Tonight's episode of Iconoclasts (10 pm/ET, Sundance) pairs what might seem an unlikely duo: mind-body-spirit authority Dr. Deepak Chopra and Wayne's World comedian Mike Myers. But the two are actually longtime friends who share a passion for Eastern philosophy as well as an abiding appreciation for a really funny joke. Dr. Chopra took time off from teaching his "Secrets of Enlightenment" course and writing his newest book, Why Is God Laughing?, to talk to us about how a good belly laugh can make you not only happier but healthier.
TVGuide.com: In the Iconoclasts episode, you and Mike Myers talk about the connection between comedy and consciousness. Where did that concept come from?
Deepak Chopra: Mike is an old friend of mine; I've known him for over 10 years, and we've always talked about how one measure of your [level of] enlightenment is your comfort with paradox or contradiction or ambiguity. A sign of expanding consciousness is a loss of self-importance, which means that you can laugh at yourself. One thing that Mike said that is very beautiful is, "Pain plus time is humor." When you can look back at your suffering and pain with experience, you can transcend it.
TVGuide.com: During the episode, you two gave a performance at the Magnet Theater in New York, and when you discussed death, the audience all laughed. Why does confronting our own mortality crack people up?
Chopra: I made Mike look behind his shoulder. I said, "Look! Death is stalking you." And he looked. And I said, "Look again! It's closer." You're on death row; the only uncertainty is the method of execution and the length of reprieve. That's when they started to laugh. I said, "We're talking about death, and you guys are laughing!" How else do you go beyond? The only way to transcend tragedy is to laugh. I'm writing a book, a parable. The main character is a comedian: His name is Mickey Fellows, and he is covering up his existential distress through humor till he finds out that that doesn't really do it; it [only] masks it for a while. You have to go on a spiritual journey and really face the fact of impermanence. At the same time, Mike is producing a movie called The Love Guru [due next June] where he's wanting to be Deepak or whatever.
TVGuide.com: You're appearing in The Love Guru, aren't you?
Chopra: It's a five-minute sort of thing. I'm doing it as a favor to him.
TVGuide.com: Do you find that TV and movies are an effective way of spreading your message?
Chopra: It reaches a different audience — not everybody reads books; a lot of people who come to my talks and seminars now are a different demographic. It used to be women who were 35-plus. Now it's a lot of men, a lot of young people, who are very media-driven. I think we can reach a new audience. [Last December] I did The Colbert Report, and that got more responses than anything I'd ever done. They didn't expect me to be funny. [Laughs] I was going one-to-one with him, so it was a lot of fun. We got thousands of e-mails and it kept replaying on YouTube.
TVGuide.com: Do you believe that comedy has the ability to heal people?
Chopra: In 1995, the one and only time I was on Oprah, one thing I said — which is based on some research that had come out at that time — was that tears of laughter have a completely different chemical composition than tears of sorrow. Since then, there's a lot of research that says that when you experience peace or harmony or love, the body secretes antidepressants like serotonin, dopamine and opiates. The simultaneous secretion of these chemicals results in immunomodulation. It actually modulates the activity of your immune system. So laughter is definitely a healing experience, and we're not talking metaphorically, we're speaking absolutely literally. Laughter is one of the best medicines you can have.
TVGuide.com: In the Virgin Comics you work on with your son, you depict superheroes from diverse cultures as a way to bring the world together. What do you think of shows like Heroes?
Chopra: It's so funny you should mention that. I just spoke with Tim [Kring] this morning, the creator of Heroes. We're going to have lunch next week and we're meeting about just this very idea. [Laughs] We could create the Heroes club, where we have young people become members and we create new mythologies with transcultural heroes. We are the stories we tell ourselves — the world we see is our collective narrative.
TVGuide.com: Tell me more about your old friend Mike Myers.
Chopra: He has an insatiable curiosity. If you see only his public persona, you don't realize that he's one of the most articulate, most well-read, most well-informed people. He has found a medium where, through bringing the humor out in some very mundane, trivial [moment], he can give you sudden insight — which is brilliant.
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