LAUGHTER THERAPY: Mandy Nolan brings laughter to dementia patients.
LAUGHTER THERAPY: Mandy Nolan brings laughter to dementia patients.

Byron comedian stands up for dementia patients

THE expression "laughter is the best medicine" might be a cliché but clichés are called such because they are true.

Comedian Mandy Nolan is no cliché - she is one of the most unique women we've encountered - but she uses the cliché of laughter as the best medicine in her approach to helping people with dementia. .

"The project is called Stand Up for Dementia," she said from her home in Byron Bay.

"It is a comedy workshop I developed about eight years ago."

The program involves role-playing with dementia patients and Mandy says she sees amazing results.

"Stand Up for Dementia is about role-playing with props," she said. "We work in groups, for about an hour and a half for six to eight weeks.

"By the end people will be performing, doing small improvising with each other. It is play. People become uninhibited. They laugh all the way through it."

Mandy developed the program after thorough research into the therapeutic benefits of humour therapy.

"People with dementia don't get their memories back, obviously, but for me what I am passionate about is working with them to bring laughter, to enrich them.

"We need more funding for resources for projects such as Stand Up for Dementia. We need money to enrich people's lives when they are in throes of dementia, not just for research to ward off dementia.

"We need to give them (dementia patients) meaningful days, experiences while they have dementia. Funding for that gets forgotten."

Mandy not only brings the gift of laughter to dementia patients, but to everyone she meets in the course of her work as comedian, author, presenter, blogger, columnist, social commentator and facilitator.

She even holds workshops teaching others how to become comedians.

"I have taught more than 1000 people stand-up comedy already," she said. "I teach the techniques of how to do it."

Her one-woman shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival have all been hits.

Mandy has also written three successful books (Home Truths, Boyfriends We've All Had, What I would Do if I Were You) and writes regular soapbox columns for her local paper (in the Byron shire) as well as on-line magazines and blogs.

She is intelligent, astute and always engaging.

"Comedy is not just about laughing," she said.

"When people come up to me after a show and say 'oh, that is so true' about something I've talked about, I feel really happy that I've connected, that I have led them down a path they relate to themselves.

"Comedy is a bit like being an anthropologist, a David Attenborough, you start observing behaviours, your own behaviour.

"You look at it like you've never seen it before. The mundane, the repetitive behaviours ... things like changing the toilet roll - something everybody has to do - can become humorous because it is a shared experience."

Mandy is writing another book which promises to be full of her unique insights.

"I am a feminist but I have a funny way of looking at feminism," she said. "We have moved towards a world of Botox and eating disorders and anti-ageing and there has been so much talk about it, a lot of which women find too academic or boring.

"I want to write about it, but in a way that is comedic and fun but with a lot of research, asking why there is so much talk about body image, why women are still left in the kitchen scrubbing pots."