This week’s Comedy Around the World goes to Chatauqua New York. Locale of the Bob Newhart show–at least it was last weekend. Seeing a refined, polished professional is one of the wonders of the world.
Here are 6 of the many reasons why I love Bob Newhart:
1. Not only was his timing impeccable, but he wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. During the reprise of his famous driving instructor bit, he asked if we could imagine the student as a woman driver. After getting groans from the audience, Bob said, “OK, I will be politically correct. It’s a Chinese driver.”
Everyone laughed. At Bob’s clever comeback. And at ourselves, for being so selectively politically correct. We didn’t just see a driver and instructor, but we saw ourselves and our prejudices more clearly.
2. In an era of humor = lewdness, lowered standards, and the reality-show mentality, Bob reminded us that comedy is a complicated craft, honed through years of writing, connecting with the audience, and refining the meaning.
3. “We hafta laugh at ourselves. People are funny,” he added, prefacing one of his bits. Ever searching for ways to translate daily life into comprehensible, clever comedy. Yet, without being offensive or hateful. Even while explaining how you know you’ve been robbed in L.A. by a Vietnamese gang: “Your dog is gone. But your kids’ math homework is done.”
4. Even though he’s a legend, he still makes fun of himself. Like his start in accounting, where he thought that getting sorta close may work in that profession. And, forgetting the name of the second firm where he’d worked, he added, “I’m 81, I’m allowed to forget!”
5. Bob Newhart knows how to set the tone for the show. His opening act was a jazz band that played smooth songs heralding that a classy entertainer was about to take the stage. He knew not only how to craft a good joke, he knows how to form the right milieu that will make his jokes work.
6. He’d played opposite Dean Martin. Guest hosted the Tonight Show for Johnny Carson many, many times. Created at least two excellent sit-coms. At the close of his show, Bob showed a video montage of his life and career. And he wasn’t bragging. He wasn’t showing off. He was merely telling his truth, in a likeable, credible, and—of course—fun way!
After playing a grueling 9 holes last weekend, I still have my sense of humor. That’s because even though it was at times unpleasant, painful and sweaty, I realized how much like life golf really is.
Look at it this way:
1. The rolling hills and dog-legs reminded me that in life, we sometimes can’t see ahead to the green. Sometimes we may not even know if we’re playing on the right fairway.
2. Even though it may be a sunny day there are still gnats, sunburn, and high humidity.
3. We can have the best strategy, the most expensive clubs, and a low handicap. But our total game will be affected by the slow players we have to wait 20 minutes for at each hole.
4. We will have bad shots. Missed putts. But if we dwell on them it can ruin the rest of your day. One golfer told me about his partner’s antice; ”You can’t do any better by storming around. And we had 16 holes of storming around.”
5. In life, as on the course, there will be cart paths that bounce in the opposite direction of our target.
How well will you play today?
And how funny is that?
Ever have those experiences where you feel, “I belong here.” You know, when everything feels just right. Comfortable. Effortless. That’s when you know you’ve made a change.
When you’ve found your “people.”
Until we grasp this sense of belonging, we are still in limbo. Not sure what parts or people we should leave behind and which we should gain. Because those communities of like-minders are the key to our successful transition.
But we can’t just seek out these communities. We have to let them happen to us.
That’s because when we actively seek places and people where we feel that “I belong”-ingness, we cement our identity to that, and only that.
That makes it so much more difficult to make changes when and where necessary.
Once again, the bedrock lies in keeping a humrous attitude. That allows us to just hold loosely. And go with the flow of where we may belong.
When I have followed my interests, I ended up belonging to many varied groups. My “groups” have variously included athletes, pianists, violinists, Toastmasters, comedians, pilots, academics, marathon runners, yogis, vegetarians, golfers, cat-lovers, dog-lovers, actors, Germans, Italians, Turks, travelers, hostellers, Facebook friends, social networkers, techies.
And the list will continue as I change interests, join another group where I belong, and in the process, change myself.
Humor is the hallmark. The overarching attitude that guides our belongingness, and guides us on our way through transition situations.
If we see our belongingness, our identity, as something fluid, we can jump into the flowing waters of change and maybe even have —fun.
Using quality, effective, accurate humor adroitly is hard to do. How do we do it?
1. Be fearless—venturing out into the unknown is scary
2. Be yourself—this may be even more scary than 1.
3. Be confrontational—of the status quo. You have to surprise, challenge and do differently.
4. Be light—if your intentions aren’t quality, your results will be muddy.
90 years ago, a group of women (and probably men too) followed all these tenets when they scored women the right to vote.
I attended one of the national celebrations of this ground-breaking event. The event was also part of a national book launch. In her extraordinary book, Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom, internationally acclaimed author and photographer Mary Ann Halpin brought together 40 female entrepreneurs from across the country to describe their gut-wrenching stories of obstacle-scrambling.
After I posted the event on Facebook, I got a comment. That women should do things they are “more suited for.” Like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children.
Railing against these types of stereotypes takes lots of energy. And, worse, it takes away from the fact that everyone can benefit from implementing the 4 steps listed above.
Everyone has some challenge area in her (or his!) life that can be bettered. If we stay locked in our stereotypical notions of what we personally, genderally, culturally, mentally, emotionally, fiscally can and can’t do, we’ll never make any progress toward meaningful goals. Those I define as goals that are meaningful to US, personally.
Next time you’re upset about a racial slam, a gendered comment, or a snide remark,
1. take a breather.
2. remind yourself that THIS is where and how all good comedy begins. With emotion. With a hairpin turn of our perceptions. With a different lens.
3. tell yourself that it doesn’t even matter what the offending remark was intended to do.
4. focus on the fact that what matters is what WE do with the offending remark. Do we let it remind us to challenge our own deeply-held beliefs?
What challenge can YOU apply humor to, today?
One of my favorite parts about connecting with fellow speakers and authors is the chance to collaborate. A few years ago, Sheryl Roush asked me to contribute to the book, “Heart of a Woman in Business” (www.HeartBookSeries.com)
Since then, I’ve gotten to meet some fascinating and inspiring people. Now YOU can meet them too, via mp3 download.
Just read Scott the Nametag Guy’s blog post. He’s giving advice to Gen-Y‘ers on how to be taken seriously by their elders at work.
His first piece of advice? Don’t take yourself too seriously. Sound familiar? Like something I’ve been writing about here since 2007 perhaps?
He adds that if you want people to take you seriously, “don’t just get over yourself – stay over yourself.” That is, don’t focus on being #1, being perfect, being the best, out-doing everyone else.
That mindset fuels perfectionism. And then—people are just waiting for you to fail.
Instead: Let your guard down on yourself. Give yourself a break. Relax, so you can just BE yourself.
But DO take seriously your values. Be consistent with them, focus on them, not on yourself.
Paradoxically, when we lighten up, we become a career heavyweight. Because our success and effectiveness flow more easily, and in the direction of progress.
What are YOU so serious about today?
Just got off the phone with Mike, the director of the YMCA. I told him about the membership I’d won at a Chinese Auction. I hadn’t heard from the event organizers, so I called Mike to see what to do.
He said to just come in and they can do all the paperwork. He didn’t even need to see proof of my win.
He explained, “In this day and age of not trusting, the Y trusts!”
I thought, “How unusual. How inviting. How much fun!” Just by doing, offering, being something that everyone else today avoids. What else do we actively avoid, besides trusting? Hoping for the best? Praying for a good outcome? Giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, instead of self-doubt?
Humor and it’s corresponding mindset drives us to see these out-of-the-way attitudes and behaviors. Teaches us how to perform them. How to shape our beliefs so that we can create something out-of-the ordinary. Something memorable. Something maybe even—fun!
We’ve all had those trips where everything just flowed. It was seamless, effortless. Things, people, events—everything went so smoothly, more so than we ever could have planned.
Last year I had this kind of trip when I went to Chicago. After getting the dates mixed up, I was left without a ticket for the Cubs game.
At one of the open-mic nights in town, I learned a lot. The owners of the club explained to me how to buy tickets, where to stand, where and when to get the subway, and how much to pay for tickets.
The next day, I did just as they told me. And it worked!
I got bleacher seats for 1/2 face value, and met some great Chicago natives there too. They invited me to one of the many after-parties outside the stadium.
I wanted a picture with my new friends. So I asked the first person I saw. Later, he invited me to see his son play at one of the local clubs later that night.
What I heard there was a young Tom Petty, with a typical-Chicago kindness. Dan Hubbard has some big news to share with you:
We are opening for Jack Ingram at the new Castle Theatre on September 26 in Bloomington. Jack is very well known, and keeps getting bigger, so this is a pretty big deal for us. Please try to make it if you can! I went and checked out the Castle the other day, and it is going to be awesome! You won’t be disappointed.
“So, just go here to the Castle Theatre website http://www.thecastletheatre.com/ and click ‘buy tickets’ next to the Jack Ingram event if you want to go.
We also just got our first album review for “See You Again” from SmilePolitely in Champaign. Go here to read it: http://www.smilepolitely.com/music/album_review_dan_hubbards_see_you_again_124/ ”
- Image by Jemal via Flickr
A big congratulations to former Clarion University wrestler Frankie Edgar, now UFC lightweight champion of the world!!
Edgar’s path dovetails into what I’ve been instilling in my blog entries, about the humor perspective. He says of his decision to attend Clarion University, “at the time I just felt it was the best fit for me. I went out there, enjoyed the [wrestling] camp, and decided it was where I wanted to do [wrestling.]“
His decision to compete in mixed martial arts followed a similar strategy. After watching a former Edinboro Univeristy wrestler compete on the reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter,” he decided on the spot he wanted to try that sport, too.
He was following what he enjoyed doing, what was—fun.
Thanks, Frankie, for not only making us proud, but for reminding us to:
1. be open to letting opportunities present themselves to us.
2. not be afraid to follow what we enjoy even if it seems dangerous
3. have fun at what we do!
always get me on track!
I spent today sorting through books, papers, forms, furniture, etc. as part of my post-dissertation cleansing ritual. A former classmate in my doctoral program shared her experiences with this phase of her life. She’d agreed with my blog post about feeling in limbo during a transition phase of our lives.
Even though neither of us know exactly what our next direction is, we are thrilled to be out of the morass that we had spent so many years, dollars, and brain cells on.
My strategy today during my cleaning and sorting frenzy wasn’t to move toward a goal. I just wanted to be able to see the tops of some of my tables and parts of the floor. No pressure.
And it worked. I even found my sister’s lunch card from 1975 stuck in a book about Vietnamese music. Ironic because neither one of us is Vietnamese, and I don’t think she went there in 1975 because she couldn’t even drive back then.
But my find did illustrate what we get when we keep a humorous perspective during transition situations.
1. We are more open to what can possibly come into our path. We don’t have a set plan, we just know we want to clear the clutter from our minds, and that’s O.K. too.
2. We allow our brains to make weird connections like with the lunch ticket. We experience surprises, like finding out that I had written a children’s book (an “illastrated” one, “for better readers”), titled, “The Cat With the Orange Ear.” I’ll post it on my Facebook Fanpage soon.
3. We give ourselves a break. Sorting through our pasts sometimes isn’t pretty. Our hands get covered with dust. Our backs ache under the weight of over-priced chemistry textbooks and impulse-bought end tables. But when we are feeling and living with a lightness, we can accept these pains, and move on. To another room of the house. And just as smoothly, to another stage in our lives.
What changes do YOU have to make today? This week? This year? How can humor help you through your transition time?
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