On Being Funny in Unfunny Places

I will retire in 2021. I set as my goal for the next three years to be as appropriately funny at work as I can.  I love my agency.  We have had a rather rough time over the past couple of years. We are understaffed and stretched to provide mental health and addiction services to an increasing number of people. There are new service initiatives and an  electronic health care  record system that will  start soon. Change is always difficult in government, even when it is positive change.  To complicate matters, in the past two years, five employees have been summarily  escorted off the premises and ordered to not return. This included our top administrator, two senior supervisors, someone from my department, and an administrative assistant.  It has been a little grim. We need cheering up.

I find that pointing out the absurd,  the silly, and the comically sweet  goes  over quite well.  I never tease or get personal. I  find that humor seems to liberate people and makes them bolder.  We need our staff to not be afraid of being leaders in their daily work.  No one seems to be annoyed with me yet. I alternate humor with serious discussion and sound advice.

How do use humor in your daily life? When does humor work the best? When doesn’t it work?

24 thoughts on “On Being Funny in Unfunny Places”

  1. I am working on a new-to-me team that has been charged with creating a new set of software services in a relatively short amount of time. Some of the team members worked on the prototype services, a number (like me) were asked to make a lateral move to the team, and a few are new hires. It feels a bit like joining the motley crew of privateers. Work has been a bit stalled while we waited longer than expected for some key elements to fall into place. Space is tight at work, so insult to injury is that our team is sitting in three different places on two floors. Not at all conducive to building team morale. So we are finding ways to use humor. In-the-moment jokes during meetings, silly code names for what we are building, and dopey music cues. Since a few of us have actively started injecting humor in when we can, I can sense a boost in the mood of the team. We can’t fix the space issue quickly, we finally got some approvals we needed last week, and we are still muddling through the “I’m used to this way and you’re used to that way…how do we figure out an ‘our way’?” discussions – a peppering of laughter seems to be smoothing the rough edges. Thank heavens.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I used humor, fun, games, quirkiness to lighten the business of teaching of senior high English. My best friend the soc. Teacher across the hall did the same, as did the chem. Physics teacher down the hall.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I do try to add humor at work and at home, but I’m not a naturally fun or playful person. I do tend to be serious and intense, but definitely appreciate a joke and good humor. My husband is the goofy one with a corny sense of humor, so we balance each other out nicely.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Using humor in difficult circumstances was the milieu in which I grew up. So, so often my Dad’s MS created distressing situations that we had to learn to laugh at just to survive it. I think many situations in life are like that. It certainly came to bear on my own breast cancer experience.

    I participated in a Breast Cancer support group. One of the other members was hysterically funny and had a way to make the hard steps of treatment into an unintended comedy routine. Some of this occurred around October and Halloween. This woman lost all of her hair as part of an aggressive chemo regimen. She showed up for a support group meeting in a Halloween costume featuring her bald head and a Stars Wars cape complete with the high collar which contrasted with her shiny scalp. Her Alien Appearance and her comedic timing was priceless. The laugh it provided to all involved had to release healing pheromones in all of us.

    In my dad’s later years when he lived in a nursing home because his condition required intensive nursing care. He was bedridden and lost the ability to move or speak much. His memory was shot, as well. He lived in the stereotypical room with a restroom at the end of the room. He could see the door from his bed.

    My sister and I were there visiting. Because he could not talk much, but he loved conversation and visitors, we would bring things to do that would allow him to be comforted by activity and conversation. She would correct school papers, we would play cards, and I would knit and chat. My sister got up and entered the bathroom door. When she came out Dad greeted her with a nearly “Hi!” and a broad smile. I used the room later and received the same enthusiastic greeting upon my exit.

    Jo turned to me and said, “Well, I guess the bright side is that each moment is new and fresh.” That made me laugh. And cry.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Makes me think a bit of laughing at my grandfather’s funeral. I don’t remember what got us started, but the release of that laughter had my cousins and I laughing so hard we had to excuse ourselves from our greeting and punch bowl duties at the post-service luncheon (there was snorting involved and I had to move rather quickly to the ladies room lest I embarrass myself…). Truly a happy memory from a sad time.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Nice stories so far.
    2/3rds of the students in the theater classes are only here because some counselor told them it would be an easy ‘A’.

    I think a lot of what I do is simply for my own amusement. It’s rather abstract and dry, but if people are paying attention they sometimes get the humor.

    Occasionally, there are kids that have no sense of humor. Takes a while to figure out it’s not me, it’s really just them.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I used the title of a psychology study “On Being Sane in Insane Places” to model my title today. The study, by David Rosenhan, involved sending 8 perfectly sane people to ER’s feigning psychotic symptoms. All were hospitalized. Once admitted, they acted completely normal. It took several weeks for some to be discharged. Rosenhan used the study to demonstrate how poorly psychiatry did in the 1970’s determing who was mentally ill. The study was very controversial. Various hospitals challenged Rosenhan to try it again so they could demonstrate how well they did at diagnosing psychiatric patients. They proudly announced that they had turned away more than 40 people from their ER’s who showed up with symptoms. The joke here is that Rosenhan never again sent any one else feigning symptoms to the ER’s.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Well, clearly the Trail Baboon is an example of more than 8 perfectly sane people–so WE ARE what it looks like. 😉

        “Perfect sanity,” which eludes us all I hope, could be an entire blog of its own. It would be SO boring. No one would ever read it.

        I just love quirky people.

        Liked by 5 people

  7. Laughter truly is like a release valve in some sad or tense situations. At both my dad’s and (my son) Joel’s memorial, I inserted a couple of sort of funny items into my remarks, and got that sort of surprised chuckle from the “audience”. People told me later it was good to be able to cry AND laugh.

    I am always trying to add something funny, and usually it works. Just started assisting teacher in a folk dance class at Winona State – first session I was there I told them the reason folk dancers hold hands in the circle is to keep from falling… Takes a little of the edge off.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. The memorial service that many baboons attended for Tom Keith at the Fitzgerald Theater was a great example of using humor to ease the pain of Tom’s untimely death. Not entirely certain I have completely recovered from seeing Garrison in that red dress and wearing heels.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. One of my happiest memories is the death watch we held for my mother in law. My erstwife moved her mom, who was dying of cancer, into a nursing home. The stress of the move triggered a cardiac event that left her in a coma. We put out emergency calls to all family members and friends, urging them to get to the nursing home before it was too late.

    But she didn’t die. So we fell into a pattern of gathering in her room every evening after work, and it didn’t take long for someone to figure out that boxed wine would help us through our grief. Except there wasn’t much grief, just a lot of storytelling and laughter. Night after night we had the loudest room in the nursing home, with my mil sleeping on her bed while friends and family members sat on the floor around her talking and laughing. It was a great party that lasted day after day for almost a week.

    The only serious (and entirely sober) person present was the nursing home chaplain who kept showing up to try to talk about death and what followed. She was deadly serious about improving our morale. We quickly decided we needed to pretend to be reflective because our happy talk seemed to mess up the chaplain’s morale.

    Then one night after we showed a slideshow of hysterically awful vacation slides we noticed that the queen of the party had quietly made her transition. And we knew that things had gone as well as they possibly could, thanks to humor and affection.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Not really about laughter, but a friend of ours out in CA has cancer and is slowly dying.
    Everyday he posts an update on FB about what cereal he had this morning, how the orange was and if he was able to scoop his own ice cream or not.

    Over the weekend, he and his wife (primary caregiver) talked about what designates ‘Quality of life’. How do you know when you don’t have that anymore. He knows its a personal choice for everyone. It’s interesting to read what others are saying.
    He also says this:
    “California has an “end of life ‘ law…so we have some choices we can make…must make, actually, as the prescription used to end life must be self-administered. Not even your Doc can do it… We have talked about all this before, [wife]and I, because the process of procuring the prescription takes about a month…so these questions have come up before…but they become more urgent as your train gets closer to the station…”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your friend is either lucky, or has made the deliberate choice, to be living somewhere where that option is available to him. Wish we could all be on board that this should be a personal decision available to each and every one of us.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Evening all. The news in my industry the last couple of weeks is that Event Planner has been named the fifth top stressful job in the U.S. As an event planner I can think of at least 100 jobs more stressful than mine. My theory is that if you don’t laugh, you’ll have to cry. I like to send graphics via email — thank yous and funny pictures. This is one of my favorites:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Genuine humility is such a disarming quality. Most people will forgive just about anything if they know that an honest effort was made. I can see how an event planner would have lots and lots of pitfalls to contend with. Pairing humility with a good sense of self-deprecating humor is very wise.

      Liked by 2 people

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