Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to take all of the fun out of funny. They recently published an article about the salutary effects of humor in the workplace that will teach you, among other things, that “research shows employers like to hire people with a sense of humor.” Which I’m sure you’ll find as groundbreaking as I did, since I’ve lived my whole life under the assumption that employers preferred soulless, oppressively morose workers who know better than to enjoy what they do. You’ll also learn that “it’s important to pick the right context for a joke,” which might explain why I almost never get asked to speak at funerals.
Anyway, I’m summarize this turgid whale of an article because I know you won’t read the whole thing. I failed to make it all the way through and it’s actually part of my job to read these things. However, I also know that you might occasionally try to be funny at work at that the prospect of doing so is sometimes a very daunting one. So I thought I’d give you a few short and useful pointers to get you started. Short and useful – give that a try sometime, Wall Street Journal!
Practice On Your Friends and Family First! If you are uncertain of your ability to be funny, then you’ll have to practice, just like you’d have to practice the oboe or smelting or balloon-animal-twisting or whatever else you might want to get good at. The nice thing about friends and family is that they have to be nice to you, even if a few of your jokes stink (and some of them will). If your friends and family laugh, other people might laugh too. If they don’t, then I guarantee you that nobody else will either.
Store Up a Few Solid Lines! I know it looks like stand-up comics are just making it up as they go, but they aren’t. The jokes you hear on comedy CDs, sitcoms and movies have been vetted dozens or hundreds of times. If you say something that makes people laugh, try the same lines on a different audience. If it makes them laugh, then chances are you’ve found something you can use anytime you’d like to inject a little humor into a given situation.
When Your Jokes Bomb, Either Keep Talking Or Make Fun Of Yourself! Those are your only two options. If you pause awkwardly or try to blame your audience for not laughing at your crappy joke, you’ll only make things worse. However, if you move on as though nothing bad happened, the moment will pass with almost no one being the wiser; and if you make fun of yourself (“Well, let me see if I can fit both feet in my mouth now”), then you’ll erase what would otherwise have been an embarrassing failure.
There’s more to it, of course, but I want to keep this article short enough that you might actually read it. (Brevity – that’s another thing you should try sometime, Wall Street Journal!) Now get out there and be funnier than this article was!