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Laughter: Good for the Soul and Business


"Laughter is the best medicine", goes the cultural saying. But a couple things have made me think about this more broadly than solely as a way for personal remedy. What if it could be good for politics, business and tense conversations? A couple things I've heard have forced me to think about this more deeply in recent weeks.

Several years ago I heard the film director Tiffany Shlain say, "... Usually, in my films, I will try to make people laugh right before I want them to think deeply. Because when people think they know how they feel about something, their body language, everything is tight. And you make them laugh, and immediately their body opens, and I always feel like I can go in deeper with the idea, or into their heart, or their mind, or both at the same time, hopefully."

The above made sense to me and I am now thinking about this more in executive-level conversations too. While I do not wish to come across as someone incapable of being serious, I'm keeping my eye out for places and ways to bring laughter to the table in the form of a story or perhaps even a little self-deprecation. As a member of the bank's innovation committee, I find myself asked to bring forward ideas that might not work and likely fall outside our comfort zone. The goal is of course not to induce a yes when it should be a no but rather soften a skeptical room to more openly consider it and think, "if not this then what?"

I have found myself circling this viewpoint more and more because of stand-up comedians. Having read Amy Schumer's, "Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo", there is a lot of struggle and pain in there. Her comedy is in part a way of her working it out and discussing what's on her mind but in a way that might cause people to better hear it.

In a recent, and fantastic interview, Jay-Z sat down with NYT Style editor Dean Baquet, who asked, "What do you think of the state of I'm not gonna say just black leadership, but leadership, period, on the things you care about in the country? Who do you, like, look at and say, 'This man or woman speaks for the things I care about?'" Jay-Z's response was, "I find it funny, but ... I like Dave Chappelle.... You know what I'm saying? 'Cause he tells it in humor so you can deal with it, but it's always a nice chunk of truth in there."

The more I look at stand-up comedians, the more I see the opportunity of being able to poke at thorny political and social issues by throwing it out there in the form of a joke. This does not mean their bringing it up is not without risk but perhaps its another way to navigate. Whether its navigating a family get together or working to make waves at work, I'm going to increasingly be looking to the power of laughter.

“Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly than we're used to.”

George Saunders

Go Forth Boldly


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