What kind of people do you most admire?

For me, it’s comedians. Maybe this is because I’m not naturally much of one myself, or maybe it’s because, deep down, I want to be one. Whatever the reason, I love watching them at work and going to live stand-up when I can.

Last month – March 14th – I got a chance to test myself out a little. I delivered a course at Queen’s on the psychology and practice of humour. Apart from being a blast, I think I got to give the class a new perspective of the comic side of life.

For instance, I showed the relation between joke-telling and problem-solving. According to Edward de Bono, they both require the same set of skills – the reconstructing of existing patterns of thought. Also, I talked about the place of playfulness and humour as one of the 24 ‘signature strengths’ of positive psychologist Martin Seligman. Finally, my main man Dan Pink got a mention, as the ‘sense of play’ – explained in terms of games, humour and joyfulness – is one of his six senses of out new, right-brain world.

The basis of almost all humour lies in pain, surprise, lies or word-play. Some of this requires a different, more aggressive, less polite way of communicating than most people are used to. So, during the course of the day, we practiced on our skills by playing different games that required the use of our malicious streak – games that worked on our attitude or our power of emotional exaggeration. There was also basic creativity games, writing games, and games involving various types of gag e.g. the infamous ‘Not Joke’!

For those of you wanting to explore humour further, I would recommend these:

’10 Ways to be Funny’ by Justin Becker is good because it deal more with the required attitude to life than specific gags. Although the context is for men, I don’t see why it isn’t equally applicable to women.

If you’d like to know how you can use humour in your work situation I would recommend the Laughter Workshops or Office Humour sites.

There’s loads of work-related humour on YouTube. Take at look at here or here for examples. Then there are series such as Man in the Box and Chad Vader – Dayshift Manager. And finally, there’s The Office, with plenty of laughs on workplace motivation, presentations, appraisals and reviews.

But remember – as Nietzsche said, “To laugh is to be malicious, but with a good conscience”!

So abandon niceness all ye who would enter here…