The cost of laughter - what you have to pay for a rubber chicken, a singing telegram or a comedy club ticket - has gone up for a fifth consecutive year, says a California humor consultant.

Malcolm Kushner, a Santa Cruz, Calif., attorney-turned-consultant who tracks the price of laughter-evoking gadgets and events, said Wednesday that the cost of laughter rose 4.5 percent over the past 12 months.Kushner's fifth annual list of 17 humor indicators showed only one lower-priced item. The newsstand price of National Lampoon dropped by $1, down to $2.95.

Rubber chickens, available at a novelty company in New York, held steady at $57.60 a dozen.