Blue Flower

CAE (Advanced Exam) Listening Test 5

Listen to part of a discussion about a book on laughter and complete the sentences. Use no more than three words in each sentence.

1 Provine’s book proposes that laughter is used to improve human ________________________ .

2 Mark says that today people often only laugh at TV ________________________ .

3 Diana says that women think a good ________________________ is vital in personal male/ female relationships.

4 Diana thinks that the fact that there haven’t been many ________________________ in the past reflects a commonly held attitude.

5 Although laughter is important in relationships, there is no evidence to suggest that our ________________________ would benefit.

6 Provine’s book suggests that it’s important to ________________________ more frequently with friends if you want to laugh more.

1 interaction
2 comedy
3 sense of humour
4 female comedians
5 health or longevity/longevity or health
6 socialise

Presenter: Welcome to the Review Show. Joining me today are writers Diana Abel and Mark Shaw. The first book we’ll be discussing is Robert Provine’s Laughter: a scientific investigation. It’s certainly an interesting topic, Mark. But what did you make of the idea that laughter is not primarily a response to humour but a social lubricant – something used to smooth interaction between people?

Mark: Yes. Very interesting. It’s something I’ve come across before and I don’t think Provine is the first to make this claim. But he is the first to popularise this theory. And I think a lot of people will find it really difficult to accept that we don’t just laugh because we find something funny. Laughter has a much more complex role. What’s really disturbing is that, according to some statistics, we’re laughing much less than we used to, usually only when we’re watching a comedy on TV.

Presenter: Indeed. Diana, I know you were particularly struck by the comparisons between male and female laughter in the book.

Diana: Yes, that’s right. While researching the book, Provine looked at hundreds of lonely hearts ads in the newspapers and found that one of the key qualities women look for in a potential partner is a good sense of humour – something sought after much less commonly by men. That was news to me. It seems women want a man who will make them laugh, while men like women who laugh at their jokes. That might explain why until relatively recently there were so few female comedians around.

Presenter: Provine does stress the importance of increasing laughter in our lives and gives some advice on how to achieve this. Were you tempted to try out any of his suggestions, Diana?

Diana: Well, Provine thinks laughter is important for maintaining relationships but doesn’t necessarily support the idea that laughter improves health or longevity. So he’s not advocating attending laughter workshops or laughter yoga. His message is really quite simple. If you want to laugh more, rather than sitting in front of comedy programmes, socialise more with people whose company you enjoy – which makes sense to me. One thing I’m in favour of, which Provine doesn’t mention, is that people should lighten up and laugh at themselves more.

Presenter: Did either of you find your attitude to laughter had changed after reading the book?

Mark: I certainly started noticing when people actually laughed and found it confirmed Provine’s theory, that is, people were laughing at things that weren’t remotely funny and also in odd places during a conversation.

Diana: The effect it had on me was to monitor my own impulses to laugh – it made me less spontaneous in a way.

Mark: … analysing what made you want to laugh instead of reacting naturally – I experienced that, too.

Presenter: So did you find the book answered everything you ever wanted to know about laughter?

Mark: It was pretty comprehensive, especially the parts on how humour and comedy work. He also focuses on how humour can be abusive and cruel – anyone who’s experienced this in the playground will be able to relate to that. The section on the mechanics of breathing and laughing I could have done without.

Diana: I was more interested in the social aspects of laughter. Provine argues that laughter existed before comedy and I wish he’d gone into more depth about how laughter may have begun.

Mark: That was my favourite section of the book, so more on that would have been welcome. The descriptions of how laughter may have started with chimpanzees tickling each other are wonderful.

Presenter: But, overall, would you recommend this to someone who hasn’t got a professional or academic interest in laughter?

Mark: Without question, yes. There were some bits where I felt my lack of a background in neuroscience was a disadvantage but you can just skip those bits and move on to some of the lovely anecdotes about the research – some of the accounts of the contagious nature of laughter are really amazing. In some places people couldn’t stop laughing for days.

Diana: Yes, incredible.

Presenter: And do you think the book will help people?

Mark: Well, if you just want to find out about the benefits of laughter, there are more appropriate self-help guides. This is more wide-ranging than that.

Presenter: I see. So, moving on to another book about comedy … [fade out]