In 1962, life in the village of Kashasha, Tanganyika (in modern-day Tanzania), was turned upside-down by an infectious epidemic. Countless citizens reported breathing problems and impaired physical and cognitive functioning, and schools were forced to close. By the time experts were able to pinpoint the cause of the condition, it had spread to the surrounding villages. For months on end, the nation was, quite literally, paralyzed by laugher. While the College has yet to experience such a debilitating epidemic, there are certainly a handful of individuals who risk infecting our community with their contagious laughs every day. In an attempt to keep the College safe, the Record endeavored to expose these individuals. Warning: If you are in a situation that requires maintaining minimal composure, avoid these people at all costs!
– Julia Davis ’14
Like many carriers of this insidious epidemic, David Zackheim ’12 was unaware of his condition until he came to college. “For most of my life, I thought I had a normal laugh,” Zackheim said with a shrug. “But I’ve gotten plenty of feedback that it’s extremely unusual.” In fact, it’s dangerously infectious. Zackheim’s laugh is distinctively high-pitched, shockingly loud and has a unique ebb-and-flow that resembles panting. When he was a Junior Advisor last year, his frosh never had any problem locating him. “My kids would find me in Paresky and be like, ‘We heard you from downstairs, and it sounded like something fun was going on!’” Zackheim said. While at a restaurant in Italy last summer, Zackheim was approached by a fellow diner. “This man came up to me and said, ‘My wife found your laugh really inappropriate, but I enjoyed it during dinner,’” he said with a (hysterically high-pitched) chuckle.
If Zackheim’s laugh isn’t contagious enough on its own, his girlfriend Lindsey Graham ’13 is sure to put everyone within a 100-yard radius in stitches. Anyone who knows Graham (who is currently studying abroad at Oxford) is familiar with her shockingly infectious chortle, which she described as “ridiculous, booming, somewhat musical and astronomically high-pitched.” Taken together, the attention-grabbing giggles of Zackheim and Graham raise quite a ruckus. When Graham visited Zackheim at the beginning of the year before departing for the UK, residents of Currier building were frequently awakened during the wee hours of the morning by noises emanating from Zackheim’s room – not the sultry sounds of canoodling but by the raucous rhythm of laughter. “She would just start laughing and then he would giggle, and it slowly would build on top of each other,” said Charlotte Kiechel ’12, Zackheim’s suitemate. “Needless to say, it was quite the way to fall asleep.”
The petite stature of Haena Lee ’14 belies the strength of her belly laugh. “People call me Count Chocula. My laugh’s like a deep-throated, “HA! HA! HA!” she said. “People like hanging out with me because I make them feel funny!” But while Lee’s laugh has won her many friends, it occasionally gets her into trouble. Lee described an embarrassing incident in a Pilates class on campus when she simply couldn’t keep the laughing bug under control. “It was really quiet in class,” Lee said. “My friend was doing Pilates next to me and farted. It echoed in the room!” Lee began laughing hysterically and couldn’t stop until the instructor reprimanded her. “She was like, ‘Let’s show some maturity!’” Lee said. “But I just couldn’t hold it in!”
You’ve probably heard (or at least heard of) Chelsea Boydstun ’15 and her contagious laugh – the high-pitched giggle that’s made her a dining hall celebrity. One evening, Boydstun was eating in Mission when a friend said something funny. As Boydstun recalled, “I started laughing and I couldn’t stop. Mission went silent – and then burst into applause!” And how did she react to such public accolades? “I mean, that was funny too,” she said, letting loose a signature chuckle. “So then I laughed even more.” I asked Boydstun if she planned to pursue a career as a television writer, a comedy club hostess or perhaps a professional canned-laugh recording artist (hey, it’s a real job!). “Actually, I’m pre-med,” she said. “I’m thinking of specializing in surgery.” As I stared at her open-mouthed, an involuntary giggle escaped her lips. And before I had time to flee, it had infected me too. As Boydstun and I sat in the middle of Paresky laughing hysterically, subtle smiles were creeping onto the faces of onlookers. A few of them began to laugh too. And at that moment, I knew exactly what I had witnessed – the genesis of a fantastic, debilitating and highly contagious epidemic.