Hugh Gibbons' references and recommended reading
PPhunnybone for January 2012

for pharmaceutical physicians, colleagues and friends

at Work
PPhood for
PPhurther Education:




The Best Medicine: Miss Sweetie Poo?
References and recommended reading from Hugh Gibbons' PPhunnybone article on aspects of laughter,
written for the January 2012 issue of Pharmaceutical Physician:
The Journal of the British Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians

Click here for the full article (below)


Update!  You have to laugh.

David Cameron is said to have used the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize bladder technique mentioned in PPhunnybone -
during the dinner and discussions at the EU summit in Brussels* in the run-up to his veto.

Click here for the article in The Guardian on 12 December

* next meeting may be in the town of Loos


Professor Robert Provine
is in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. For a disturbingly serious and eclectic biography and contact details, see


This paperback edition of his delightful book Laughter: a Scientific Investigation has the ISBN 0-571-19189-4

At Amazon and elsewhere you'll find a choice of versions available.

On the right, you can see Bob Provine in action giving an excellent lecture called Cracking the Laughing Code at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2009.  It's also available on YouTube. The lecture is about 50 minutes long, and includes quite a lot of video clips and audience interaction - and an exemplar of good lecturing practice.

Go to




Ig Nobel Prizes - and the Annals of Improbable Research

The starting point for both is the website
This carries reports of the awards ceremonies each September, including video clips, and lists of winners going back over the years.

The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think. The winners come to a gala ceremony at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre, and then give public lectures at MIT.

The Awards always include full references

Improbable Research is "a vast, happy, open conspiracy of many volunteers (scientists, journalists, teachers, students, and all sorts of other people) in many countries."

The editorial board consists of fifty-odd eminent scientists, doctors, etc. from around the world, including several Nobel Prize winners and a convicted felon.

The bookstore has some good reads, of course.
Go to

You'll also find a link to Luxuriant Hair Clubs for Scientists.





For information on events in 2012 -
including Ig Nobel tours of the UK and the Netherlands, go to



The Best of Miss Sweetie Poo on YouTube
is a 10-minute compilation of a succession of these young ladies confounding speaker after speaker at

They respond in a variety of ways, including bribes and kidnapping.

Allow time to mop up the coffee you'll spill with laughter while watching.

YouTube has some other clips of Ig Nobel winners.




Extra idea: Rosemary Jarski for a right good laugh

If you're looking for one-liners or short phunnies for a lecture or article, my own favourite bedtime reads are the compilations of Rosemary Jarski.

These industrial-strength paperbacks are packed with freshfaced and our-times quotes, stiletto asides and other short bites to make a cat laugh.

They also make great bedtime or flight-time reading - a few pages and then zzzzzzzzzzz.

Just Google and see a big selection - or go into a bookshop and browse.




The best medicine: Miss Sweetie Poo? 

Be thankful for colleagues who can see a funny side to things.  I’d have cheerfully done GBH on morose old Morse within a week; Norman Stanley Fletcher, never.

Laughter is the shortest distance between people, said Victor Borge with his VGSOH in music and other matters.  And it’s a valued therapeutic intervention, low on cost, high on QALYs - said to boost the immune system, trigger endorphin, protect the heart, and give abdominal, respiratory and facial muscles a workout.  

There’s now a British National Formulary of laughter - the amazing Comedy Carpet next to Blackpool Tower, a treat for the whole family.  Chiselled on the slabs you’ll find the words of 850 writers and comedians, such as: “The Heehaahoohaa tribe is so called because they run through long grass without underpants.”   

Mind you, I’m sceptical about that name.  Research has shown that, when people laugh, they opt for heehees or hoohoos, but don’t mix them.  You’ll find evidence in the definitive book Ha-Ha: The Scientific Study of Laughter by Professor Robert Provine, an amiable neuroscientist at the University of Maryland.  

Researching the sound of laughter forced a lesson in lateral thinking.  At first, Bob’s students sat people in a lab and told them jokes.  Yes; well.  So they tried a different clinical approach.  Armed with audio recorders, they went up to people in the street and said, “I’m studying laughter.  Will you laugh for me?”  Instant response and reams of R&D data. 

They also researched conversations.  Speakers tend to laugh more than listeners.  Men create more laughter, but women laugh more.  People will laugh at anything and with anyone - jokes aren’t necessary (pass the word, please). 

Laughter is also a great help in educating.  Each September, the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony honours “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”  John Keogh won for “A Circular Transportation Facilitation Device” when he patented The Wheel to draw attention to flaws in the Australian registration system.   

The Prizes are awarded by Nobel winners, celebrate the unusual and imaginative, and spur interest in science, medicine, and technology.  Robert Mathews won for his work on the mathematics of Murphy’s Law, recruiting 1200 UK schoolchildren in a science-class study on whether dropped toast really falls on its buttered side.  

Entries make fancy-tickling reads.  You may have seen one in a 2006 BritMedJ: Sword-Swallowing and Its Side effects.  The 2011 Medicine Prize went to researchers demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things when they have a strong urge to urinate.  (So it’s not just fingers that executives need to cross…)  

The Ceremony ends: "If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!" 

And it showcases a concept that’d be a humane intervention at many a meeting endured by PPs.  Winners have 30 seconds to deliver their acceptance speech.  After that, little Miss Sweetie Poo arrives, remorselessly entreating: “Please stop, I’m bored.  Please stop, I’m bored.  Please stop, I’m BORED…”



A starting point for info on
the great Victor Borge is at

YouTube has many clips of
his performances

For full information on
The Comedy Carpet in Blackpool
go to


Wikipedia will also lead you to
Inspector Morse and to
Norman Stanley Fletcher in Porridge.

Hugh Gibbons notes:
Producers and writers of TV dramas of any sort
seem to have a blind spot about anyone seeing
the funny side of things. Whereas most other programmes
show plenty of spontaneous laughter and smiles,
fictional characters can't cope.
Curiously, the funniest after-dinner talk I ever heard
was by Colin Dexter, the creator of Morse,
at a dinner in New Scotland Yard.




For more information at any time, contact
The Conductor of Just1, Hugh Gibbons

Tel: 01344 451847

Write: 75 Qualitas
Roman Hill
Berks RG12 7QG
United Kingdom