Does Your Stand-Up Act Need Death by Laughter Insurance?

(Just in case your comedy REALLY kills)
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

Insurance against death by laughter

Imagine being so hilarious that your jokes, impressions, or other repartee literally caused someone to laugh themselves to death. While going to stand-up shows is a fun pastime for many, odds are good that no one wants it to be their very last outing, no matter how good the material is. For those super-confident comedians, having death by laughter insurance might help calm their nerves before the big show.

What Is 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. A ruptured brain aneurysm can lead to cranial bleeding, brain damage, coma, and death.
  • Asphyxiation: Uncontrollable laughter can lead to difficulties with breathing, especially if someone has a preexisting condition affecting their lungs. Asphyxiation due to hard laughter is not unheard of, interestingly enough.
  • 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. Though not typically fatal in themselves, severe asthma attacks can lead to cardiac arrest or respiratory failure if not promptly treated.
  • 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. Though the loss of consciousness itself may not be fatal, fainting in public can be extremely dangerous if it causes a fall off a balcony or onto a hard surface, resulting in head trauma or other serious injury.
  • 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: Legal fees can include court fees, attorney fees, administrative fees, and settlement fees.
  • Public relations protection: In the unfortunate event of an audience member’s death during a comedy show, death by laughter coverage might pay the news media to keep quiet about the incident, in order to protect both the performer’s image and the victim’s privacy.
  • Medical fees: Coverage might pay for a victim’s medical costs, including ambulance, hospital, and autopsy fees, in the event of their death during a show.

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.

How Do I Get Death by Laughter Insurance?

For the more obscure or less common types of insurance coverage out there, you might not be able to find what you’re looking for just anywhere. While our independent insurance agents may not be able to provide you with this kind of coverage directly, we’ll happily provide a list of agents in your neighborhood who have access to multiple insurance companies. You’ll walk away with the most options to find the absolute best coverage for your insurance needs.

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