Laughter is the Best Medicine

Prevent Hardening of the Attitudes with Humor: Joel Goodman at TEDxAlbany 2011

thank you thank you and good morning I am delighted to be here and the whole notion of TED ideas worth spreading the idea I'd like to spread this morning is we should be serious about humor now that may be oxymoronic wisdom but I'm really serious and passionate about it how do I know it well I know it from our Bombeck dear old Erma who said when humor goes there goes civilization and in ain't that the truth I think if our species is going to survive humorous can be god-sent we as human beings need to give one another I also learned this from John F Kennedy who said there are three things which are real God human folly and laughter the first two are beyond our comprehension so we must do what we can with the third and that's what I've been doing for the last 35 years taking look at working with and playing with humor and makai named Joel Goodman quote that says seven days without laughter makes one week how do we strengthen ourselves with the positive power of humor well I encourage us to embrace the humor that's all around us and within us I've got a great example of that number of years ago our organizations international conference had a woman named Linda Brandenburg come from Valdez Alaska and at the conference Linda gave me this very simple bumper sticker we're all here because we're not all there evidently some of you can identify with that sentiment what do you do when you're not all here humor is a great way of bringing us into the here now which is where we experience joy and laughter and faith and will to live and we need it our assistant had up on her door a couple years ago this little sign life is a test it is only a test if this had been your actual life you would be given better instructions you know life has a way of giving us pop quizzes when we least need them or want them or expect them how do we take the pop quizzes that life tosses in our path humor can be the ace up our sleeve sometimes it starts early came across this prayer some of you again might identify with it dear God so far today I've done all right I haven't gossiped I haven't been losing my temper I haven't been nasty greedy grumpy selfish or overindulgent I'm very thankful for that but in a few moments I'm going to get out of bed and from then on I'm going to need all the help I can get how do we literally and figuratively rise to the occasion to take on the day ahead of us humor can help us lift our spirits to take on those challenges up ahead the last couple years have not been a laughing matter in terms of our economy and the global economy how do we take that on I got a great example from Mac McGinnis from Indiana one of his buddies open up a new branch office and to help him celebrate Mac had a local forest deliver some flowers to the new branch office went to visit his buddy and was delighted to see this beautiful arrangement adorning one of the desks but he became a little bit distressed when he noticed that the card accompanying the flowers had on it the words rest in peace which is obviously the wrong message so Mac makes a beeline back to the florist fade quickly thanks sir for the pretty flowers but then proceeds to chew her out for an eternity about the totally inappropriate message after hearing this guy rant and rave forever the florist turned to him with a twinkle in her eyes and said very simply Oh sir don't worry just think somewhere today in this city somebody was buried beneath some flowers that read good luck in your new location so whether you six feet over six feet under or somewhere in between you miss a great way of helping us create our own good luck in whichever location we find ourselves let me check on your location by show of hands how many of you could have used in another hour's sleep last night okay how about two more hours three what do you do when you start at 9:00 sharp and end at 5:00 doll humor great wake-up call great way giving ourselves a shot in the arm how many of you ever experienced stress in life and how many are too stressed to raise your hand how many of you would say you have a good sense of humor when I see your hands half-decent would count I've got a couple more takers with that escape clause how many of you ever have difficulty remembering jokes okay look if your response to these two questions I'd say about eighty eight point two percent of you indicate you have at least a half-decent sense of humor 98.4% indicate can't remember joke to save my life one of the misconceptions misconceptions that I like to puncture about humor is that humor doesn't equal only joke telling in fact when I go into a serious corporation or hospital or school system and they hear that I'm doing a program on humor some people think I have the message that all of you should become stand-up comedians on the job or in your life that ain't my message although transmitting humor jokes is one way of going it's not the only way in fact there are thousands ways of inviting smiles in our life and work and they come in different flavors so I encourage you to broaden your perspective what humor is what it could be it certainly includes stroke telling it goes way beyond in fact I think it's much more important than mere joke telling humorous that attitude it's a perspective it's a way of dancing with life so that we can prevent a hardening of the attitudes now how do you do it well I've learned a lot from a guy named Steve Allen who I think is one of the great Renaissance men of the 20th century the founder of the Tonight Show in the Guinness Book of Records for having created over 7,000 songs the author of 50-plus books we had the great good fortune to have Steve Allen at our international conference where he set these words nothing is quite as funny as the unintended humor of reality let me say it again nothing is quite as funny as the unintended humor of reality in other words the best comedy writers in the world are not those people getting two hundred thousand bucks a year to do it it's good old reality that does it for all of us for free humor is the best reality show alive if you want to develop your sense of humor if you want to spread serious humor in your life and work with the Steve Allen principle into practice for five minutes a day looking for humor around you if you do you'll come across gems like this Susan Davis took one of my graduate courses on this serious subject and she came to class one day and said I've got a good example of Steve Allen principle she'd seen a sign in front of a local church announcing two services for that particular Sunday the 9:30 a.m. service had the theme Jesus walks on water the five o'clock service had the theme searching for Jesus now without being disrespectful you know sometimes life throws the juxtaposition right in your lap you can't hardly miss it those of you who are parents or grandparents or teachers know that out of the mouths of babes come some jams the Steve Allen principle is alive and well there one little girl tells us when your mom is mad at your dad do not let her brush your hair some of you have been on one net another brush or the other there what are we going to Antarctica a number of years ago where I had the chance to speak on my seventh continent we're crossing the Drake Passage and I got to thinking about the kid who informed us Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper just the image alone is worth the price of admission right humor is alive and well even in especially in serious places like hospitals now in the days before Google became a verb we'd get about fifty thousand letters a year at the humor project from people all over the world saluting the humor flag one of them came from a nurse in a hospital who told us that somebody had posted an article at their nursing station that said recent research shows that the first five minutes of life are very risky now statistically we know that's true evidently one of our co-workers had penciled in the words the last five minutes aren't so hot either and ain't that the truth and of course it's what we do in between the first five and last five that makes all the difference and that's where humor can make a powerful delightful difference what else is serious in life well relationships even our language predisposes us when two people start going together we say things like are John and Mary getting serious about each other wonder what would happen if we switch that around and said or John and Mary getting light-hearted about each other now there's a couple in our town that was elevating their 60th wedding anniversary this is a cause for celebration and amazement and they asked a couple you know hey what's your secret what's your trick how'd you do it the guy responded our secret is that every single week we go out for to candlelight dinners I go out on Wednesday nights and she goes out on Fridays a smile can be the shortest distance between two people homework assignment a home play assignment a few to put the Steve Allen print so much practice look for humor in your daily life in your newspaper now this is where some people say okay Joel I know you're kidding here because I look in the paper and I see a lot of pretty bad news but if you read between lines have come across gems like this it was reported today that vandals made off with all the toilet seats at the local police station police have nothing to go on so what are you doing you got nothing to go on in a figurative sense you know he was a great way of helping us keep on going and growing and going over the furrow and rolling with the punches that life throws us now I'd like to give you a little pop quiz here and for some of you this might be an eye test you all see the letter R okay we all literally and figuratively have opportunity staring us in the face now underneath that on and write another set of letters and I'll move out of the way so you can all see like ask you to turn to your neighbor and very quickly just read aloud to each other those two lines turn to your neighbor and just read aloud those two lines okay sports fans let's see what we got how many of you at first glance could read opportunity is nowhere on the sheet of paper okay how many a first or second class could also perceive opportunity is now here and how many of you door third glance could also read opportunity ice snow here we're all looking at the same chunk of reality but we don't necessarily all see it the same way of course this is a metaphor for life some people look at life or situation say opportunities nowhere this is not a laughing matter others will look at the same trunk of reality and say opportunity is now here or we need to create the opportunity now here to see humor I had a great example that a little pop quiz in my life when opportunity seemed like it was nowhere my dad had a heart attack not fun or funny I flew down to Maryland where I found that this strong vibrant man in the intensive care unit at the hospital in Maryland this strong man with tubes going into him every which way laying there ashen I happen to bring with me this cartoon I don't know if we'd be appropriate to use it or not but the moment seemed to present himself and I took the risk and I showed mom and dad in the ICU this cartoon it's a cartoon of a patient standing and they are in one of those flimsy hospital gowns and it's the back view and the patient is saying now I know why they call it the ICU and I showed it to mom and dad they loved it they cracked up and I realized that yes even for that fleeting moment that blessed respite of humor helped us to seize the opportunity and keep on going happily dad made it through and I can live to talk about it and laugh about it as well how do you do it for me the bottom line of humor is being able to laugh at ourselves to laugh with others to use the positive power of humor and to be able to laugh at ourselves because life has a cosmic joke we may strive for excellence in our lives but the cosmic joke is by definition human beings ain't perfect so we do do with the gap between the excellence we seek in the imperfection on occasion and we need to live with being able to laugh at ourselves is a gift we can give ourselves example I was on a radio show I actually was WGY in this neck of the woods a while ago with Bob cut more and we were asking listeners call in that evening with examples of times that they needed to or could laugh in themselves one of the callers was a woman named Doris Pak who told us that one day she'd gone down to the basement to start up her washing machine in her words while I was down there I thought to take off my jeans and shirt and throw them in the washer – I was standing there in my underwear when I heard a masculine voice call out meet her man I had nowhere to hide then I saw my son's football helmet and a pendant from a local school so I quickly Don the helmet held the pennant and stood motionless in the corner the man came down to read the meter and was then turning to leave I breathed a sigh of relief until I heard him say lady I sure hope your team wins our team can win if we use the positive power of humor just for the health of it because the smile says shortest distance between two people and because humor is a great way to tickle stress before it tackles us thank you so much

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