List of deaths from laughter

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This is a list of notable people who have died from laughter, in chronological order.

  • Zeuxis, a 5th-century BC Greek painter, is said to have died laughing at the humorous way he painted the goddess Aphrodite – after the old woman who commissioned it insisted on modeling for the portrait.[1]
  • One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, the 3rd-century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine with which to wash them down, and then, "...having laughed too much, he died" (Diogenes Laërtius 7.185).[2]
  • In 1410, King Martin of Aragon died from a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughter triggered by a joke told by his favourite court jester.[3]
  • In 1556, Pietro Aretino "is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much".[4]
  • In 1660, Thomas Urquhart, the Scottish aristocrat, polymath, and first translator of François Rabelais's writings into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.[5][6]
  • In 1799, William Cushing, a pauper who lived in the parish of St Andrew's, Norwich, England, died from "a fit of excessive laughter, which lasted five minutes."[7]
  • In 1893, farmer Wesley Parsons laughed to death over a joke told in Laurel, Indiana. He laughed for nearly an hour. He then died two hours after the incident.[8]
  • On October 14, 1920, 56-year-old Mr. Arthur Cobcroft, a dog trainer from Loftus Street, Leichhardt, Australia, was reading a five year old newspaper and was amused at the prices for some commodities in 1915 as compared to 1920. He made a remark to his wife regarding this, and burst into laughter, and in the midst of it he collapsed and died. A doctor named Nixon was called in, and stated that the death was due to heart failure, brought by excessive laughter.[9][10][11][12]
  • On 24 March 1975, Alex Mitchell, from King's Lynn, England, died laughing while watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, featuring a kilt-clad Scotsman with his bagpipes battling a master of the Lancastrian martial art "Eckythump", who was armed with a black pudding. After 25 minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died from heart failure. His widow later sent The Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments of life so pleasant.[13][14][15][16][17] Diagnosis of his granddaughter in 2012 of having the inheritable long QT syndrome (a heart rhythm abnormality) suggests that Mitchell may have died of a cardiac arrest caused by the same condition.[18]
  • In 1989, Ole Bentzen, a Danish audiologist who was reportedly in good health, was observing a screening of the 1988 comedy film A Fish Called Wanda. During the screening, Bentzen laughed uncontrollably at a scene where Michael Palin's character had food stuffed into his nose and mouth, to the point that his heart rate rose to an estimated 250–500 beats per minute, leading to a fatal heart attack.[19]


  1. ^ Bark, Julianna (2007–2008). "The Spectacular Self: Jean-Etienne Liotard's Self-Portrait Laughing". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Laërtius, Diogenes. Lives, Teachings and Sayings of the Eminent Philosophers, with an English translation by R.D. Hicks (1964-1965). Cambridge, Massachusetts/London: Harvard UP/W. Heinemann Ltd.
  3. ^ Morris, Paul N. (October 2000). "Patronage and Piety: Montserrat and the Royal House of Medieval Catalonia-Aragon" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-04.
  4. ^ Waterfield, Gordon, ed. First Footsteps in East Africa, (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1966) p. 59 footnote.
  5. ^ Brown, Huntington (1968). Rabelais in English Literature. Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 0-7146-2051-3.
  6. ^ The History of Scottish Poetry. Edmonston & Douglas. 1861. p. 539.
  7. ^ "The Gentleman's Magazine". May 1799.
  8. ^ "10 truly bizarre Victorian deaths". BBC News. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  9. ^ Laughter causes death, The Argus (October 18, 1920)
  10. ^ Died of Laughter, The Register (October 18, 1920)
  11. ^ Death Follows Laughter., Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (October 21, 1920)
  12. ^ Died Laughing., The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (October 22, 1920)
  13. ^ "The Last Laugh's on Him". Urban Legends Reference Pages. 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2007-06-23.
  14. ^ Ross, Robert (2000). The Complete Goodies. London: B T Batsford.
  15. ^ "Man Dies Laughing at The Goodies". Daily Mail. London. 29 March 1975.
  16. ^ "A Goodies Way to Go — Laughing". Eastern Daily Press. Norwich. 29 March 1975.
  17. ^ Staveacre, Tony (1987). Slapstick! The Illustrated Story of Knockabout Comedy. Angus & Robinson.
  18. ^ Singh, Anita (21 Jun 2012). "Man who died laughing at Goodies had Long QT syndrome". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  19. ^ King, Darry (12 July 2018). ""Just a Concoction of Nonsense": The Oral History of A Fish Called Wanda". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2 June 2019.