Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is it really possible to die laughing?

In 1989 a Danish audiologist, Ole Bentzen, died watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beat at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
Reminds one of this classic, naturally. The catch is, I haven't been able to track down anything quite counting as a primary source (the Wikipedia entry on A Fish Called Wanda gives a reference, but the link is dead).


Ixion said...

Now, normally I would discourage anyone from using Wikipedia as a primary source of anything but dubious and/or biased information but, having said that, I will now quote from the Wikipedia page on the 1970s British comedy troupe The Goodies:

"On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a black pudding-wielding Bill Oddie (master of the ancient Lancastrian martial art "Ecky-Thump") in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of "Hoots-Toot-ochaye." After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the settee and died from heart failure. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments so pleasant."

The source cited for this was an article called 'Man Dies Laughing at The Goodies' in the London 'Daily Mail' from 29 March 1975.

I recall hearing about this when it happened, as I was familiar with the Goodies. They were funny alright but I really can't say that they were that funny. It is arguable whether the Daily Mail is any better a source than Wikipedia.

nitroglycol said...

I came across this story while looking for better confirmation of the A Fish Called Wanda story actually. Didn't get the details of the fatal Goodies episode though.

As someone on another site said, if that had happened in present-day America, instead of sending them a thank-you note she'd have been suing.

And the Daily Mail? I've never seen the dead trees edition, but judging from their website I think they're one of what the late Douglas Adams called "the papers with small pages and big print". So yeah, it's definitely arguable whether or not they're a better source than Wikipedia.