The Quick 10: 10 People Who Laughed Themselves to Death

I think most of us have laughed so hard we can't breathe at some point in our lives, but these people took the mirth a step further: they actually stopped breathing. At least, that's how their stories go. I'll tell you the stories and let you decide if you think cackles can lead to coffins.

1. When A Fish Called Wanda was released in Denmark in 1989, a man named Ole Bentzen was so tickled by the scene where Ken gets chips up his nose that he laughed himself into oblivion. You see, Bentzen apparently had a similar experience around his dinner table when he and his family put pieces of cauliflower up their noses. The scene made him think of this cauliflower incident, which made him laugh so hard that his heartbeat allegedly escalated to between 250-500 beats a minute, causing a fatal heart attack. I believe this is the scene that did it:

2. Getting your pet intentionally drunk is rather cruel, if you ask me, but legend has it that it's been a pastime since at least the third century B.C., when Greek philosopher Chrysippus supposedly gave his donkey wine. When the bombed burro tried to eat some figs, Chrysippus laughed himself six feet under.

3. I occasionally laugh in my sleep (which really creeps my husband out), so this one hits close to home. In 2003, a man named Damnoen Saen-um started chuckling in his sleep. His belly laughs wouldn't stop, despite his wife's best efforts, and he passed away from what is believed to be either heart failure or asphyxiation.

4. In 1410, Martin I of Aragon apparently died of a pretty crazy combination: indigestion and uncontrollable laughing. I'm not sure how you would combine the two "“ I guess maybe he found diarrhea quite humorous. Then again, I guess a lot of people do.

5. If you're not familiar with British T.V., you may not know The Goodies (I didn't). It was a sketch humor-type of show written by three British comedians; it ran in the '70s and early "˜80s. In 1975, a bricklayer named Alex Mitchell was enjoying a skit in which a Scotsman, clad in a kilt and all, was fighting off a deadly black pudding using his bagpipes. It struck him particularly funny and he laughed for 25 minutes straight. His heart finally gave out and he collapsed on the couch, according to his wife. She later wrote The Goodies to thank them for making her husband's final moments so merry.

6. It's pretty hard to get snarky commentary in while you're laughing yourself to death, but that's exactly what Thomas Urquhart (a Scottish aristocrat) did in 1660 when he heard that Charles II had taken the throne.

7. In 1782, a lady named Mrs. Fitzherbert went out with her friends to see an opera called The Beggar's Opera. An actor called Mr. Bannister made his entrance in drag as "Polly," sending the audience into fits of laughter. While everyone else was able to move on and enjoy the rest of the scene, though, Mrs. Fitzherbert just kept laughing"¦ and laughing"¦ and laughing. She finally removed herself from the theater before the end of the second act and the Gentleman's Magazine reported the following week that "Not being able to banish the figure from her memory, she was thrown into hysterics which continued without intermission until she expired on Friday morning."

8. Zeuxis, a Greek painter, had just completed a painting of an old woman that he apparently found quite humorous. He laughed so hard at the depiction that he couldn't catch his breath and ended up choking to death.

9. Dirty jokes can kill you, people. Pietro Aretino, an Italian author, suffocated from the hysterics that ensued after his sister told him a dirty joke. Wouldn't you like to know what it was?

10. I think you can tell this one is urban legend for sure, but I like it, so I'm including it. A city slicker from Boston came down to visit New Mexico and wanted to show the real cowboys down there that he was just like them. He outfitted himself in brand new boots, jeans with creases still in them and a big cliché hat that clearly had come fresh from the store. Pecos Bill took one look at the guy trying to pass himself off as a real bronco buster and promptly guffawed himself into the Great Beyond.

When was the laugh time you briefly thought you were going to laugh yourself to death? I can't even remember I had one of those crying, hard-to-breathe gut-busters. I think I'm about due!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.


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