|Video Snapshot of the actual comedy skit|
On 24 March 1975, Alex was watching one of his favorite television comedy shows known as The Goodies. This particular episode involved a kilted Scotsman's flailing away with his bagpipe at a vicious black pudding intent upon attacking him. Mitchell was unable to stop laughing, and after twenty-five minutes of uproar gave one last "tremendous belly laugh, slumped on the settee, and died," said his widow, who witnessed his passing.
While Mitchell had expired from heart failure, what felled him was not a classic heart attack, but rather the result of an unusual inheritable heart rhythm disorder that routinely takes the lives of even apparently robust 20-somethings. Mitchell had Long QT syndrome, an affliction in which the heart is prone to experiencing long pauses between heart beats, especially after instances of excitement or exertion. After such an incident, the heart resets itself after a few beats, but in some cases (such as this) the person is not so fortunate.
Historical deaths attributed to laughter
- Zeuxis, a 5th-century BC Greek painter, is said to have died laughing at the humorous way he painted the goddess Aphrodite – after the old woman who commissioned it insisted on modeling for the portrait.
- One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, the 3rd century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine to drink to wash them down with, and then, '...having laughed too much, he died' (Diogenes Laertius 7.185).
- In 1410, King Martin of Aragon died from a combination of indigestion and uncontrollable laughter.
- In 1556, Pietro Aretino "is said to have died of suffocation from laughing too much".
- In 1660, Thomas Urquhart, the Scottish aristocrat, polymath and first translator of François Rabelais's writings into English, is said to have died laughing upon hearing that Charles II had taken the throne.
- In 1893, Farmer Wesley Parsons laughed to death over a joke told in Laurel, Indiana. He laughed for nearly an hour. He then perished two hours after the incident.
- On 24 March 1975, Alex Mitchell, from King's Lynn, England, died laughing while watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, featuring a kilt-clad Scotsman with his bagpipes battling a master of the Lancastrian martial art "Eckythump", who was armed with a black pudding. After 25 minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died from heart failure. His widow later sent The Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments of life so pleasant. Diagnosis of his granddaughter in 2012 of having the inheritable long QT syndrome (a heart rhythm abnormality) suggests that Mitchell may have died of a cardiac arrest caused by long QT syndrome.
- In 1989, Ole Bentzen, a Danish audiologist, died laughing while watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beaten at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
- In 2003, Damnoen Saen-um, a Thai ice cream salesman, is reported to have died while laughing in his sleep at the age of 52. His wife was unable to wake him, and he stopped breathing after two minutes of continuous laughter. He is believed to have died of either heart failure or asphyxiation