MONTREAL - Ah, Vancouver. Basking in the glow of international attention as it prepares to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Little does it know there is a move afoot in Toronto to shanghai its worldwide sports thunder.
The Big Smoke isn't trying to get its own Olympics. City officials aren't even involved. But Albert Nerenberg, the producer-director behind the documentary "Laughology" is laying the groundwork to bring the World Laughter Games to Toronto next summer.
"We're actually hoping for a doping scandal," Nerenberg said in an interview as he prepared for the Laughter Games' dry run before a screening of "Laughology" at the Bloor Cinema on Saturday.
If it takes off, the games might be included in next summer's Toronto edition of the Just for Laughs comedy festival as an outdoor event.
Nerenberg got the idea for the Laughter Games when he was making "Laughology," which looks at why and how people laugh.
Noting a sudden rise in exercise techniques involving laughter to improve health and relieve stress, he figured the concept could be taken even further.
"Because laughter can be an exercise, it can even be a sport," he said. "Because it can be a sport, you can have the Laughter Games and why shouldn't Canada be the world leader?
"Seeing as we're hosting the Olympics, why not host the Olympics of laughter?"
But it's no joke - or at least it's not built around jokes.
The Laughter Games are fuelled by contagious laughter, an actual scientific term, as opposed to intellectual laughter, which is spurred by the mind recognizing something is funny and sparking a laugh.
Contagious laughter usually starts as artificial laughter but quickly turns to real laughter and prompts other people to join in as it spreads.
Nerenberg tried it out when he was filming "Laughology." He even did it in Uganda and Mumbai, where he happened to land as the city was gripped by terrorist attacks.
"Everywhere I went in the world, the game worked. I never got shot, nobody ever misunderstood my intentions though I laughed at complete strangers."
The Laughter Games won't last as long as the Olympics, which stretches for weeks. The laughter challenges actually clock in at 20 to 30 seconds each.
And there are several events.
One of the main ones is the "Laugh-Off," where two contestants point and laugh at each other, conjuring up the guffaws just by looking at each other and not through jokes.
"This game can be quite extreme," says Victoria Danyluk, the current Canadian champ. "People turn red, split their pants, and fall off the stage."
Book laughter is another event. Basically, someone opens a book, looks at it and howls.
"The person that makes the book seem funniest wins," said Nerenberg. "On Saturday, we're going to be using Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" because that's just great inspiration."
People will also compete to see who has the best evil laugh - such as in evil villain, mad scientist or, in a women's event, best evil witch laugh.
"These laughs are quite funny," Nerenberg said. "Even though they're technically evil."
Nerenberg said laughter games have been held in a number of other countries and noted that 500 people showed up to compete at a small event in India last year.
There are already a number of laughter groups of various types in Toronto and Montreal. Laughter-based yoga is taught in 60 countries.