The man who died laughing at the Goodies
24th March 1975

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The Goodies were comic geniuses, of that there is no doubt. While never as fêted as their predecessors at Monty Python, their blend of irreverent slapstick and sharp writing made them hugely popular throughout Britain, without ever achieving the overseas acclaim granted to Python.

In one place in particular, the Goodies surpassed all other forms of entertainment: the front room of Alex Mitchell, a bricklayer from Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Mr Mitchell never missed an episode of the show, but his indulgence in its wit was to prove fatal one night in March 1975.

That night saw the debut of a new character who practiced Ecky Thump - a northern martial art in which the combatant was armed with a black pudding. In one sequence, a Scotsman defended himself against the black pudding onslaught with his bagpipes. The scene was naturally funny, and soon Mitchell was convulsed with laughter on his sofa.

Minutes passed, but the laughing fit didn't. Each new scene brought on new waves of laughter.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Mitchell, however, he was suffering from a rare medical condition long as Long QT Syndrome. This can cause irregularities in the heartbeat under conditions of sustained stress. Extended laughter is - as anyone who was remorsely tickled by an evil uncle can attest - quite an exertion, and in Mr. Mitchell's case it soon became unbearable. 

Uncontrollably laughing, his body overrode the usual functions of his heart and brought on a fatal Lonq QT attack. According to his wife, he gave a final "enormous belly laugh" and then died. Later, she wrote to the Goodies to thank them for making her husband's final moments so happy.

For many years it was believed that Mr Mitchell had simply had a heart attack, but in 2012 his grand daughter had a similar brush with death and was diagnosed with the rare hereditary condition.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 16th October 2014 | © Weird Island 2010-2021
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