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February 23, 1976

Risk Factors and Risqué Humor

JAMA. 1976;235(8):847-848. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260340053027

Prohibition in any form, be it the sixth commandment, the governmental ban on sale of alcoholic drinks, or the medical proscription of cholesterol-rich foods, stokes the furnaces of humor. Restrictions, particularly medical enjoinders, generate jokes. Some, like Mark Twain's memorable: "It's easy to give up smoking. I did it hundreds of times" have become classics of the stage comic. Others, among them jests about fat women cheating on their diet, are best forgotten.

One of the less memorable jocular takeoffs on a medical restraint occurred recently when a renowned television emcee based his humor on the risks of sexual activity after myocardial infarction. The speed—a matter of hours—with which the television program followed the presentation of a paper on this topic at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association attested to the popular interest in matters pertaining to heart disease. Whether the humor was in good taste is, of