Saturday, January 07, 2006

Curious about Humor - What Does It Mean to You?

“If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.” - Jennifer Jones

“A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” - William A. Ward

This past week, one of the members of my favorite discussion group brought up the subject of humor and asked us to write back with what “humour” (his spelling) means to us.

Being a speaker, storyteller, fitness instructor and trainer, my immediate answer was the use of humor as an ice breaker and technique for bonding and establishing rapport with your listeners and/or participants. I remember one of my favorite storytellers, Donald Davis, who was working with us at a weekend retreat, explaining the importance of starting a storytelling concert with humor.

He was performing in the area on Saturday night - and we all attended. The room was full and crackling with energy and excitement. Then, the chairwoman of the group hosting the concert started with a long, rambling and boring explanation of the group. You could feel the energy in the room plummet. When Donald started, he didn’t tell just one humorous story, he told two - on purpose. By the time the second one was finished, we were laughing with him and the energy was back in full force.

Another of my favorite storytellers, Elizabeth Ellis, suggests the following structure for your program: start with “ha, ha” followed by “ah, ha”, then “ahh” and end with “amen.” I find that this formula works if I am speaking, storytelling, or leading a fitness class.

Another reaction of mine was the healing power of humor (and laughter). It is not only a great way to deal with problems, pain and adversity, but also a great way to live one’s life and approach one’s work. Back in the late ‘80s I met Steve Wilson who calls himself a joyologist. In the ‘90s I attended one of his laughter retreats.

Steve has been instrumental in forming the World Laughter Tour, Inc. He writes, “I decided to start the World Laughter Tour so that the methods of the East can be combined with ideas of the West to benefit the whole world. I discovered how many people in the Western world were interested in getting advice and guidance from a psychologist who had a solid background in the role of attitudes, emotions, humor and laughter. As a mental health educator and practitioner of therapeutic humor and laughter, I draw from and integrate the best schools of thought, conventional and alternative, to create group and self-care strategies, and show people how to get the most out of themselves and life, and enjoy every minute of it.” Click HERE to visit his website.

I also found a plethora of great quotations about humor. Let me share a few:
  • Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” - Francis Bacon
  • A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road.” - Henry Ward Beecher
  • When humor goes, there goes civilization.” - Erma Bombeck
  • Humor is something that thrives between man's aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” - Victor Borge

And a few more:

  • The more I live, the more I think that humor is the saving sense.” - Jacob August Riis
  • Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.” - Leo Rosten
  • A sense of humor... is needed armor. Joy in one's heart and some laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.” - Hugh Sidey
  • Humor is mankind's greatest blessing.” - Mark Twain
  • The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases him again for another chance.” - Peter De Vries

So, what does humor mean to you? We can use it, love it, but not analyze it!

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” E. B. White