Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details


International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2015: 0.467
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.574

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.507
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.535
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2015: 0.603

See all formats and pricing
Select Volume and Issue


30,00 € / $42.00 / £23.00

Get Access to Full Text

The laughter of the 1962 Tanganyika ‘laughter epidemic’

Christian F Hempelmann
  • Georgia Southern University, hakia Inc., New York.
  • :
Published Online: 2007-03-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMOR.2007.003


The present article discusses the role of laughter in the much cited ‘laughter epidemic’ that occurred in Tanganyika in 1962. Despite its extraordinary nature, the veracity of the event is confirmed, crucially on the basis of similar reports. But most current representations are flawed by their exaggeration and misinterpretation of the role of laughter in the event, relating it to a humorous stimulus, a virus or environmental contaminant, or identifying it as contagious laughter. It is argued that the event is a motor-variant case of mass psychogenic illness of which laughter is one common symptom. Therefore it cannot serve as support for other arguments in humor research.

Keywords: Africa; Laughter; laughter epidemic; mass hysteria; mass psychogenic illness; Tanganyika

Published Online: 2007-03-12

Published in Print: 2007-02-20

Citation Information: Humor – International Journal of Humor Research. Volume 20, Issue 1, Pages 49–71, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/HUMOR.2007.003, March 2007

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Yann Auxéméry
Annales Médico-psychologiques, revue psychiatrique, 2012, Volume 170, Number 8, Page 527

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.