07/29/2014 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can Smiles and Laughter Change the World?


I have a dream, perhaps naïve, of bringing the world together through smiles and laughter. Religion, diplomacy and democracy haven't succeeded so maybe it's time to focus on something more universal. And that is why I launched the first annual Funniest Person in the World Competition.

After 35 years in the comedy business, just imagining this possibility -- of seeing funny people from all the countries of the world coming together to make people laugh -- brings a smile to my heart. In addition of course, there is the possibility of enlightening each other.

We see this at the Olympics and the World Cup. All the nations put their differences aside, even if it's only for a few hours, to compete. It's not about our differences but about our love and appreciation for athletic achievement. Could a love of smiling and laughing accomplish this same goal? I believe if we all learn to laugh together we might become a more unified planet. Remember, the Olympics started in 1896 in Athens Greece, and the World Cup started in1930 in Uruguay, and the World's Funniest started in 2014 in the World Wide Web.

Laugh Factory has already received submissions from 20 countries -- ranging from South Africa and England to Ireland, and Sweden to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Israel --- and anybody with internet access can vote for their favorites at

Too often we teach our children about the negatives in the world and how it comes from our differences. This focus on what separates us tends to foster fear and hatred towards people who are not "like us." However, the people of the world are really similar, especially when they are smiling and laughing.

I have seen it happen. People of all different races, religions, countries, and cultural backgrounds come to the Laugh Factory and regardless of how they feel about each other, once the show starts, suddenly they laugh in unison. All their differences seem to disappear during the show. If only we could see this level of unity and smiling at the United Nations the world would be a better place for everybody.

It is my hope, that by the time the competition enters its fifth year, representatives from each of the world's 195 countries will eventually submit to be part of this yearly global competition.

Laughter is a universal language. This is a chance to find alternative ambassadors, the kind that bring diplomacy through a belly laugh. After all, laughter exists everywhere within the confines of culture and traditions. Laughter based on observations , laughter that acknowledges the gap between ideals and realities and laughter at the stereotypes -- as well as the oddballs -- of the culture, any culture, every culture.

As the famous lyric assures us, "when you're smiling the whole world smiles with you."