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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Tell Me a Story!

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I taught a summer camp about improv for kids 7 to 12 years old. It’s always fun to teach kids about humor. They are so shockingly uncensored sometimes. But after breaking the news that Knock, Knock jokes were out, Paul asked the kids what kind of humor was the best. The goal was to introduce them to self-effacing humor, and explain that you don’t always have to tease others; you can joke about yourself. However, when no guesses were forthcoming, Paul threw out the question of slapstick. Since the Three Stooges are not such a hot commodity anymore, kids don’t know what that is. Paul demonstrated by running into a door. Every one of the kids fell over because they were laughing so hard. One kid yelled, “do it again”. The lesson was derailed from the beginning. At some point we gave up the notion that they would get it. But it’s ok because a lot of times adults don’t get it either.

Self-effacing humor is the best; it’s endearing. Now I may be dating myself here by this comparison, but if your humor is `a la Don Rickles, you run the serious risk of alienating everyone around you. So instead of making fun of everyone else, make fun of yourself. Now that is a tall order. No one wants to be made fun of, but maybe if we aren’t so worried about what everyone thinks, it might not be as bad as we anticipate.

People are afraid of laughing at themselves. They are afraid of looking less than perfect. Well, here’s a newsflash: none of us are perfect, and we’re not fooling anyone into thinking we are. Self-effacing humor shows courage and confidence. You have to be strong and secure to put it out there. Not weak.

One exercise that I do in my corporate workshops is to ask people to write a quick story about something embarrassing that happened to them and make it funny. A lot of people balk at this or simply hit a wall. If it comes to telling a story about something stupid I’ve done, my biggest challenge is choosing which one. The story about the time I “borrowed” flowers from a cemetery or the one where I completely forgot that the puppet wasn’t real, or the time…

I’ve always heard the adage, “Smart has plans and stupid has stories”.

Do you want to hear a story?

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