Loretta LaRoche (Photo/submitted)
By Jane Keller Gordon, Assistant Editor
For more than 30 years, Loretta LaRoche, 78, has been helping people see life’s difficulties from a different side — one that’s funnier and less stressful.
An award-winning stress expert and humor therapist, she’s published nine books, including “Juicy Living, Juicy Aging” and “Squeeze the Day.” She’s appeared seven times on her PBS one-woman television show, as well as on CNN, ABC, and NBC. LaRoche has spoken here and abroad.
“My journey has been circuitous. I studied positive psychology, Buddhism, and Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy [a theory that is founded on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose],” she said. “I read Norman Cousin’s ‘Anatomy of an Illness.’ From all of that and more, I came to believe in the biology of humor. ”
LaRoche’s humor was evident when she was a child. She grew up a boisterous Italian family in Brooklyn. She described it as, “… like living in an opera. One minute we’d be laughing, and the next we were upset because the sauce wasn’t done properly.”
Initially, her path was traditional. LaRoche graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in speech therapy and communication. She married and had three children. Then she divorced in her 40s, and needed to find a way to support herself.
LaRoche took classes in dance therapy at Lesley University. She started teaching exercise to music, and noticed that people were laughing during her classes. She and a nurse who attended her class started teaching a humor program for nurses.
“It went on from there. I was like a dog with a bone. I had an idea, and I was going to make it work,” LaRoche said.
These days, she is finding a lot of humor in television commercials.
“I think Americans are increasingly uptight, and that’s why we’re seeing all these laxative commercials,” she said. “And what’s with bears jumping for joy over toilet paper?”
As for politics, she noted, “Thank God we have the court jesters to lighten the load… If you watch the news all the time, you’ll need to go on medication.”
LaRoche recommends a “news fast” once in a while.
“Don’t watch the news for a week. When you go back you’ll have a better perspective, and maybe your critical thinking skills will improve,” she advises. “You won’t let everything be rammed down your throat.”
One of her new projects is recording a jazz album. That’s how she met Kenny Wenzel, 76, her partner of seven years. She calls him her “boy toy jazzman.”
“He’s brought a lot of laughter and new ideas into my life,” she said. “You’ve got to bring people into your life who make you juicy.”
When it comes to choosing a partner, she added, “You can’t make a table into a chair. It’s important to make the right choices in life.”
As for aging well, LaRoche’s advice is to keep on exploring new things, and keep on learning.
“Continuation of learning installs neuroplasty,” she said, adding, “People need to realize that if they’re not dead yet, they should do something.”
For more information about LaRoche, and to see a list of her speaking engagements, visit her website at www.lorettalaroche.com.