How Do You Get a World Laughter Tour on the Road?
After attending and speaking at a 1998 lecture tour at Juhu Beach Laughter Club at the Arabian seaside in Mumbai, India, the World Laughter Tour was an inspiration and epiphany that struck Steve Wilson like a bright, inviting light. Laughter clubs in India were referred to as ‘Hasya Yoga’, and were part of the culture. “Why not bring these to the rest of the world?” Steve wondered, as his plane made its way back across the Atlantic Ocean to his home state of Ohio.
He didn’t waste any time, and after he found the right “Laughter Guru” to bring back to the U.S., Wilson happily offered to purchase plane fare for the doctor and his wife. Following a marvelous collaboration between the two, Steve Wilson learned the ins and outs of Indian-style laughter clubs. It was the beginning of a new career! Thanks to the generous support and encouragement of Dr. Valeriana Moeller, president of Columbus State Community College, the World Laughter Tour officially launched on May 27, 1999, in Columbus Ohio; complete with an evening demonstration and authentic Indian feast.
On the eve of his return to Mumbai, the Hasya Yoga Guru told Steve, “The world is a big place. I cannot be everywhere, and I cannot start all of the laughter clubs. Why don’t you take North and South America, and see what you can do with them?” Steve agreed that he would give the Western hemisphere his attention. Following an old story about acres of diamonds in one’s own backyard, he decided first to focus on his home state of Ohio and then set up a tour across North America, while simultaneously promoting the message globally.
Founder Steve Wilson then went on a fourteen-city tour, whereupon he demonstrated laughter techniques to diverse audiences. For seven weeks, the heartily-laughing mentor crisscrossed the USA, making appearances in cities such as Phoenix, New York City, Louisville, San Jose, Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, Boca Raton, and St. Petersburg.
The Whirlwind Adventure Began
After its introduction within the U.S., World Laughter Tour took on a life of its own, gaining daily momentum. With wife Pam always by his side, Steve Wilson created momentum, credibility, interest, and continued improving the method.
This is a timeline of many of our past and recent accomplishments, successes and milestones.
- 1999: The first USA Laughter Club was established by Jenni Reusser at the YMCA in Orrville, Ohio. As of 2014, the number has grown to hundreds of Laughter Clubs across North America.
- 1999: Steve and Pam Wilson taught the laughter club exercises to Gart Westerhout and the a Japanese Osugi Musical Theatre troupe that were visiting Washington D.C., upon which time they realized that “laughter has no accent,” and that this method could be used worldwide, even among people with major language barriers.
- 2000: The inauguration of USA Laughter Clubs in cities across the country.
- 2000: The first USA Laughter Club in a nursing home was established in Canton, Ohio, and then the first club in an elementary school in the same city, and an intergenerational club, too, thanks to Peggy Stabholtz and Nancy Engle.
- May 2001: WLT produced the first U.S. celebration of World Laughter Day, which was held in New York City.
- 2001: WLT set up a Professional Advisory Committee whose members are eminent in various specialties and systems of medicine, science, business, education, other professions & occupations, and public life. Their role is to advise and guide the initiatives of WLT, while validating scientific studies and research as to how laughter affects the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being of the participants.
- 2001 – Present: World Laughter Day celebrations are conducted by Certified Laughter Leaders in many cities throughout North America.
- 2001: An order of cloistered nuns now uses Steve’s methods as part of their recreation and exercise program. Steve has taught them in two of their 20 convents worldwide.
- 2002: With the support of James ‘Scotty’ Scott, an Army Reserve Colonel at the Pentagon, through the network of Family Readiness Groups, the method is being incorporated into the gamut of support options to bring important coping skills to the families of military personnel who are deployed to active duty.
- 2002: Using the internet for an experimental distance learning program, Steve trained the first laughter leader in South Africa and another in Israel.
- 2003: Steve and Pam Wilson fostered the establishment of the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a non-profit (501.c.3) charity that promotes awareness of the value of laughter and humor. The foundation also encourages education and training in the field, and research in the field. Donations are tax-deductible in the USA.
- May 2003: WLT created and hosted the First International Symposium on Laughter in Orlando, FL.
- 2004: The Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation began awarding scholarships to disseminate education, research, and information about applied therapeutic laughter, including the role of both the arts and sciences.
- 2005: WLT now has a presence in many countries, with dedicated authorized representatives.
- 2005: Laughter leaders from over a dozen countries, including Chile, England, Australia, Iceland, the Philippines, Mexico, Scotland, South Korea, and Canada have come to the United States to participate in Steve’s training program.
- March 2005: Steve Wilson’s Certified Laughter Leader training program became approved for continuing education by the National Boards of Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers, Activity Therapists, Counselors, and Case Managers, making it the first-ever to achieve such status.
- 2007: Steve Wilson was honored with Rire d’Or, “The Golden Laughter Award”, by the French School of Laughter and Well-Being. This annual award is given to an individual that has displayed significant International influence in promoting the value of laughter.
- April 2008: Steve Wilson was selected as the second Director of National Humor Month founded in 1976 by Larry Wilde. This led to a larger sphere of positive influence for promoting the appreciation and value of humor and laughter.
- 2009: With the help of a global icon in mental health and world peace, Lenore Schneiderman, WLT created the only college-affiliated, professionally accredited, training program. The 2-day standard workshop curriculum was incorporated into a 30-hour, 3-credit course entitled, “Therapeutic Laughter”. It is now offered biannually as an elective in the Human Services Division of Ohio’s Columbus State Community College. This has nurtured a growing cadre of competent, trained, dedicated Certified Laughter Leaders.
- 2010: Steve Wilson receives the Doug Fletcher Lifetime Achievement award from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.
- 2013: More than 6,000 people have completed the training workshop, “How to Create Therapeutic Laughter”.
- Present Day: A phenomenal web presence has increased traffic to the site by over 500,000 visitors annually. WLT maintains the website as an international clearinghouse for information, ideas, activities of interest, and relevance to the laughter movement.