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The Laughter Club

The last three decades in Iran have hardly been synonymous with happiness. The experience of the Islamic Revolution followed by a protracted war bringing horrific death and destruction, together with years of a political and social clampdown, has gradually taken its toll on the society. However, with two thirds of the population under thirty, the intrinsically fun-loving people of Iran have always been able to find ways and means of bringing some enjoyment into their lives.

Ali Merrikhi is one such person who, in the absence of any fundamental remedy to address the root causes of this general feeling of gloom, thought of a novel idea to create a modicum of happiness. The idea of founding a ‘laughter club’ came to him after a period of depression when, in common with many of his colleagues, he had to leave his profession as a satirical cartoonist. Within a few years he set up several branches of the club in Tehran and also in different provinces.

He was originally inspired by an Indian doctor who first conceived the idea of creating a laughter club in the course of writing a paper on the therapeutic effects of laughter on patients. It was so successful that fifteen years on, it has thousands of branches all over the world. Ali Merrikhi, however, adapted its programmes and techniques to the culture of his homeland by combining them with traditional Iranian elements, such as amusing games or humorous songs. He achieved this project with the valuable assistance of his wife, Fariba Ghafuri, a graduate in history and now in charge of the Tehran club.

In this multimedia report, we visit this unusual club in the company of its dedicated founders, and share the fun and joy of its activities.

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