WHAT’S SO FUNNY?: Say something funny

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First Posted: 5/5/2014

I’m encouraged that so many people want to laugh. As someone who left a well-paying job in marketing communications to promote humor and laughter through my business, Laugh to Live, this is good news. And while my business isn’t yet earning high profits, at least not in dollars, I am banking tons of other currency, like feelings of validation, goodwill, exposure, and positive feedback. If only I could get the utility companies and other businesses to convert to this new form of capitalism based in kindness, I would be a heroine among bohemians everywhere.

While I am happy that so many people want to laugh, I sometimes get frustrated when I hear the same words over and over in response to sharing that I perform stand-up comedy: “Say something funny.” On occasion, people mix it up by speaking the second most common phrase, “Make me laugh,” like I’m a toy monkey clashing cymbals whose funny switch can just be flipped on.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t start doing comedy so that I could entertain only myself, my closest friends, and family – although that is the audience I feel most comfortable with – but it’s unnatural to be asked during a one-on-one conversation with someone to just break into my comedy routine. It’s kind of surreal to be standing in the produce aisle at the supermarket and launch into my bit about how friends want to set me up based upon which criterion is more important to me for a man to have, hair or teeth, after an exchange with someone about the weather and the fact that their Aunt Betty is now recovering from gallbladder surgery. Although, as far as everyday backdrops go, rows of oranges, bananas, and melons can be pretty funny; comedian Gallagher made quite a bit of money smashing fruit, but I digress.

Even if it was easy and seemed normal for me to just turn on the funny like I was getting water from a faucet, why should I give my comedy away for free? How many other business people give away their services while waiting for a table for dinner? If I see a professional I know, let’s say, oh, I don’t know… my gynecologist maybe, I’m not going to corner her in the ladies room to ask her if she’s ever seen a rash this bad. I have a feeling she won’t appreciate my deliberate wardrobe malfunction during her Saturday night date. Instead, I smile, nod, wish her an enjoyable meal, and call her office on Monday for an appointment to get a prescription of whatever the latest and greatest ointment is that her office has received samples of.

It stands to reason that we live in a fast-paced world with a lot of overstimulation and stress. People not only like to laugh, but we need to laugh. Let’s put a pin in our worries, restore our energy, and enjoy life. Believe me, I get that when people find out I tell jokes for a living – well not really a “living,” but for a small part of my income – they want to hear a joke because they want to feel good, to be happy. They’re certainly not going to ask a proctologist they run into at the gym to… well, you know what they do. It’s a pain in the ass, even at the “appropriate” time and place.

The great news is that humor is unlimited and user-friendly. You don’t have to wait to meet a comedian to hear something funny. Everyone can choose to see something funny in life. Once you start to see the humor in your life, especially in the challenging and stressful moments, you’ll have a resource like no other. Based on the many people I’ve met, you already think your lives are fodder for comedy. I can’t recount how many people say things to me after a show or conference like, “You want material? You should come to my house (or office, etc.),” or, “You should write about my dates. The guys I’ve gone out with, ugh. There’s some material for you.”

Your lives are full of material… for you, not for me to perform. Enjoy your funny moments and think about writing material to perform at an open mic some time. You’ll feel liberated and gain a new appreciation for what comedians do. And then when you want to hear a professional say something funny and make you laugh, come out to a show. As for me, I won’t be telling jokes about someone else’s life experiences because good comedy is personal. I don’t have kids, so I’m not going to tell the story about the day your 3-year-old sang “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” and simultaneously your pet Lab dropped the TV remote, her 10-year-old brother put down her doll, and your husband put the Yuengling Lager back in the fridge. But I will share on stage the advice I have for single women based on my years of poor dating experiences: “Treat it like a kid’s birthday party game. Put a blindfold on, spin around, and pin the tail on the nearest jackass. Even if he’s not a match, he may be holding chocolate birthday cake.”

-For more laughs, follow Jeannine on Twitter, @laughinglu, visit laughtolive.net, and find ‘He’s Not Prince Charming When…’ on Facebook.