boy. I know you can’t sit still, though, so why don’t you go back on the trampoline and while I finish up with Mc. OK, say bye bye bye bye.
McConville – Bye bye, see you later.
McConville – I Love and being a dad.
Clint – Oh mate, I can’t tell you how unbelievable it is. It is just, it is like it’s all the rainbows and unicorns you could ever imagine. Yeah, he doesn’t look anything like me. He doesn’t look anything like me, but I love him so much. Yeah, so look that yeah.
Clint – Stuff to look forward to, stuff to look forward to is so true. You know, your three guidelines and we’ll do the last one next and then close it out. But you know I’ve heard before that the saying, you know, happiness is something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. And that thing’s been around for the longest time. And your variation of that feels just as effective, especially when we now talk about the laughter. One of your three is laughter, that’s your background, that’s your expertise. Tell us more about getting laughter.
The Beauty Of Laughter And Getting More Of It
McConville – The thing about the laughter is and like I said before, is this isn’t anything new, we’re just reminding ourselves about these things. And, you know, I’ll bring out this slide where it says laughter has been given to us, by whatever means of creator or creation that you subscribe to as the biological release fell for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression, and the proof of this is in the fact that babies and infants experience laughter years before they have any conceptual understanding of language and humor.
Clint: That’s beautiful, isn’t it?
McConville – And these babies laughing at and I like and I’m sure there’s people tuning in that have heard these statistics where they sell babies laugh four hundred times a day and adults laugh a dozen times a day or whatever. Like to me personally, I think, you know, those stats are going to vary depending on what website you go to, remain like how they researching that stuff. But the fact of the matter is, is that babies laugh and as adults, we sometimes forget to.
McConville – So this last one about there are things in your life that make you laugh. Is all about cast your mind back to the last time you really laughed at something. And I mean that gut busting laugh the way your jaw is sore, you gut is cramping up, got tears coming down. Can I give you, I haven’t told you, I don’t know if I’ve told you this story. I probably haven’t. But I just want to share with you.
Clint – Yeah, we’ve got another one that’s just come in to show off.
McConville – (inaudible) lovely. What are your names? Nothing.
Clint – Well, that’s Angelina and this is little Ariel.
Clint – We’ve gone this far and I haven’t done a joke yet. But when I’m working and I’ll talk about my kids, I say we’ve got two girls, one’s Angelina, and we named her after a beautiful angel, it means little angel. And we’ve got our second Elvis. He’s called Ariel and we named her after a Font.
Clint: OK, well, you know what’s a little bit of chaos to break things up? We’re talking about having a laugh. My kids are all happy, there’s no boundaries in this house.
McConville – Oh, man. I’ve got to tell you put a couple those cruise ships where we get asked to do the kids shows as comedians, I struggled. So I make the kids the star of the show or I bring the kids up and have a little competition. I’ve got to tell you, some of the things that come (inaudible). Where your parents are? Just.
Clint – Absolutely. Absolutely. So I want you to be quiet. I want you to finish up and tell us more about the things that make us laugh. We want to try and bring this home strong.
McConville – All right. Ok, so the big thing is, is that it’s individual for everybody. So what is it that makes you laugh is so important. You’ve got this thing at the moment where they’re like, oh, that’s offensive humor on that show is offensive or whatever. And so those people I say, look, you need to be less concerned with what makes someone else laugh and more concerned with what makes you laugh, because that’s what’s important.
Clint – Can we have permission to laugh at things that other people would be considering inappropriate?
McConville – The case in point, is the emergency services like honestly, what makes a police officer or a paramedic laugh is most likely going to offend a primary school teacher or someone in the general public right? And the thing is, is that we have in the Hermiston questionnaire they’ve identified four different styles of humor, two are positively associated to mental health, (inaudible), the two positive ones are affiliative and self-enhancing. So affiliative is what we do as comedians, we make other people laugh. Or if you’re that person at a barbecue or dinner where you’ve got the snappy comments because you like my crack in the room, and that’s affiliative humor positive. The second one is self-enhancing, which is what emergency services personnel used, it’s what our defense personnel used. It’s the ability to use humor in a traumatic situation or a stressful situation as a coping mechanism. Like someone’s under a great deal of stress and they say something to diffuse the situation. And it’s a really (inaudible) case that self-enhancing humor. And the two negative ones aggressive and self-defeating. So laughing at the expense of someone else or laughing at the expense of yourself right? So and these older studies that have been shown is the self-enhancing one is the most beneficial of everything, but using humor as a coping mechanism for stress.
Building Your Laughter Library
McConville – So what I invite people to do is create a laughter library. So if you’ve got your iPhone or your iPad or your tablet or whatever it is they use, you’ve got YouTube. I create a playlist, call it you laugh the library. And if you don’t know how to create a playlist, ask an eight year old, they’ll be all right. And just start searching for stuff that, you know, makes you laugh. I feel like these comedians, you know, do a search, grab a heap of their clips, chuck it in your library, grab a heap of these clips, chuck it in your library, then watch it there and then just grab a heap of stuff and chuck it in there. And then once a day, and this is something that I do advocate for daily, if you can, because I’m a big fan of minimizing our news input, especially now, like for years, I’ve been advocating to not watch the nightly news. And when the pandemic started off them myself, watching it every day, like probably the rest of the planet. And I and I could feel myself being overwhelmed by what we’re seeing.So, you know, if you can find a way of replay, you know how I get the news now? I listen to it in the car when I’m driving around because it’s only a couple of minutes and there’s no visuals, and if something’s happening and you’re going to find out what’s going on,
McConville – And then give yourself a little laughter therapy session, maybe 20 minutes, half an hour a day, if you can even it doesn’t even need to be that long. If you find you’ve got five minutes and you’ve been overwhelmed by what’s happening today, just flick through your laugh library. There’s a clip that goes for four and a half minutes. I’ll watch that. And I and then all of a sudden like we’re talking about right at the start about that you choosing the material. You’ve chosen this stuff, it’s not a therapist or researcher somewhere. What’s in your laughter library is your business.
What Makes You Laugh?
McConville – And so what I cited is the most important question is what makes me laugh? And then the second one is how can I bring more laughter into my life, which is I laugh at the library, bring it in. If you know funny people that within your family or friends try and spend more time with those people. And I’ve got a mate of mine who is the funniest guy I like. He’s a golf professional, and every time I spend time with this guy, even if it’s on the phone, cracks me up. We all know those people so try and spend more time in contact with them, and then how can I bring more laughter into the lives of those around me? So, we all know within our circle of family and friends who has a similar sense of humor. You know, like I’ve got mates of mine that I’m really good mates with, but we don’t share the same style sense of humor, you know. But there’s other people in my life who I’m sure must assume with exactly. And I say they’re the people that you want to try and engage.
McConville – So if you’ve got your little laughter library and you got all this stuff and you think, oh, so-and-so will like this, this will be great. And I share it with them. But when I’m saying sharing, I’m not talking about emailing them a link. I’m talking about trying if we can share with them in person. So you also get that connectedness that we talked about before. Massive difference.
Clint – Yeah. Love it.
McConville – What makes me laugh? How can I bring more laughter into my life? How can I bring more laughter into the lives of those around me?
Clint – Yeah. Laughter it’s almost like oxygen to the happiness, to the soul something isn’t it? It just really it’s breathing life back into our mental situation.
McConville – Physically. So there’s the physical benefits of laughing which you see like people in the parks doing laughter yoga world they are all standing around. So those people are experiencing the physical benefits, which is the increased respiration, circulation, the physical transformation of stress hormones to feel good hormones. Right. Cortisol, epinephrine, serotonin and that physical transformation of that. But humor as a construct that creates the laughter is so important because that’s the bit that enables us to deal with stressful situations, to deal with feeling overwhelmed by stuff.
McConville – There’s a great book called Beyond Survival, which is a guy, Captain Gerald Coffey. So he’s a guy who was a POW during the Vietnam War, seven years. They’re all isolated in individual cells, in solitary confinement. And you know, tapped out jokes on the walls of their cells and in code, Morse code. As a way of elevating themselves psychologically out of this horrific situation.
McConville – I’m going to tell you, Clint, you’ll appreciate this. When I read that, I thought as a comedian, I thought two things. I thought seven years that’s a lot of jokes. I don’t have that many jokes. And the second thing I thought was, you really want to get those dots and dashes right, because if you mess that up, Jack and Jill becomes Jack and Bill, right?
Clint – Right. Yeah, no, that would be difficult to get a response, wouldn’t it, out of that situation, but mate you do what you can? Yeah, exactly.
Exactly, exactly. Just it lifts the spirit. It really does. It really does. So might. This has been fantastic, I guess. Do you have you got any success stories or any kind of other case studies that you’ve been able to quickly share with us to wrap up people you’ve worked with? Who you’ve been able to, you know, to tell us a nice story about.
McConville – I have got a nice story to tell, actually. And, you know, the story that I’m about to tell is about the true heroes of the community. And I so, about halfway through last year, I did a you know, (inaudible) clinic nights for councils all around Australia. So I did one up in the Sunshine Coast for the Shire Council, regional council. And then the next day, I got a Facebook message from one of the participants that was in the audience. And he said, hey, mate, how you going, you know me always in your laughter clinical session yesterday morning. And I just wanted to say what I got out of yesterday. He said basically the story that you spoke about, the ex-servicemen haven’t laughed for three years really struck a chord because my wife and I lost our 17 year old son three years ago in a car accident. Usually I come home from work and I usually drink, and until I’m drunk enough to make my way to bed and pass out.
McConville – He said, But yesterday afternoon, I came home, I got out, it was he said, I got out of Cowbarn DVD who my son and I both loved and I watched it. And I laughed. I cried and I laughed, he said. But it was it was the best thing he said, because it reminded me how much I loved this. And and that’s only part of the story. So my message this guy back going, thanks for sharing your story I’m really glad that you had that moment this afternoon where you were able to bring some laughter back into your life. And then he told me the full story and the full story was that. When his son was in that car accident excuse me, he was actually working with the Queensland Fire Service. So he was on duty and got the call to go to the accident not knowing that his son was in that car. And his wife was working as a paramedic at the time. So they were all of a sudden thrust into this situation where every time they would go to work to do a shift, they obtained a car accident and it would bring back all this trauma. They both left, they both left the emergency services went to work for the council. And now three years later, they’ve raised what did he say? They’ve raised one hundred thousand dollars in the community and they’ve paid to put three hundred (inaudible) through a three day defensive driving program.
McConville – And I’m like, they’re the heroes of society, they are the true heroes. And, you know, just having this guy say I usually drink myself to sleep, and last night I laughed myself to sleep and he said and he was just the best thing. So I just want to thank you. And, you know, I could probably rattle off dozens of stories like that. But, you know, it’s just it gives me hope, you know, that there’s for people are in a really dark place that sometimes it just like I said, it’s just a reminder. And that’s what he said guys, you just reminded me that I used to love watching these Cowbarn DVD with my son. So I got home and I dragged it out.
Clint – That’s a great story and, there’s, as you said, this, so many people who are suffering and mental health, gee, it’s something that it can undermine the best of us. And, you know, I think that it’s very, very admirable, all the work that you’ve done in this area and continue to do. We had to reschedule this conversation, which we had planned for last week because you had a couple of commitments of in this sort of line of work and just showing how active you are and how much you’re doing. So my hat’s off to you. Keep up the fantastic work. I didn’t know that you potentially do one on one sessions. It’s not something that we’ve spoken about. But is there a way someone could contact you if they wanted to set up a Zoom chat with you.
McConville – If they basically just go to my website, www.MarkMcConville.com.au. They can contact me via there. And there’s a lot of information on there and on the Laughter Clinic page about, you know, a lot of stuff that we spoke about today.
Clint – Yeah, fantastic. Well, you know, as I said, we should have done this earlier. It’s such a big topic. I’ve not covered it before. You’re the man. We’ve had a laugh. I almost had a cry. This has been a fantastic session, my friend.
McConville – Lovely to see your kids.
Clint – What I’ll do is all that. I’ll tell the editor to leave them in. Sometimes they get chopped, but I’m going to leave it in today. And every now and then, I think it’s nice just to let reality be reality, it’s nice sometimes.
McConville – Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And kids, I think we’ve got we I’m going to be a grandparent in January, my wife’s son and his wife are expecting their first child in January. And my wife always says that families need kids. Kids in a family, brings in youth and energy and love and all of these things. And it’s so nice because, you know, you’ve wanted a family for so long.
McConville – And it’s so nice to see, they come in and just, it warms my heart and, you know, I’m sure you’re an amazing dad, and I’m going to be the coolest granddad ever. In actual fact, my grandkids are probably going to spend the whole time going, what is Granddad Michael those noises when he gets out of the chair?
Clint: Yeah, thanks. But absolutely everything you say about the kids and more, they just they just awesome. And, you know, I say there’s no boundaries here, but there’s also, you know, the kids don’t feel any sort of sense of imposing themselves upon what I’m doing. I think Dad’s just chatting to someone. It’s going to be fine, you know, and that is the case. And I don’t apologize for having, you know, occasionally a little bit of an interruption. You know, I don’t advertise on this show. I don’t charge for any of the information. All this stuff is just a labor of love, and we’ve got a couple of products that we sell to to help fund all of the stuff. But this show is just continually cranks out and we speak to fantastic people like you. And so, you know, the odd interruptions is not going to upset anyone. I don’t think.
McConville: (inaudible) the year of Zoom mode. And I tell people that have business meetings and they like I told you, everything I got. How did your meetings go down there? Like, oh, I had my pants on for half of them. Yeah, yes, yeah. It’s just talk. Well, I would say having, you know, having the kids come in I think is, it’s part for the course right?
Clint – Correct mate, correct, there are bigger things to worry about in life and we’ve addressed them today and I’m very grateful for that. And I’m going to put the link to your website.
McConville – Congratulations on everything that you’ve been able to achieve. Like, obviously, like you said, we’d spoke for hours that night in town because I was just gob smacked at seeing the transformation in you to take that to the next level and help other people. It’s. Yeah, it’s admirable, it’s an altruistic thing, and it’s so cool because and you know what? Giving is so good. Like helping other people is so good, it makes you feel so good. And if other people can benefit from all of the hard yards that you’ve done, well, kudos to you, brother.
Clint – Thanks, Mark. You know, sometimes I give that as advice or a suggestion to people if they’re so consumed in their own problems and life’s just overwhelming and then frustrated, and then it’s just like, oh, there’s so much tension and build up. I’ll say to them, what can you do for someone else today? And it just shifts the conversation. It’s not like I don’t go, it’s not like I don’t hear them or I’m not listening, but an answer comes to me that just catches them off guard. And the suggestion is going to something that contributes to someone else’s life, because then it feels like the world is bigger than just your problems. And that doesn’t belittle your situation. It helps you compartmentalize it rather than be drowned by it.
McConville – Wise words mate
Clint – wise words mate, but we finished on a strong one. We close. You got to finish with your second-best joke.
McConville – Cooking (inaudible) so I have to go and scrub my pork list.
Clint – All right, mate. Well, you got to do that. And I’ll stick with my vegan Tucker, and we’ll reconnect another time. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks, Mark.
McConville – Love you (inaudible) Clint.