Why is it that Greenland has ice, and Iceland is green? And isn’t it funny that the German word for cookies is Keks, and for cake it’s Kuechen?”
That’s what Scott Edwards told the teacher in our eighth grade class. Scott always had some irrelevant, but interesting information to add. His factoids weren’t things we learned about in class, or even needed to know. But all these years later, I still remember his facts. I even remember the name of the kid who said them!
Why do some ideas stick with us, and others we forget? I’m reading a book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, “Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die.” The ideas that we remember usually have some element of the unusual–they either surprise, shock, or excite us in some emotionally-laden way.
Humor can provide the vehicle for making our message, our idea, stick in the minds of our listeners. The element of surprise, the exaggeration of some truth, the outrageous contrast. We can make our ideas stick, so that people will remember our ideas and US years after we speak our message.
My SHINE System of communication is based on the fact that our nation (and world) has become so focused on efficiency and productivity that we forget to be human. We are skilled at technology, but we sometimes have a LOT of trouble dealing with people.
Yet as author Tim Sanders says in his book, “The Likeability Factor,” success in the workplace and in life is guaranteed by your popularity–how much people like you. He cites a 2000 study by Yale University and the Center for Socialization and Development–Berlin: “People, unlike animals, gain success not by being aggressive but by being nice.” When you can generate positive feelings in others, you become more influential, impressive, and successful.
This week’s tour in the Comedy Around the World stops in Nazarath, Isarel, where I volunteered on a kibbutz Ulpan (Hebrew language study). One of our supervisors was a peer who was very demanding, precise, authoritarian, and frightening. Even though she was barely 5 feet tall. We called her “the little monster”.
She was generally disliked and overwhelmingly hated. When she came into the factory where we worked, we would avoid her and hide behind the conveyor belts. We secretly hoped that she would give us a good shift–the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. Usually she did not.
On one of my days off, I took a bus to go into Tel Aviv. As I waited to switch buses, someone came up to me and said hi. It was the little monster. I braced myself for her words. But instead of saying something mean, she offered me some chocolates. I wasn’t hungry but I took them anyway–they were chocolate haystacks, what could I say, “No?”
I realized in that moment that maybe she realized how hated she was at the kibbutz. And I was impressed that she was taking some actions to change her image.
If the little monster can be redeemed, anyone can. Becoming likeable, says Sanders, is hard work. But when people see that you are making a genuine (not manipulative) effort to change, they will respond positively. Forget the LG and focus on your L-Factor (Likeability factor)! And “Get Your SHINE Together!”
World Champion speaker Ed Tate recommended to me the book “The Four Agreements.” In it, author Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how we can improve our lives. His message includes a point that I regularly make in my workshops: Don’t take anything personally.
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally….no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be.” Taking things personally makes us an easy target for predators who can hook us and then feed us the poison of their opinions.”
We shouldn’t take their words to heart. They may just be trying to be funny–or even not.
Case in point: Once when I was paying my bill at the vet’s office, the receptionist told me, “Trina I LOVE your new glasses. But I could never wear something like that, because my boyfriend already thinks I look like a dork!”
I could have taken that comment personally. I like my glasses, even if they are SpongeBob Squarepants Beach Fun. But instead, I chose to laugh at the absurdity of that sentence, appreciate her use of the English language, and then use it in my act.
She may or may not have had any malice behind her comment. It doesn’t matter–and that is the point Ruiz is trying to tell us. What matters is what WE do with the comment, how WE interpret that. And if we learn to see the world in a humorous way, even the worst comments can become something to laugh about!
The more that people see us laugh and not get upset so easily, the more we become a Shining Example to help others to “Get Your SHINE Together!”
Thanks to everyone who was part of the Live at the Latonia Friday Night fund-raising series. Tonight’s grand finale boasted me, Evan DeWitt and Auggie Cook. We’re not sure, but Evan may be the first ventriloquist the Latonia has seen in over 40 years! Thanks to all the volunteers, Sal, Mike, and all the camera and sound people, Linda and Roxanne, and the whole crowd of over 85 people (that’s the number; not their age). Everyone’s looking forward to another season of great entertainment. See you next Fall!
Live At The Latonia Friday June 27th, 7:30 p.m.
Hosted by Trina Hess
Trina is charming, witty and just plain funny. Sheâ€™ll lead you one direction and turn you around. Her understated style is delightful.
Ventriloquist Evan DeWitt
Evan DeWitt is a professional ventriloquist and has been performing since the age of nine. He has brought his unique humor to many audiences in the tri-state area in his 30+ years of performing. Evan has delighted a variety of audiences from Florida to Pennsylvania, giving him the experience needed to make your event a success. A range of characters and sketches provide assurance of your satisfaction.
Auggie Cook is a nationally touring stand-up comedian who has appeared on ABC-TV and A&E. He has worked with many well-known comedians, including Howie Mandel, Drew Carey, Robert Klein, Chris Rock, George Wallace and Rick
His quick wit, clean jokes, easy style and hilarious songs have been making audiences laugh since the 1980’s. He has appeared at major comedy clubs, colleges, private parties, corporate functions and dive bars across the country.
His first comedy/music CD was titled Cleveland S*cks, and included the single Brown Malibu. Auggie has appeared regularly on WDVE-FM, Pittsburgh’s #1 Rock & Roll station, where cuts from his CD have been played.
Tickets available at the Door $10. Thank you for supporting LIVE LOCAL, CLEAN COMEDY!
A lot of comics ask me how I can live without tv. “What can you talk about if you don’t have tv?” I have enough notebooks filled with material to tell me that there is a lot of stuff happening outside the tv screen. When we’re so interested in other people’s lives, we lose the awareness of our own lives. And then we of course can’t notice the humor in and around us.
We watch regular Shmo’s fighting with each other in their homes. Then we watch them being arrested by COPS. Now turn the channel and watch them tear down the house and rebuild it while they aren’t home. Now watch the weather in Kansas City. And now a cooking show with non-famous non-celebrities. And we are glued to the screen as someone is melting butter.
How can we be so interested in things that have nothing to do with our own lives? We can’t really laugh at something on tv, because it’s not of us. We weren’t there, we didn’t create the humor. We are merely spectators.
Of course when I ever get a Comedy Central or HBO special, none of this will matter and everyone will be allowed to watch…. But for now, let’s see if WE can be our own sit-com for the day. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, there are certainly people who can laugh at us!
TMI from Wikipedia:
Vaudeville was a genre of variety entertainment prevalent on the stage in the United States and Canada, from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Developing from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque, vaudeville became one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America. Each evening’s bill of performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts. Types of acts included (among others) musicians (both classical and popular), dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and short movies.
Though “vaudeville” had been used in the United States as early as the 1830s, most variety theatres adopted the term in the late 1880s and early 1890s for two reasons. First, seeking middle class patrons, they wished to distance themselves from the earlier rowdy, working-class variety halls. Second, the French or pseudo-French term lent an air of sophistication, and perhaps made the institution seem more consistent with the Progressive Era’s interests in education and self-betterment. Some, however, preferred the earlier term, “variety,” to what manager Tony Pastor called its “sissy and Frenchified” successor. Thus one often finds records of vaudeville being marketed as “variety” well into the twentieth century.
A descendant of variety, (c. 1860s-1881), vaudeville distinguished itself from the earlier form by its mixed-gender audience, usually alcohol-free halls, and often slavish devotion to inculcating favor among members of the middle class. The form gradually evolved from the concert saloon and variety hall into its mature form throughout the 1870s and 1880s. This more genteel form was known as “Polite Vaudeville.”
In the years before the Civil war, entertainment existed on a different scale. Certainly, variety theatre existed before 1860. Europeans enjoyed types of variety performances years before anyone even had conceived of the United States. On American soil, as early as the first decades of the nineteenth century, theatre goers could enjoy a performance of Shakespeare, acrobats, singers, presentations of dance, and comedy all in the same evening. As the years progressed, seekers of diversified amusements found an increasing number to choose from. A handful of circuses regularly toured the country, dime-museums appealed to the curious, amusement parks, riverboats, and town halls often featured “cleaner” presentations of variety entertainment, while saloons, music-halls, and burlesque houses catered to those with a taste for the risquÃ©. In the 1840s, minstrel shows, another type of variety performance, and “the first emanation of a pervasive and purely American mass culture,” grew to enormous popularity and formed as Nick Tosches writes, “the heart of nineteenth-century show business.” Medicine shows traveled the countryside offering programs of comedy, music, jugglers and other novelties along with their tonics, salves, and miracle elixirs, while Wild West Shows provided romantic vistas of the disappearing frontier complete with trick riding, music, and drama. Vaudeville incorporated these various itinerant amusements into a stable, institutionalized form centered in America’s growing urban hubs.
In the early 1880s, impresario Tony Pastor, a former ringmaster with the circus turned theatre manager, capitalized on middle class sensibilities and spending power when he began to feature “polite” variety programs in several of his New York City theatres. The usual date given for the “birth” of vaudeville is 24 October 1881, when Pastor famously staged the first bill of self-proclaimed “clean” vaudeville in New York City. Hoping to draw a potential audience from female and family-based shopping traffic uptown, Pastor barred the sale of liquor in his theatres, eliminated questionable material from his shows, and offered gifts of coal and hams to attendees. Pastor’s experiment proved successful, and other managers soon followed suit.
“George Carlin died today, how does that make you feel?” someone asked me today. Empty, lost, without a ‘leader’. I saw George Carlin live years ago, and he was of course funny. But many people in the audience were offended–not because of his foul language. But because of his political views. His scathing commentaries. His sarcasm.
He was only following the credo of comedy–shake things up, make people see from a different perspective. He was the original ‘think outside the box’ idea-man: “Why DON’T mice have shoulders?” As one of his CD’s describes him, he was “full of jokes, notions, satire, sarcasm, silliness, disturbing references, nonsense…This CD is a must for anyone with, or in search of, a sense of humor.”
Today I lost a fellow word-nerd, a cerebral contortionist of the classiest caliber. Whether you were offended by Carlin’s material, or inspired, he always made you have to THINK. And for that I say, “THANKs”.
This week’s romp around the World is only to Hershey, Pennsylvania, but with a friend from the other side of the world, Oz. No, not the one from Oprah’s show; my Oz is Turkish Cypriot.
We talked a lot during our 4+ hour drive about how funny her accent was, when she pronounced English words. For example, she says, ‘manipulative’ as though it has something to do with ‘money-pulative’. When I pronounce the word like Oz says it, to her it sounds so weird. She said, “I can hear that’s not the correct way to pronounce it. But when I pronounce it, I don’t realize it’s not correct.”
Lucky for us, we get along very well, and can laugh at our language mistakes. (She is very patient as well as entertained at my Turkish pronunciation, too!) Having a sense of humor is crucial in any type of learning, and especially in foreign language learning. When a learner isn’t afraid to say these new words aloud, he or she can more quickly learn the words. “Do it wrong, do it strong,” like my violin teacher tells me.
Oz says, ‘pajamas’ like they have something to do with pigeons. I say paJAMas. Of course I’m laughed at by those who pronounce it ‘paJAWmas’. I never realized until my 20s that the phrase, “It needs fixed” was grammatically incorrect! I know people (and I do it myself at times) who completely miss the ‘l’s’ in a word–they become a ‘w’. We all love the Steewers.
We could all easily be offended at someone’s laughing at our language–our language is US, it is our identity, after all! But when we can see how absurd we all are, and there really isn’t one correct pronunciation (unless you are British, of course), then we can relax and have fun with the language.
“Get Your SHINE Together”, ‘n ‘at.
A woman came up to me after a show and was very upset about my comments about starving children. She was outraged. She was offended. She was clearly upset. The thing is, I don’t say anything about starving children in my act. And clearly this woman was not a starving child herself. She was, in essence, offended FOR someone. Maybe starving children would have laughed at a joke about starving children, how do we know?
A friend of mine from Achilles Track Club, Rick Asselte, told me about the cancer patients who had made t-shirts with something like, “Powered by nuclear power.” The nurses at the clinic were upset, they were embarrassed FOR these patients. They thought that t-shirt slogan was unkind, thoughtless, and un-funny! But–the patients thought it was hysterical! They loved the fact that they were healed enough that they could laugh at their situation. And that laughter helped them to heal even more. Making fun of their situation, their medical needs, actually empowered them to not feel like victims.
That made me wonder why some people can’t laugh. They can’t seem to break free from whatever associations they’ve made about a certain word, image, or concept. They can’t laugh about it, because they aren’t able to see it from a different–funny–perspective.
But the fact that they are so wedded to the meaning and symbols of the word, the fact they are so emotional about the word shows that it’s even more important that they should be laughing. Humor’s surprise factor lets us detach from that emotional attachment, and gives us a new perspective on something. In a less offended way.
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