Okay, for those of you who have noticed that some of my blogs have been getting longer, let me explain. For the years that I wrote my humor column, everything was geared toward a newspaper audience and I had to stick to a strict word count each week. We’re in cyberspace now, and I no longer have to share the page with paid ads and yesterday’s news. I’m enjoying this newfound freedom, so bear with me. I’ll try to keep it under control!
I write all the time about adding more humor to our lives, and it occurred to me that I haven’t really written much about how to do it. And I think that’s a huge obstacle for a lot of us, especially when the realities we face on a daily basis just aren’t that funny. In fact, some are downright depressing.
As a comedian, I love talking with my audience, both before and after the show. When people find out I’m the entertainment for the evening, their first question is, “Are you funny?” I always give the same response – “On a good night.”
Because the fact is, in live comedy anything can happen. Show me a comedian who can tell you he’s never bombed, and I’ll show you an egomaniac who’s in complete denial. It happens to the best of us, and it’s always out there waiting to strike again.
Why? Because when people plunk down their cash for the show, their enjoyment becomes my responsibility. In a matter of minutes, I have to read the audience and gain enough of an understanding of who they are that I can say the things that will make them laugh.
Because that’s the name of the game – “make me laugh.” And that’s okay in a comedy club where people pay for a night of laughter. But too many of us carry that attitude with us every day. When I’ve asked people why they don’t laugh more often, the most common response is “When I see something funny, I’ll laugh.”
And these are typically Type A personalities, people who go through life making things happen instead of passively waiting to see what comes their way. Here’s a thought. Instead of waiting for the laughs to come to you, how about serving up a few of your own?
“Oh, but I’m just not a funny person.” Yes you are. Go look in the mirror. You don’t have to tell jokes for a living to be funny. You don’t even have to speak. I know I’ve said this before, but try making faces like a three year-old. It works. Better still, make faces at a three year-old. Laughter is contagious.
Next time you’re in a crowded checkout line at the grocery store, have a little fun. Take a can of whipped cream, shake it up real good, pop the lid, tip your head back, open your mouth, and let ‘er rip! Half the people around you will be laughing hysterically, and the rest will run for cover. I’d pay to see that!
Not into silly antics? That’s a shame. So try another approach. We all know that nothing feeds the imagination like unexplained laughter. Think about it – you’re standing in a crowded elevator, and halfway to the top floor a guy in the back starts laughing for no apparent reason. What’s the first thought that crosses your mind?
So try it. Close your eyes and think of the funniest thing you can remember. Don’t hold back – let it go. As soon as you start to snicker, watch the people around you. They’ll immediately start moving away. Their eyes will be fixed on the floor counter over the door. Some may even protect their nose. If that doesn’t give you at least ten good laughs during the day, you really need help.
In a previous job, the company doctor gave a presentation on managing stress. He gave us all a Tootsie Roll Pop and a bottle of soap bubbles. His theory was that you couldn’t enjoy either of those items without an immediate reduction in stress, and he was right. Okay, so I needed a bigger bottle of bubbles. I bought the quart size. My co-workers always got a laugh when they saw the bubbles floating above my cubicle. Some days it looked like an episode of the Lawrence Welk Show.
But the best laugh came one day when my bubbles went dead. I dipped the wand into the bottle at least a dozen times, blew gently through it, and not one bubble was produced. I was dumbfounded.
Finally one of my co-workers said, “Well you’re a writer – why don’t you write a letter to the company and let them know about it?” That sounded like a reasonable response. So I did.
It was a respectable letter – more informative than complaining. “I bought your bubbles a few weeks ago, and they worked fine at first, but now they’ve gone dead.” Okay, if you’ve got half a brain, you’re already laughing. But I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. In my mind, I could imagine possibilities such as shelf-life, exposure to the air, or too much time under flourescent lights.
My co-workers waited until I sent that email, using my own name (thank you), then erupted into laughter. You see, I was the department’s practical jokester, and they were thrilled that they’d finally gotten one over on me. They had poured the soapy solution from my bubble bottle into another container, and replaced it with plain tap water. I wonder how long it took the people at the bubble company to figure that out?
Five years later, after I’d moved on to another job closer to home, that company hired me back as a consultant. As I was introduced to some of the new faces, someone whom I had never met before looked at me and said, “Were you the guy with the dead bubbles?”
And here’s the thing. It was a simple prank. It took two minutes of “company time” to set it up. Nobody got hurt, the price of stock didn’t change, and not one customer pulled their business as a result. Better still, I never did get a response to that letter. Yes, there is a God.
But the laughs we all shared from that one little gesture were worth more than we could ever know. All because somebody got a bit ornery and decided to have a little fun. So don’t wait for the laughs to come to you. Grab the bull by the horns and make a few of your own. But be careful – it’s contagious!
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon