Death by Laughter Insurance?

Essentially a unique kind of liability coverage, death by laughter insurance is a policy designed to protect comedians, stand-up comics, or anyone else who runs the risk of killing someone through their sheer wit alone. Though comedians and the like thrive on making their audience members laugh, there’s always a slight chance that their material could end up doing more harm than good . . . even fatally so.

Can You Really Die Laughing?

Actually, yes, it’s possible—and in quite a few different ways. Though it’s most commonly said as a joke in itself as someone’s ideal way to go, it turns out you really can die laughing.

The following laughter-related complications can result in death:

  • Ruptured brain aneurysms: Bulging blood vessels (i.e., arteries) in the brain run the risk of rupturing if someone laughs REALLY hard.
  • Asphyxiation: Uncontrollable laughter can lead to difficulties with breathing, especially if someone has a preexisting condition affecting their lungs.
  • Gelastic seizures: A unique type of seizure that begins in the hypothalamus, gelastic seizures are often brought on by uncontrollable laughing or giggling—even while asleep.
  • Asthma attacks: Asthma attacks have all kinds of triggers, from stress to being startled, and, apparently, laughing too hard.
  • Syncope: Fainting due to a lack of proper blood flow to the brain is known as syncope, and it can sometimes be triggered by excessive laughter.
  • Cardiac arrest: Complications brought on by the mixture of preexisting conditions and hard, uncontrolled laughter can result in cardiac arrest—a condition in which the entire heart stops beating suddenly.

Though extremely rare, even laughter can be a killer. It’s probably not even close to being reason enough to give up on continued funny outings, but especially for those with preexisting medical conditions, the possibility of death is something to keep in mind. And that’s no laughing matter.

The Origins of Death by Laughter Insurance

Since death by laughter is such a rare occurrence, why is this type of insurance even a thing? Well, it turns out there are a couple of stories that explain its existence.

  • In the early 1900s, a group of giggly (yet timid) cinemagoers reportedly approached the insurance firm Lloyd’s of London to request a policy that would cover them in the event they actually died laughing. Now that’s pretty funny.
  • In the 1970s, a man by the name of Alex Mitchell reportedly died laughing (more literally due to heart failure) while watching the comedy show The Goodies, and made tons of headlines. His death was later ruled by medical professionals to have actually been caused by a rare hereditary heart condition that also affected his granddaughter, but it was triggered by a half-hour of uncontrollable laughter.
  • Perhaps inspired by stories like Alex Mitchell’s, the British Broadcasting Corporation once reported that a comedy troupe approached Lloyd’s of London for a death by laughter insurance policy. The group sought protection in the event that their material was so hilarious it actually caused their viewers to die laughing.

So few reports of laughter-related deaths actually exist that the very thought of taking out an insurance policy for it is, in and of itself, a bit comical. However, for those equipped with the skills to induce sidesplitting guffaws, death by laughter insurance might actually be a viable option in case their comedic side affects hit harder than usual.

What Does Death by Laughter Insurance Cover?

Death by laughter insurance is basically just a fancy form of liability coverage, but it’s specifically designed to handle claims from laughter-related deaths. Coverage would kick in following a comedic event that caused the death of an audience member.

Death by laughter insurance may provide coverage for the following:

  • Legal fees for claims made against a comedy act or venue in the event of death by laughter 
  • Public relations protection
  • Medical fees

One caveat about death by laughter coverage is that it’s probably a bit difficult to prove a claim in court. Especially if an audience member had a preexisting health condition, it might be tough to actually link the cause of death to laughter. Regardless of death by laughter’s credibility, there’s coverage for it.

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