“You grow up the day you have the first real laugh; at yourself.”
— Ethel Barrymore
“I’ve always believed that there are funny people everywhere, but they’re just not comedians. In fact, some of my best comedic inspirations were not professional entertainers.”
— Steve Martin
What is humor and why is it important in life, let alone entrepreneurship? I’ve been exploring this question and its answers for a few weeks now, just in time for #snowmageddon 2014 (which I wrote of in my last post) and the hilarious #SochiProblems tweets/photos from journalists attending the 2014 Winter Olympics (which I covered two posts ago). Humor is that elusive psychological trait that transcends time and space. As I wrote in my now published book, The NICE Reboot:
Humor is a characteristic essential to the human experience, and a crucial tool in the entrepreneurial arsenal. Humor helps us connect to others emotionally and feel included. Humor helps us cope, and be resilient in the face of setbacks and challenges. Humor helps us internalize and retain memories and experiences, which shape our perception and personality, as we navigate the corridors of life.
Thanks to technology, especially social technology, it’s easier than ever to see how art imitates life and visa versa. Marshall McLuhan said that “advertising is the greatest art form of the twentieth century”, which I quoted in my new YouTube video for The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, which will be launched soon. There is both artistry and architecture to advertising; especially when done via social media.
Those of you who have been following me on Tumblr were privy to my recent series of blogposts there; Act Like an Architect, Think Like an Artist: Lessons for Female Entrepreneurs, which I did in December 2013. You can access those posts here to see how I explained the intellectual train tracks of the Digital Era’s entrepreneurial train. In my current series here on WordPress, I’ve been writing about the emotional train tracks of the entrepreneurial train. It tends to run on the same tracks as the the social media train track these days; storytelling and humor.
As you can see, I have been writing for some time now about various psychological aspects to entrepreneurship that are not consistently taught in business school and/or have not been previously publicly associated with our collective dossier and skill set until now. That includes social media, visual and inbound content marketing, and using an iPad to enhance one’s workflow; all of which I believe are components that are needed for successful entrepreneurship. You can reference my posts about those components here on WordPress, on Tumblr, and on my weekly female entrepreneurship column in The Huffington Post. I even connected my theme of artistry/architectural lessons in entrepreneurship to iPad use in one of my previous HuffPost articles, which you can read here.
And before you ask why I’m such a snob and such an iPad Evangelist (that’s a whole different post!) think of how hard it’s been for our American athletes and journalists in Sochi enduring less then ideal conditions re: technology, communications, and lodging etc. I prefer using an iPad in my entrepreneurial workflow because I want to get the job done while ENJOYING the process i.e. the ice cream sundae with the works….the Mont Blanc pen…..the first class seat on the plane….but I digress 🙂
In this post today, I’d like to touch on the artistry and architecture of humor and give you an excerpt from my book. I’d also like to give a list of free tools that can help you instill humor in your social media marketing campaigns using other cutting edge technology, other people’s work, and your own inner landscape to craft visual images and slogans that will tickle someone’s funny bone, including yours!
I first began deconstructing humor from a social and educational perspective in 2009 when I launched my company, Socially Speaking LLC. I began giving special education seminars to parents/professionals in the Autism community. I began lecturing on the two developmental components of humor, physical and linguistic, which I touched on in last week’s post here. In my educational seminars, I teach others how to methodically and sequentially break down the two types of humor and teach children with Autism how to understand and use them so that they can learn to:
• Self-regulate and “bounce back” when faced with obstacles/setbacks and changes in routine (resiliency)
• Self-monitor behavior and self-evaluate performance (take constructive criticism and change course as needed)
• Develop Theory of Mind and be able to partake of emotionally meaningful experiences with others (develop empathy & perspective)
Aren’t these skills necessary to hone for entrepreneurship as well?
Implications for Entrepreneurship: The Physical Artistry of Humor
Beauty, especially re: art is often in “the eyes of the beholder”, and the same is true for humor. Cultural mores, pop-culture trends, gender, familiarity with one’s subject matter and audience, one’s age, and even personality will all affect HOW a person perceives and shares humor; especially physical humor. Just ask any comedian, professional speaker, entrepreneur, or venture capitalist listening to that entrepreneur’s elevator pitch! Some people have a creative bent and a flair for drama, voices, or facial expressions, allowing them to juxtapose themselves or objects around them in unusual or just plain weird positions and scenarios. Think of the incomparable Carol Burnett’s Gone with The Wind spoof where she plays Scarlett O’Hara with the curtains. Think of the outstanding Mr. Bean, especially in his role for the truly humorous movie Rat Race. Think of terrific Debbie Downer, the famous Saturday Night Live character immortalized by talented Rachel Dratch.(I mentioned her in slide #7 in my Slideshare deck, What Children Teach Us About Storytelling.)
People drawn to physical humor are usually those who appreciate a visuo-spatial mixed up frame of reference such as this article on social media memes and this little boy’s letter to the IRS. Those who find the cited photos funny, can find much to laugh about on various digital platforms. You too can add to the conversation by creating your own visual posts, using the free Canva software or these four free iOS Apps; favorites of mine and many others:
• iFunFace-Talking Photos
• Insta Animated Text Photo Editor HD
• FOTO Notes Free
Implications for Entrepreneurship: The Linguistic Architecture of Humor
Like learning a language, linguistic humor takes time and skill. Our delivery and reaction to it depends on our episodic memory and understanding of the words being used. That’s why entrepreneurs need to make sure not to speak business jargon or tech-speak unless asked, and tailor their social media posts accordingly. Would folks in cryo-sleep a la Jake Sully from Avatar or in a time warp for the last 10 years find it funny now when they hear the ad for the “Allstate Mayem Guy” where he chirps “recalculating” as the driver of the car has an accident? Would a time traveler from the 1800s get the humor in this great Steamfeed.com article about The Five Types of Guest Bloggers or this one about Entrepreneur Barbie?
People good at linguistic humor become experts at puns and/or the one-liner. They can easily engage in improvisation like Tina Fey, who writes about it in her wonderful book Bossypants (which I discuss at the the end of my book) or farce, like this famous MCI commercial I remember from childhood. It features various members of the Star Trek crew and is very funny….if you know who is who or should I say when 🙂 Or take the most recent Audi ad featuring a challenge between both Mr. Spocks (an ad which I feel shows both physical and linguistic humor). Other purveyors of linguistic humor master the art of dark humor and parody like Mark Gungor’s hilarious routine on men’s brains vs. women’s brains. I also suggest watching this funny YouTube clip called It’s Not About the Nail (which also has a physical humor component interwoven within….maybe it’s time for speech therapists to consult to marketers? LOL)
To sum up, humor works on all types of people and in most situations. Why? Because it taps into our collective episodic memories, creates emotional resonance, and delivers messages in a socially acceptable (think constructive criticism) and socially popular manner (think TV sitcoms, the GrumpyCat photos, and political cartoons such as those on Nelson Mandela.)
So what should entrepreneurs keep in mind when crafting social media marketing campaigns about their service/product and catering stories to specific archetypes and buyer personae? (Below is excerpted from my book, The NICE Reboot):
1. The Difference Between Physical & Linguistic Humor:
- Physical humor relies on exaggerated or absurd facial affect or lack thereof (deadpan voice and/or expressions), causing people to pay extra attention to the words you say
- Physical humor juxtaposes objects in strange positions, causing us to pay extra attention and “live in the moment” to ponder the visual absurdity
- Linguistic humor references concepts and nuances behind vocabulary words stored in episodic memory
- Linguistic humor references the inner workings of one’s mind, not the outer workings of one’s body
2. Visual Content Marketing is the driving force behind new trends in social media. But at the end of the day, it’s finding the absurd in the human condition, and “sharing a moment” by collectively laughing about it, that spurns collective change, promotes content marketing, and gives the competitive, solitary, sometimes grueling nature of entrepreneurship its wings to be free, and be more in touch with humanity.
I will finish up my series on visual content marketing and humor next week. For now, let me leave you with two funny photos perfect for those of us enduring the #snowapocolypse (and good for those of you who want to gloat).
Which one depicts physical humor and which one shows linguistic?