Humor: Underutilized? or Over-rated?

Dr Suess said correctly: “From there to here, and here to there funny things are everywhere”. But do we see the humor and acknowledge it? Do we keep our eyes and hearts open and understand the “dark” side? OR do we shy away from fun and  laughter? and feel it has low importance in our day-to- day living?

Think about it.

Whether it is movies or books: the tragedies walk away with glory; the comedies never get their due. Even look at authors…the comedy writers actually have a difficult task on their hands. Thinking of situations and dialogues which will bring out the juxtapositions and ironies of life and people, the element of surprise and suspense, the unexpected happenings : all of which give rise to a chuckle  or a smile from the reader or observer: a very difficult task indeed. But Literature and Drama recounts the tragedies as the greatest productions, which get remembered the most!!

Even in corporate lives we are forced to remain staid. No exuberance. Don’t show the joi de vivre. Business is serious stuff. Don’t smile too much….and never, but never laugh aloud. In the corridors of power and upper echelons of management, humor is looked down on as a dilution of the sanctimony of business. It seems like the lofty goals and objectives of the corporate world must be achieved with a serious demeanor. If you have a frown on your face and a “no nonsense” hard nose expression, you will be more respected and your efforts applauded more. Literally you should not giggle or laugh your way to the ‘Finish’ line: as you need to project the sheer dint of effort and seriousness of purpose to commemorate the achievement. Higher the success achieved more seriously must you project the struggle of reaching the goal. As if…if you laugh as you cross the end line, you are undermining the success itself!

Contrast this with the king of comedy Charlie Chaplin pronouncement: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”. On an individual plane, we all understand this truth. We want to be happy and smiling and laughing in our personal and familial lives. We enjoy company of those who make us laugh. We do not want to be around people who mope and crib all the time : they suck out even our energy. And yet we do not value those who make us laugh. We admire the “dark arts” but the proverbial Joker is considered lowest on the totem pole of society.

Are we afraid of the sarcasm side of humor? the loose comment which actually is an insidious cannon aimed at flattening the listener? We all know people who use humor as a defense, a wall to keep others out or to protect their own brittle egos. In such cases humor loses it’s innocence. It uses guile, an artful deception, duplicity to project friendliness but actually hurt and harm the other person. Truly it is not such humor which brings joy and smiles. Such a person is not actually funny. They are just being mean and trying to fool their audience by hiding behind their “joke”! Erma Bombeck noted correctly: ” there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt”.

humor-in-a-difficult-situation

In another perspective, Will Rogers reminds us : “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else”. Unfortunately, often we get so immersed and involved in the story and it’s developments, that we fail to retain a sense of objectivity. We invest  heavily in our own position; or in the opposition of someone else’s position that it becomes a “do or die” situation. Naturally we cannot see the humor in the situation. We have gone so close to the problem that it’s tentacles have enmeshed us: making us apart of the problem and depriving us of the “outsider” view which would have shown us the ridiculousness of our position and thus enabled us to escape it’s grasp and think of an easy solution. Taking oneself seriously is possibly the biggest dis-service you can do to yourself.

My 35+ years corporate experience convinced me that we do not laugh enough in the office space. Most laughter is contrived: like when the Boss or the Super Boss makes a joke and I have to laugh the loudest to provide evidence of my great sense of humor.And even as I laugh I am looking at the Boss to see if he is seeing that I am laughing at his pathetic asides!! Equality and camaraderie, which are sine qua non for humor to flower, are conspicuous by their absence in corporate boardrooms.

So where  does it hurt? In my opinion, humor has great potential and great power. It equalizes social and corporate power distances. It can be the oil and grease which  smoothens relationships.  It is a door opener: allowing easy entry into conversations and issues. When tempers are running high and positions are taken, humor can change equations and open closed minds. It brings much required levity to unnecessarily serious situations and people. It is a simple and readily available solution applicable in most distraught conditions and with the most difficult people. It has fantabulous stress busting capabilities. It is an sure charmer which endears you to the audience making you the soul of the party. In case any reader wants to understand more benefits of humor in social interactions I would welcome you to read anything by Oscar Wilde and/or PG Wodehouse and feel the calming effect and innate charm of humor in their own hearts.

Life has taught me to be a continuous learner. I never make the same mistake twice. I make it 5 or 6 times: just to be sure!!!

Hoping you learn to laugh at yourself:  joker vikas

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17 Replies to “Humor: Underutilized? or Over-rated?”

  1. Superbly writing. I was lucky that throughout my corporate career, I was lucky to be with really merry people…Some of them you would know – Shrikant Dikhale, Farrokh Mistri, to name a few. Things got serious when I had to interact with other nationalities – Singaporean, Indonesian, Chinese and German, who were serious even about their humour.

    The need to be politically correct these days is making office humour a little bit dicey, you’ll admit.

    About authors – Jerome K Jerome continues to make me chuckle even though I have read his two travelogues a dozen times and though I even know what sentences come next…PG and our own Pu La.

    By the way, if you are on Amazon Prime, you can watch Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister – all episodes.

    Movies – Chaplin’s humour sometimes brought you to tears. So different from so many others. One of the funniest movies for absolutely superb dialogues is the Part 2 of The Odd Couple – Lemon and Matthau starrer. Have watched it a dozen times at least.

    Once again, compliments on a superb article

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    1. Thanks Ravi
      for reviving many memories whether of people like SD or authors like PuLa or movies
      yes we were lucky also because we were born with an iconoclastic bone in our body
      and everything and everybody was fair game
      even in a hierarchy driven company like Siemens we had enough pockets where one could let down their hair and laugh
      Siemens reminds me of Giri Dore: the perpetual punster
      and the time his joke went flat
      we were presenting to German auditors
      and he said till Vikas joined me we had just 3 people in HRD
      I me and myself
      and NO ONE laughed
      it was the most deafening moment in the 5th floor conference room

      the second incident was when I was travelling with Arun Bhende and we reached Avanti ( the Nashik Guest house) there was Templar ( remember him?) He was upset to see brown skins staying in the same Gh as him. So he gruffly asked: Mr Bhinde, what is your level? Bhende with his charateristic disarming guffaw replies: Oh Mr Templar: about half bottle.
      Templar actually made us sit with him and we 3 polished off a full bottle that night
      Those were the days
      yes culturally we get very difffrent responses in ME or SE Asia or Germany
      Fortunately I worked much more with US companies like J&J and GM
      so I survived

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  2. Good post and very relevant!
    Personally, I have never been a big fan of satire or sarcasm as a form of humor. So P.G. Wodehouse, Erma Bombeck never resonated with me. Love all thinks direct 🙂 But I am all for self deprecation, clean humor, laughs, funny antics etc.

    Also, I do not think there is as much seriousness in corporates these dates, most bosses are chilled out and open to cracks at their foibles.

    Humor, like sports, is extremely critical to build mental resilience. Life is becoming more and more uncertain. Youngsters today are facing issues that the earlier generation never had to face. It has gi en rise to lot of mental and physical ailments, addictions and disruption in the social fabric. A periodic dose of humor, taking things lightly will really help take the load off for everyone.

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    1. Nilu
      Sarcasm ok; but….not like PG Wodehouse????
      you must be joking….!!!!!!
      You must be in a minority of 1 in a population of 7.561 Bn!!!!!!
      kya Nilu?

      Well before I drown in the wells of pity let me remind myself ; a la the motto of the Masturbators’ Club : To each his own !!!!
      I do know you are a fun loving and fun living person
      So I cant let Bertie Wooster & Jeeves stand between us

      I agree today’s times are a bit more relaxed
      IT has been a great leveler of hierarchies
      and Bosses today are ready to show their human side
      but let me tell you in Mfg space and brick and mortar companies even now there are lot of feudal lords and holy cows
      But variety is the spice of life
      so who am I to complain ???

      Humor indeed builds mental resilience
      gives you to the power to overcome the immediate situation
      and gives you a brighter perspective of the future
      which is why Peanuts is reminding us that every time we see humor in a difficult situation we win
      and the secret is in keeping looking up
      and around( I would add)

      Which reminds me of a stupid school joke
      a boy enters a toilet and sees written “look in upper right corner”
      he looks there and sees” Now look in the botttom lower left corner”
      ….and so it goes on till he looks on the wall behind where it is written: “What have you come here for? To pee or to look around?”
      l
      To me life is both: Looking around and peeing
      and enjoying both?

      only recently have i understood why Baba always loved to relieve himself in flagrante in the open whenever we traveled…

      love always
      vikas

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  3. Fantastic read and my take is definitely that humor is under-utilized! Growing up by reading “Life is like that” and “Humor in Uniform in RD, watching Laurel and Hardy, I Love Lucy, Different strokes etc…that made you cringe with laughter, humor exposed me to the world of madness and innocence!
    Agree that our corporate world lacks laughter, I think it is related to culture. The western world has no qualms when it comes to using humor in the work place and I believe that spreads positivity, cheer and lightens the air….
    I know and have heard people using humor in speeches, teaching, training etc and one can literally see a ripple effect just like your blog has on its readers….
    Meanwhile, Let’s spread the smiles for happier times!
    And I quote Gibran “I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Deepa
      thanks for your comment
      If someone is offering you the fortunes of the multitudes; and you are refusing the offer ; pl pass on my address to them…. I could do with some windfall…..

      Jokes apart You recounted Laurel & Hardy ; I love Lucy: Reader’s Digest: all things which were very much a part of my own growing up.
      Those were the days my friend
      we were happy and carefree
      and laughter lurked around every corner
      It is sad to see today that children have forgotten reading and are content with FB Instagram and virtual reality
      Laughter rather is always here and now
      It believes in and practices instant gratification
      and spreads sweetness and light as it moves on

      One conundrum I have never cracked is why does wearing a jacket and tie dry up levity?
      does the tie knot choke laughter ?
      Rarely have I come across people in corporate world who love their jokes and are quick with their repartee
      have we all become so dry that we are afraid to laugh

      I sure hope not
      Remember the Smile you are on Candid Camera and the Gags for Laughs?
      in an ideal world i should have the ability to make the co workers laugh and enjoy the time in office
      let us pray the time comes soon

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  4. Serious thought given to the merits of humor…. Made interesting with sprinkling of jests and anecdotes. Realised with a smile the importance of living with a smile on the face and in the heart… :-)😊

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    1. Thanks dear friend for your kind words of appreciation.
      I wrote this blog after a month and 20 days after the last one
      it was sheer laziness on my part
      But when I read encouraging comments such as yours I get motivated
      I promise I will be more regular in blogging
      and hope to continue the dialogue with you all

      Like

  5. Great one. There is nothing more tragic in life than not understanding a joke is what I often discuss with my mentor, Preeti Mam, especially when students nowadays don’t understand cartoons or cartoon strips.

    Love the way you have captured different aspects of humour and the general flow of the article has also come out very well.

    In fact I often feel sad when I look at the collection in the humour section in book stores. But with the likes of Lynn Truss still writing books and articles, there’s still hope.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mimi could not agree more. lf as the Chief Joker in which ever orgn I worked.
      Always felt that it was a felt need which was ignored by many.
      Today’s gen does not read and so they have no acquaintance with the vast store of literature and what treasure it provides.
      Besides the tragedy of them not understanding jokes: I feel the MOSTEST awkward moment for a speaker is when his joke falls flat
      For that we must expand our boundaries and be ready to let our hair down
      as for Coporates: my rule was captured by the Pepsi campaign: Nothing official about it
      Let smiles abound: am sure much better work will get done

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  6. Sir, you have hit the nail on its head. People think that greatness comes by being serious. I do not thinks this to be true. But even if it is true trading laughter with success is not a wise decision in my opinion. But then there is a story about three wise people of a village, they were so wise that they never experienced laughter in their life. God bless those wise people .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HCP
      those 3 wise men must have had a very tough life indeed
      sometimes we make prisoners out of ourselves
      and our presumptions of what will be acceptable and what will not be
      Humor is breaking barriers and having fun
      I always stop to observe small children at play
      see their lack of hesitation and absolute free interactions
      all say what they want
      they are forever ready to laugh
      and do not mind if they appear foolish or become the butt of a joke
      we adults have a lot to learn from them

      Like

    1. Awesome Read …My personal belief is that Humor is in your DNA n something you must never let go….the world would be such a nicer place if we all just learnt through smile through the pain and be kind….that’s all it really takes to make Magic Happen ….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Mitchelle. I agree humor is in the genes. Some people are natural while others do appear contrived even when they have a great story to tell
        A smile begets a Smile and it enlivens the entire environment and makes for easy working. If people practiced humor more often indeed the world would be a better place to live in
        and many false ego issues and problems would fall by the wayside
        Let us keep hoping we move to that day sooner rather than later ( when I have become Late Mr VSS e.g.)

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