The Third Leader: Best medicine

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The Independent Online

Laugh? I do hope so, since, apparently, it's as good for you as jogging. No, really. New research shows that hearty laughter increases the blood flow in a similar way to aerobic exercise, improves brain function and stimulates the immune system.

Terrific. But, funnily enough, the news has also provoked a chemical release stimulating the part of my brain which insists that anything entirely enjoyable cannot possibly be healthy; and this has been followed rapidly by another message warning me to look out for the catch, dummy, there's always a catch.

So cynical. But, do you know, it's got a point, as there are certain difficulties here. Firstly, of course, there is the example of Chrysippus, the Greek philosopher who died laughing while watching a donkey eating figs, and, even more worryingly, Mr Alex Mitchell, the King's Lynn bricklayer who reportedly died laughing at The Goodies in 1975.

Secondly, there are the serious problems getting hold of a reliable supply of laughter, with the attendant danger of that supremely depressing experience, a comedy that isn't. And then there is a third point, which can be framed thus: "If laughter is so good for you, where are all the happy, sensible, normal, healthy comedians?"

Even so, with the generosity of spirit so typical of this space, I have decided to add my weight to The Independent's praiseworthy efforts to produce a healthier New Year you. Ready? "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!" "Yes, sir, it's the rotting meat that attracts them." "Doctor, Doctor, I think I'm a bell!" "Take these, and if it doesn't help, give me a ring!" There, good as a five-mile run.