Psychiatrist subscribes to theory laughter is the best medicine

ENCINITAS — Medicine, comedy and yoga have become complementary for Howard Richmond of Encinitas, all part of his body-mind-spirit triad.
Richmond’s start in medicine came after two years of civil engineering, a field in which he didn’t find his calling. He then went to medical school at the University of Florida and settled on psychiatry.
“(Psychiatry allows) me more time to get to know people,” Richmond said. “There’s a story beneath the story. It’s about seeing how emotion hides, drives perception and how it doesn’t know the calendar.”
Richmond’s particular approach to psychiatry evolved from talk therapy and medication after an anorexic patient was not getting better. “I got up out my chair and laid on the floor and looked right up into her eyes,” he said. “She cracked a smile, giving me permission to use humor.” So began Richmond’s experiment with comedy.
Richmond believes that the act of laughing makes people more present. He not only practices the art with his patients, but with the general public via stand-up.
“In 1995, I read an article in the San Diego Union Tribune about a class at the Comedy Store in La Jolla,” Richmond said. “My heart started beating rapidly. There was fear there, excitement. Eight weeks in and we had to perform. I got some laughs and was hooked.”
Two years later, Richmond was set back by his inner critic. A night of few laughs left him shattered. Yet after his impersonation of a new age guru was well-received, Richmond gained the confidence to become the Comic Shrink. The name “integrates disparate genres, comedy and tragedy,” he said. “It’s consciousness with humor, (about) human foibles. I do things current, topical and do them through the lens of the Comic Shrink.”
If laughter is of the body and feeds the spirit, then Bikram yoga is the leg of Richmond’s tripod. “Especially with all the sitting and mental work I do, it’s been wonderful to practice the yoga daily and feel more grounded and present in the physical world,” Richmond said. Though his initial relationship with yoga was a struggle, he came to realize that when the instructor said to lock your knee, he had to unlock his ego. The shift was then made from survival to “thrival,” and Richmond’s general awareness increased.
As of July 23, Richmond has completed 454 consecutive days of hot yoga.
Yes, Richmond’s life reads like a bestseller, and it comes as no surprise that a novel is in the works. He also recently auditioned for his own show on the new Oprah Winfrey Network so as to reach more people. Though Richmond landed 26,669 votes, he was not one of the five online winners. “I put my hat out in the rain, and the journey was well worth it,” he said.
To see Richmond in one of his elements, check him out live at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at Ki’s Restaurant in Cardiff and visit http://comicshrink.com for clips.

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