Consumer Insights: Viacom International Media Networks’ ‘Power of Laughter’

by James Guerrier, Research & Insights, Comedy Central, VIMN


In its ongoing research into “The Power of Laughter,” Viacom International Media Networks offers an international perspective on the social and emotional benefits of laughter. The multi-layered, multi-territory look across 12 countries explores the impact of laughter on people’s well being, as well as how much more engaged audiences are when watching funny or humorous content. Thanks to an innovative facial scanner, GfK Emo Scan, that decodes subjects’ emotional response to visual stimulus by tracking intricate facial movements, this study was able to quantitatively measure the impact of laughter with moment-to-moment analyses. The findings reveal that laughter is life’s best medicine for the mind, body and soul, and that comedy boosts levels of engagement.

Key Findings

Laughter leads to happier, healthier, more sexually active lives and helps people maintain physical, emotional and social balance.

Physical Benefits:

  • 63% of “heavy laughers” describe their weight as “target weight”
  • Heavy laughers are also more likely to exercise compared to “occasional laughers”

Emotional Benefits:

  • Heavy laughers are 51% more likely to have a positive outlook on life
  • 37% of heavy laughers say watching a funny TV show improves their mood
  • Heavy laughers are optimistic, with 68% satisfied with their job and 72% excited about their future

Social Benefits:

  • Heavy laughers have 28% more Facebook friends than light laughers
  • Heavy laughers are 32% more likely to describe their sex life as “good” or “just right”

During and immediately after viewing funny content, viewers are more engaged.

  • Online facial coding tracked facial expressions of viewers who were presented with comedy content running into commercial breaks. This was done through a webcam at a rate of 10 times per second, registering more than 12 million emotional touchpoints. Based on facial coding, laughter has an immediate effect on viewers, not only boosting levels of emotional engagement with content but also with the commercials.
  • When ads were viewed after a piece of funny content,  viewers engaged with the ads more positively.


Funny content offers a halo effect beyond the featured content, into the ad break. Across the world, embedding your marketing message into or in-between funny content is an especially effective way to reach audiences.


This study is based on online interviews with 1,350 respondents across 12 countries, followed by lengthier online interviews measuring response to programming content and commercial block with 2,250 respondents in 9 countries.

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