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President goes viral with sombre speech about laughter

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Johann Schneider-Ammann shows he's a laugh-a-minute. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
11:55 CET+01:00
Johann Schneider-Ammann, the current president of Switzerland, has inadvertently become a cult sensation with his straight-laced delivery of a speech broadcast to promote laughing as beneficial for ill people.

The film, shown by Swiss broadcaster RTS on Sunday, sees a sombrely-dressed Schneider-Ammann advise us about the therapeutic effects of laughing, without once cracking a smile himself.

The speech aimed to promote the annual Tag der Kranken – or ill-health day – a Swiss initiative which this year has the theme of laughter.

“The therapeutic benefits of humour are well-known,” says the president in all seriousness.

The contrast between the message of the video and the president's funereal delivery has certainly made people laugh – but perhaps not in the way organizers wished.

“Mission accomplished: you certainly feel better after listening to this,” said Belgian broadcaster RTBF, one of the many media outlets around Europe that mocked the speech.

“Gaze fixed on the prompter, serious manner, monotone voice... The president seems very depressed,” worried the French Huffington Post.

French TV channel Canal+ also waded in, mocking the president's choice of message.

“A cynical laugh that aims to deride someone is not good laughter, in my opinion,” says Schneider-Ammann in a particular clip picked up by Canal+ news programme Le Petit Journal.

“S**t. That's exactly what we are doing,” says presenter Yann Barthès, to laughter in the studio.

“He doesn't realize that he's made the funniest speech in the history of Switzerland,” adds Barthès.

The video also amused many on Twitter, who called for the president to make more speeches.

“I hope that Johann Schneider-Ammann has prepared a little sketch for International Women's Day!” said one tweeter.

Another, Martin Grandjean, tweeted: “Ladies, gentlemen, the president of the confederation (he's also available for weddings, baptisms and other festivals)”.

A Swiss initiative, the Tag der Kranken – or ill-health day – was founded in 1939 by a tuberculosis specialist with the aim of furthering understanding of certain illnesses and promote understanding between ill people and caregivers.

Each year it focuses on a particular theme.

“Laughter unites, it communicates, it brings moments of happiness,” said the organization on its website.

In this case it certainly has.

Story continues below…

“Despite your suffering, keep smiling,” Schneider-Ammann says in conclusion – without even a glimmer of a smile himself.

 

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