5 Examples Of Death By Laughter

On September 25, 2014 by Tim Newman

Death by Laughter - Cheshire Cat

Death by laughter isn’t a particularly common way to go, but it has been recorded a handful of times throughout history , so it’s worthy of mention. I started thinking about this method of dispatch after writing about Chrysippus, he died whilst laughing at a donkey being fed figs and wine. I wondered if there were anymore who’d gone the same way.

Death through hilarity is generally due to asphyxiation or heart attack, but can also be due to an underlying problem that causes excess laughter like an infarction of the pons and medulla oblongata. However, it’s the first two reasons that are most common.

You’ve got to go at some point, so dying of laughter might be one of the nicer ways to go. If I could choose though, I would be smothered by a kebab whilst swimming in a vat of cider.

Here are five characters who’ve fallen foul of mirth:

Zeuxis – 5th Century BC

Death by Laughter - Victor_Mottez_zeuxis

Zeuxis was a Greek painter who, if legend be believed, was pretty darned awesome at painting. Unfortunately none of his work has survived to the modern-day, but according to one source, during a painting competition, the grapes he painted were so realistic that birds flew down and began pecking at them. Yeah, right.

Zeuxis eventually kicked the bucket whilst in the process of painting Aphrodite. The woman who had commissioned the painting insisted on being the model for the painting, Zeuxis found the painting so hilarious that he keeled over and died laughing at it. It’s the model I feel sorry for.

Martin Of Aragon – 1410

Death by Laughter - Martin of Aragon

Also known as Martin the Humane, the Elder and the Ecclesiastic; he was King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia and Corsica and Count of Barcelona from 1396 and King of Sicily from 1409. A busy boy basically.

Martin had eaten an entire goose and was suffering from indigestion, as you might expect. He was in his bedroom trying to shift the pain when his favourite jester – Borra – entered to entertain him, and entertain him he did, a little too well. According to legend Martin asked him where he’d been and he replied…

Out of the next vineyard, where I saw a young deer hanging by his tail from a tree, as if someone had so punished him for stealing figs.

Martin was incandescent with guffaws and promptly keeled over and died. Humour does seem to have changed over the years hasn’t it?

Pietro Aretino – 1556

Death by Laughter - Pietro Aretino

Pietro Aretino was a real character by all accounts. Among other things he was an author, playwright, poet, satirist, and blackmailer of the rich and famous. He is also credited with inventing “modern literate pornography“.

He was a loud and proud bisexual who caused a right royal stink in the upper echelons of society. He was a hanger-on and despite being of lowly birth managed to surround himself with the posh folk who he then rinsed of their cash…

If you want to annoy your neighbors, tell the truth about them.

The story goes that he died of “laughing too much”, but I can’t seem to find much out about the joke that finished him off I’m afraid.

Thomas Urquhart – 1660

Death by Laughter - Thomas Urquhart Charles II

Urquhart was a Scottish smarty pants who knew multiple languages and was a dab hand at mathematics. He translated manuscripts and released papers on maths. His father left him with a big estate which ended up being a bit of a pain as he was hassled by creditors throughout his early life.

He eventually found himself captured by Royalists and spent some time imprisoned in the Tower of London and later Windsor, before being paroled by Oliver Cromwell.

When Urquhart heard the news that Charles II (pictured) had been restored to the throne, he laughed so heartily that he kicked the bucket. Well, he has got a pretty funny hairdo.

Alex Mitchell – 1975

Death by Laughter - The Goodies

Mitchell, from King’s Lynn, England, was watching the episode of The Goodies that involved the “Kung Fu Kapers”. Mitchell found the Lancastrian martial art of “Eckythump” (which utilised black pudding) so hilarious that he laughed non-stop for about 25 minutes. He finally slumped over on the sofa and died.

His wife wrote a letter to The Goodies thanking them for making his last few moments on earth so joyful. After a medical investigation of his granddaughter in 2012 it turned out that Mr Mitchell had long QT syndrome meaning that his dicky ticker was always going to be a little spazzy and unreliable.

So there we go, death by laughter does seem to happen on occasion. There’s worse ways to go I guess.






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