One person lies on the floor, facing the ceiling or sky.
Second person lies down at right angles to the first person, resting their head on the first person’s stomach.
Continue this set-up until everyone is lying on the stomach of another person.
Instruct the first person to call out a loud “HA.”
Then, ask the second person to call out “HA HA,” and then the third person to call out “HA HA HA” and so on down the line.
The object is to continue this sequence of each successive person adding one extra ”HA” to their call, without anyone else laughing.
If the sequence of “HA”s is interrupted, or someone laughs out of turn, start over.
How To Play Narrative
Start by asking one person to lie on the ground, facing the ceiling or sky. If your space is limited, it is best to place this person somewhat towards a corner or wall.
Now ask for a second person to lie down at right angles to the first person, placing their head on the first person’s stomach, ie given a bird’s eye view, their bodies should form a T shape.
Then, a third person lies down, resting their head on the second person’s stomach, and so on it goes, until you have formed one continuous line of bodies.
Even at this stage, people are likely to be laughing, but here comes the fun bit.
The first person is instructed to call out “HA,” as in the jocular “ha ha ha.” Immediately, the second person calls out “HA HA” (that is, two HA’s), and then the third person issues a “HA HA HA,” and I think you get the idea.
With groups of 10 or more people, you can soon expect this ripple of jocularity to reverberate all over the place, and typically, not in sequence.
The effort required from one’s diaphragm to issue forth a “HA,” or better still, a “HA HA HA HA HA…” will cause the head of the person lying on it to bounce about, setting off this person to laugh uncontrollably because it’s such a weird sensation.
The more one person laughs, the more reason the person lying on this person’s stomach is compelled to laugh, and so it goes on down the line.
The ‘official’ objective is to make it all the way down the line calling out the “HA”s in sequence without stopping and, importantly, without anyone else laughing out of turn.
Yeah, good luck with that!
When the sequence of “HA”s is interrupted or someone laughs out of turn, wait for the laughter to subside and start over.
Practical Leadership Tips
For obvious reasons, you must seriously consider your sequence before introducing this very fun exercise. Lying on the stomach of another is not something that people do everyday, and so prepare your group emotionally and physically well in advance before trying it.
Although I’ve described the formation as a ‘line,’ it is possible to create a square or circle almost – it all depends on the direction people lay their bodies in relation to their neighbours.
For the record, it is rarely possible for the sequence of “HA”s to get all the way to the last person lying on the floor without some jocular interruption. But, this was never really your goal, right?
Probably best performed before your group enjoys a big meal.
You could integrate the Ha Ha Ha Game as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to wait your turn and laugh the requisite number of times may speak to the benefits of being mindful (ie present in the moment,) but I wouldn’t stretch this idea too far.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which the Ha Ha Ha Game could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Form A Cross: You can place two people’s heads at right angles off one person’s stomach, forming a cross of sorts.
Large Group Reset: For large groups (ie more than 15 people,) either split into smaller groups or suggest that as soon as the group gets to (say) “HA HA HA HA HA” the next person returns to one “HA.”
Tongue Twisters: Invite people to recite some nonsensical tongue twister such as “UNIQUE NEW YORK” to produce even more side-splitting jolliness. Hehehe, I just laughed typing it!
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Useful Framing Ideas
I have attempted this next exercise with many groups, and to this date, not one group has managed to get through one full round in perfect condition. Admittedly, every group has loved their attempt, but that’s the problem – they love it too much, and their obvious enjoyment has gotten in the way of successfully completely the exercise. Let’s see if you folks are up for the challenge…
Have you ever noticed that as soon one person starts to laugh uncontrollably, it’s not only hard for them to stop, but the laughter becomes contagious? Well, this next exercise celebrates this phenomenon…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this hilarious, small group stunt:
How did it feel to lie on the stomach of another person?
What caused you to laugh?
Were you laughing at yourself, or at others?
Is it okay to laugh at others? When and why?
Why are certain bodily functions contagious, eg yawning, laughing, etc?
The inspiration for Ha Ha Ha Game (aka Don’t Laugh At Me,) and many more fun group energisers, was sourced from the following publication (now out of print:)