So far, so good for Jimmy Fallon, who has brought "The Tonight Show" back to New York City, where it belongs.
The ratings have been strong, with Fallon saying, "My goal is to make you laugh, so you . . . live a longer life."
A recent study in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) reports that too much laughter might not only harm, but kill you.
Yep, a hearty laugh or three can dislocate your jaw, prompt asthma attacks, make hernias protrude and cause incontinence (aka, the "he made me pee in my pants!" syndrome). The "Laughter and MIRTH (Methodical Investigation of Risibility, Therapeutic and Harmful)" report says it can also lead to cardiac arrhythmia and death.
Does this mean comics who say "I killed 'em!" after leaving an audience convulsed with laughter are really homicidal maniacs? Fallon seems like a nice guy, but it looks like he and his fellow comics may be causing more harm than good.
For years, laughter was thought of as "the best medicine" for whatever ails you. Norman Cousins' "Anatomy of an Illness" described his attempt to cure a potentially fatal disease by renting Marx Brothers and other comedies, and he believed laughter was instrumental in his recovery. Even the authors of this report grudgingly concede that "the benefit-harm balance is probably favorable."
"We don't know how much laughter is safe," says study co-author Dr. Robin Ferner. "There's probably a U-shaped curve: Laughter is good for you, but enormous amounts of laughter are bad," he told The New York Times. "It's not a problem in England."
I'll bet it's not. But over here, Fallon and his fellow late-night hosts continue to crank out the jokes, oblivious to the dangers. Tonight Fallon has actor Adam Sandler on to help him in his dangerous mission.
Although I like Fallon, I'm lucky that his jokes rarely make me laugh out loud. But there are others in the public eye saying things truly dangerous to our welfare and liable to make us bust a gut, or worse.
Last week, for example, Rep. Michele Bachmann warned that many Americans still "aren't ready" for a female president.
Now that's funny!
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.