While I was researching how people reconstruct their identity after making a work transition, something funny happened. My participants laughed at what seemed to me like inappropriate times during their interviews.
Participants laughed while they described to me painful interrogations from friends and family. ”Did you find a new job yet?” ”Why aren’t you married yet, you’re so pretty?” ”Why don’t you just snap out of it, what are you so depressed about?”
Thanks for the support, people. I thought to myself, “With family and friends like that, who needs family and friends?”
After a long reconsideration, it hit me. They were laughing while they told me their narratives about work transitions BECAUSE they had made it over the hump. The big problem of career change mixed with personal life reconstruturing—it was laughable. And therefore, it was under their control.
No, the laughter wasn’t out-of-control. But neither was the situation. Even something as simple as a smile. Or an “ah-ha” at an irony that presents itself within a crisis situation. Anything laugh-related can loosen us out of our stupor and get us back to ourselves…
…Back to our identity; the identity of someone who is capable of acting in a new work role, in a new relationship, and a new life.
That’s what humor holds for us: a way to maintain composure in a difficult situation, so that we can begin to create tendrils of solutions. And then we can wend our way out of the crisis.
What’s so funny about Y.O.U.? (c)
1. Y.es to what’s happening now. Accepting the pain, the injustice, the uncomfortable-ness of change builds a foundation where humor can stack itself up toward the light.
2. O.wn your sense of humor. Don’t worry that you can’t appreciate a funny movie or laugh at comics. Seeing ANYthing that makes you smile or that points out contradictions can start you on the path toward in-controlness.
3. U.se humor to steer your next steps. You don’t have to throw off and forget all the pain you’ve just traversed. Humor helps you not only overcome the uncomfortable, but also incorporate its valuable lessons as a now de-emotionalized problem-solver.
The ability to realize, recognize and finally appreicate humor signals that whatever our problem or crisis was, we have overcome it. Change may still be happening, but at least we have started to get a break from it. A break that allows us to see more clearly and decide on a new path.
Who are Y.O.U. today? How funny is that?
Every time I see William Hurt, I like him more and more. I just watched him yesterday in “The 4th Floor.” The more I watched his stoic character, the more I realized, HE embodies HUMOR.
No, he’s not rolling in the aisles.
No, he’s not cracking jokes.
No, he’s not even smiling.
But what he DOES do is open up a world where HUMOR can thrive. Here’s how:
1. He is un-usual. His character is definitely not what we think of when we think of the status quo “actor.” He’s not one of those Lifetime-movie heavy-sighing, cat-fighting, back-stabbing actor (and those are just the love scenes).
Instead, the silence of his character lets OUR creativity roar. His minute, almost imperceptible facial expressions let US read into the story, let US make up our own minds about him, about his relationship to the other characters, and his level of guilt and suspicion.
2. He makes us wonder. He stands back and lets US figure out “the joke”, or the meaning of the movie. Not only that, but his complete lack of the lady-ga-ga-style over-the-top style that we’ve come to define as “entertainment”—that’s what makes him compelling.
3. He opens space. Like all good humor, he surprises us, catches us off guard, because he isn’t doing anything. He’s not flailing around, he’s not shouting, he doesn’t have a non-content-rich reality show. He doesn’t DO anything!!! And in today’s world of people who do too much, that is fascinating!!! It’s ground-breaking!! It is different. And we notice.
4. He is OK with what is. William Hurt embraces the quality of acceptance—one of the key components that makes humor work. He’s no Brad Pitt. He probably looks like your dentist. He doesn’t wear flashy clothes or talk in an accent. He doesn’t have abs.
You can imagine that this actor you watch on screen is the same one who would be taking out the garbage to the curb on trash day, going to PTA meetings, or balancing his checkbook. He simply makes a seamless transition to his career, which happens to be acting, the way people transition from getting out of bed and into their car to go to their jobs. This comfortable acceptance of himself makes us feel comfortable watching him. He is credible. That makes his characters credible. That makes me more interested in seeing what else he will (or won’t) do.
Is your humor style Hurt-ing anyone? I hope so.
Being yourself is very compelling. And you might even surprise someone…..
How funny is THAT?
Tell us more at www.HumorAcademy.com and then continue the conversation on Facebook!
I’ve put off writing this blog post for 5 days now. I intended to write it on Sunday, 9/11, to accompany all the other commememorative events. Maybe that’s a good thing, that I was able to focus on other, more enjoyable events and interests despite the sad day. A sign of progress, perhaps.
Or maybe it’s a bad thing, because I didn’t want to write it on that day and offend. But as all comics know, sometimes only the harsh can wake us out of our stupor and lead us toward enlightenment.
The memorial events of last Sunday were wonderful. They were prolific, they were many. A great thing, to be able to embrace our loss, grieve with others who are suffering, and honor the memory of those who were murdered.
But at some point, grief can cloud our judgment. Our progress. Our best interests. What’s appropriate? Equal parts grieving and action. Gives us perspective and focuses us on the path where we will do the best for ourselves and others. Keeps us on our purposeful way.
One of the students at a job retraining class where I taught summed it up this way. She explained her reaction to aggressive or verbally abusive coworkers. ”I can stand up to them. But first I have to go into the bathroom and cry.”
It’s been ten years, and we are still in the bathroom crying. What tangible action are we taking? What reflection on the other side of tears?
I don’t pretend to be a counselor or psychiatrist. I am only a comedian who understands that all our emotions must be expressed. Including the uncomfortable ones. Including—and perhaps especially—the ones that may offend.
Sometimes this facing of reality, acknowledging of facts (or at least seeking the facts) is the only thing that can truly and deeply heal us. The most complete way we can honor the fallen.
Let’s move ourselves into the laughter—into what I call the “humorealm”. Where we can find creative solutions, problem-solving, and ultimately, hope.
To the fallen.
To the tears.
Toward the laughter.
“If there are mistakes, they will be FUNNY!” That’s what my guest Lois Creamer, of BookMoreBusiness.com told me before last week’s teleconference with the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH).
What do YOU do when things don’t go as you’d hoped?
Punish—yourself or others?
Eat lots of ho-ho’s?
Luckily, as a comedian, I have a LOT of leeway when it comes to mistakes. I am expected to NOT take myself seriously. I encourage people to lighten up, to roll with the punches. But I still have a big stock of ho-ho’s on hand.
Because I too panic. That’s my first reaction when things don’t go according to plan. And I even have very very scantily-clad plans. Always. I remind myself to “expect nothing” and I try to remember the meditation articles I’ve read (if not put into actual practice) in my yoga magazines that I collect by the foot of my bed and in the bathroom. But, even with all these memory devices, I still want everything to go well.
And in our teleconference, at first glance, things did not.
Luckily we weren’t the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Society for Neuroscience, or the Society for Human Resource Management. We are the Association for Applied and Therapeutic HUMOR. In other words, we had a LOT of leeway to NOT take ourselves seriously.
The best thing about creative people like those in AATH are that we are experts at improvising. We’re skilled at and schooled in responding deftly with hecklers. We THRIVE on that type of interaction. So when things aren’t going according to plan, we jump into action. We feel right at home.
One caller put us all on hold. And we heard all about her company’s in-house pharmacy. At least twice or three times. While still trying to find out how to BookMoreBusiness from Lois Creamer. One of the AATh veterans comforted the apologetic caller who arrived back on the call. ”At least it’s good to know you have an in-house pharmacy.” I said, “Yes, we may need it after this call.”
Lois was right. Our mistakes WERE funny. In that easy atmosphere, we not only learned skills about how to BookMoreBusiness, we also retained that information, connected with the other callers, and maybe even spontaneously got some ideas to spur our business and bookings.
What do YOU do with your mistakes, missteps, misunderstandings?
Or do you LAUGH?
And then get on with your day?
To listen to our funny call, just go to AATH’s site and maybe YOU could join us and learn from the experts how to take things lightly!