Start Laughing And Get To Work!

Yesterday we talked about practical jokes.  And we got a couple of good responses from people who told of a prank in which they were the target.  Sometimes it’s even more fun to be on the receiving end.  It’s like being the guest of honor at a surprise party.  I say this from the perspective of somebody who’s been in that position a lot.  What can I say?  Sometimes I’m a little gullible.

But what’s the real value of practical joking?  Why do we do it?  More importantly, why should we do it?  After all, there are more productive ways to spend our time, right?  Well, yes … most of the time.  But we spend most of our day immersed in the realities of life.  Sometimes we need a little diversion.  Other times we need an explosion.

As a comedian, my job is to tell jokes.  I could just write the jokes and put them in this blog, but it wouldn’t have the same effect.  Print humor depends on nothing but words to get a response.  Onstage, I can use tone, inflection, facial expressions, and body language to fill in the blanks.  And the difference is pretty dramatic.

It’s the same with practical jokes.  You can tell a joke at the water cooler and people will laugh.  And chances are, they’ll repeat the joke to a couple of co-workers.  Each time, it gets a hearty laugh that lasts a few seconds, and then it’s over.  Sounds like some of my shows.

But when we play a prank on somebody, they’re not just a recipient of the joke.  They’re an active participant.  They see and feel every part of the joke without having to use an ounce of imagination.  It’s as real as the air they breathe.  They’re not just listening to the joke – they are the joke.

Another difference is that the water cooler joke is good for one shot.  You tell the joke, everybody laughs, and it’s over.  But people remember practical jokes for a long time.  And it doesn’t matter how many times they’ve heard the story, they’ll laugh every time it’s repeated.  The shelf-life of a good practical joke is pretty much unlimited.

There are very few people in this world who don’t enjoy a good laugh.  But if we sit around all day waiting for humor to slap us in the face, we may be waiting a while.  We have the power to make things happen, to change the reality that surrounds us.  Sometimes we need to grab the bull by the horns. 

And the thing is, we all need it.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  It’s impossible to laugh with somebody you don’t like.  Even if you didn’t like one another before, laughter changes that.  At least for the moment, you share an emotional response and a heightened level of understanding and trust.  Put enough of those moments together and you may actually become friends.

Now, let’s ask the really critical question.  Do you love your job?  Some people would say yes, but for most of us there’s a caveat.  After all, it’s hard to love working when you could be doing something else.  Do you really love your job, or is it just that this job doesn’t suck as bad as your last one?

So let me rephrase the question.  Do you wake up every morning and jump out of bed, filled with the excitement of knowing you’ll spend most of the day at work?  Do you zip through traffic on your way to work, not because you’re running late but because you can’t wait to get there?  Do you ever wake up on your day off and feel a little disappointment because you’re not going to work? 

If you’re being completely honest, the answer to at least some of those questions is no.  Hopefully you enjoy the work you perform.  But even if you do, there’s a reason somebody has to pay us to do it.  And that’s why they call it “work”.

The thing is, work doesn’t have to be a lifeless existence that we subject ourselves to for eight hours a day just to collect a paycheck.  As one reader pointed out a few weeks ago, even in a funeral home there are opportunities to lighten up and share a laugh.  And it seems to me that would be an excellent place for some practical jokes.  Think of the possibilities!

And the truth is, I think very few of us work in a place where we’d get fired for having a little fun, as long as we kept it within reason.  Most employers think about morale a lot.  Some even talk about it.  But I don’t think most of them know what to do about it.  If they knew how to have fun, don’t you think they’d be doing it?

That’s where it’s up to us to take the lead.  It may be as simple as some good-natured ribbing in the status meeting, or leaving a rubber mouse on somebody’s desk.  I once worked with a guy who fell to his knees and began praying like a televangelist over a piece of machinery that had stopped working (again).  “Cast out thy demons you wicked sinner and be healed!”  Don’t laugh.  If it had worked, I had a car I wanted him to meet.

Just once I’d like to see somebody walk through the office and bean a co-worker in the head with a Nerf ball.  Better yet, bean your manager.  I can’t think of too many people who would be offended at the gesture, and they’re certainly not going to get hurt.  Unless he’s a pansy, and then all bets are off.

Which brings me to my final point.  It’s only fun if nobody gets hurt.  There’s a time and place for everything, and we have to use a little common sense.  One time somebody smeared black grease on the bottom of my center desk drawer, thinking I’d get grease on my hands.  They didn’t count on me pulling up close to my desk and ruining a brand-new shirt.  Kinda spoils the moment, doesn’t it?

The quickest way to kill workplace humor is to have somebody complaining to the boss.  Ambulances and fire trucks have a similar effect, so keep it safe.  But that aside, most managers prefer to manage by exception.  As long as things are going smoothly, they sit in their office and plan next year’s vacation.  Their job is to keep us so busy we don’t have time to create work for them. 

The first time they step out of their office to the sound of laughter, they may not think much of it.  The second and third time, they may become concerned.  But at the end of the day, if the job is getting done and people are still smiling and working as a team, it’s hard to argue with success.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I hope a few bosses are reading this.

So as I’ve said before, if you work in a place where there’s absolutely no tolerance for fun and laughter, find someplace else to work.  Life is too short.  But if there’s some flexibility, some willingness to let employees enjoy the time they spend together, then have a little fun.  Get creative.  Make faces.  Lighten up and laugh a little.

And every now and then, include somebody else in the fun.  Laughter is best when it’s shared among friends.  Besides, if you do it right, next time they may come looking for you.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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About Health and Humor - by Dave Glardon

Dave Glardon is a writer, speaker, and stand-up comedian. He has written hundreds of articles relating to humor in our world, and has performed for audiences across the entire United States. In this blog, he shares his insights with the goal of helping you achieve a higher level of physical and mental well-being through a healthy sense of humor.
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9 Responses to Start Laughing And Get To Work!

  1. Jan from Montana says:

    Dave, some people DO love their jobs…honest. We do! Otherwise, there is no way in West Helena we’d work 24/7/365 for peanuts!
    We are ranchers; we raise the beef people eat; we don’t make enough money to pay the bills and eat at the same time…with few exceptions. But we are ‘small family’ ranchers, and our breed should be on the endangered species list.
    We keep going. Because we love what we do so much that it’s not work!
    Let me give you an example. Calving will start in a week or so; we have 130 cows to calve out. Those girls need checked every 3 hours right around the clock, and fed every single day. The cow/calf pairs in the barn have to be fed and watered (hand work there), the calf ear tagged and if it’s a bull calf, banded (that makes steers out of the bull calves), then the pens cleaned out. Everyone on the ranch gets put to work; even the youngest girl who is 12. If you can heft a pitchfork, haul a bucket of water or a few flakes of hay…you do it. And this goes on for a full forty-five days!
    And there is not one single complaint! Not one!
    We know that not everyone can, or should, do what we do. And yet, we feel very fortunate that we can do it. We enjoy it…even when we run on less than 6 hours of sleep a day…we like this life.
    And we are fortunate enough to know we are the privileged ones, who see life born, or life ended, but always experience life.
    Believe me, we laugh a lot too! If you can’t laugh when you’ve been ‘attacked’ by a 60 pound calf who has just butted you on the knees and knocked you over into a fresh pile of cow manure; you sure wouldn’t be ranch material.
    Our humor is of the more ‘earthy’ sort perhaps…but it’s sure there.

    • Jan, I guess you’ve made my point. There are people who truly love their work. As a comedian, I love my job. I wake up excited, and I’m watching the clock all day, eagerly anticipating show time. But I’m allowed to have fun at work. In fact, that’s what I get paid to do. It sounds like you folks have fun as well. And that’s the key to enjoying, even loving, your work.

      And yes, anybody who spends their day around cow manure needs to have a great sense of humor. I can see the potential for some practical jokes there as well. But it’s obvious you folks make the most of your time together, and take advantage of every opportunity to share a few laughs. If everybody could do that at work, or even just at home, we’d have a lot happier and healthier society.

      My wife and I have been talking for years about traveling, and we’re getting closer to making that dream a reality. I mentioned to her last week that I’d love to take her to Montana sometime. If you ever see a big red truck coming through the gate, don’t shoot. Who knows, I may even milk a cow!

  2. Jan from Montana says:

    Dave you would sure be welcome here! Only…we just raise ’em and eat ’em, we don’t milk ’em. Grin…
    Still, if you want a working vacation, I dare say we could find something for you to do…there’s always something that needs done.

  3. Hey Dave- Now you’ve got two Montana fans … Not many people can probably say that, because there aren’t many of us! Love your writing … Makes me laugh and think at the same time, which is nice. Come on up to Montana anytime for some pranks and laughs!

  4. Sharon says:

    Good advice, Dave. Humor has to be funny, not hurtful. I never understood Don Rickles.

  5. ButMadNNW says:

    “if you work in a place where there’s absolutely no tolerance for fun and laughter, find someplace else to work.”

    *nods* I worked there, for a year. It got so bad I was regularly breaking down in tears every Sunday at the thought of having to go to work the next day. So I quit, not knowing we’d just started a recession. Two and a half years later, I’m still looking for a new full-time “permanent” (as opposed to temping) job.

    But I at least found some freelance editing work with a psychology company (of which I was a huge fan for two years before they took me on), that knows the value of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. I’d gladly work there full-time, if only they were willing to import me to Scotland.

    • The Dreamer says:

      Hey just want to say our workplace got a little dull and pressure a bit too high at one point, people were being laid off left, right and center.
      I was having a couple of breakdowns a year… I have cried at home, in the office, even burst into tears in a shop once… Oh, and I drove a car into a ditch! (Oops, I meant my husband’s car!) There was very little humor left. But luckily that all changed and we got back our laughter. Things are still tough but the fun we have makes it tolerable.

      So I agree 100%, humor and laughter is the key! 🙂
      I hope you reach your goals and dreams, but I must warn you… Scotland rains…A LOT!!! 😉

      • ButMadNNW says:

        Doesn’t have to be Scotland; my goal is to be anywhere in the UK! 😉 And I can handle UK rain a lot better than I can Minnesotan snow*; I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I moved to California 3 days after my high school graduation, I swore, “Never again!” …And then wound up in Minnesota 13 years later. Oops.

        *Yes, I know it also snows in the UK, especially in Scotland, but the company is on the coast and doesn’t get as much snow for as long as the rest of the country. And even the entire UK can’t really hold a candle to a “good” Minnesotan blizzard.

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