Some wistful E-mail writers and neighbors who read yesterday’s post complained to me that they have no idea how to be funny. Some of them proved it. So today’s message is a quick primer on how to have heaping helpings of humor to share around the hospital room or even in the privacy of your home when you face a medical - or ANY - crisis.
Issue an ALL-POINTS BULLETIN for Whatever Doesn’t Fit! For you non-Americans, an APB is a police term designating dedicated searches for criminals, missing children (usually napping in the closet or hiding behind mommy as she frantically searches the whole house) or stolen merchandise. In short, spot the item in a list/series of things that seems out of place and joke around at the expense of a thing without feelings. I prefer not to make jokes about people whose feelings can be hurt. Stick it to the inanimate and leave the neighbors alone. This means family members, too ;^ )
Pun, pun, pun. Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is a genius at this.
Play with words as you seek out the ones to convey the depth of your situation (I've done it several times on today's message). The surprising use of worn-out words gives them fresh new perspective that can enter and remain in your audience's heads. And yours!
Alliterate. All of us kind of crumble from hearing boring lectures. Attract attention with verbal allure. Say the same sounds again and again so they'll s-s-s-scintillate.
Timing. Poets and songwriter/singers succeed with rhythmic patterns (Garth Brooks does this well). Practice puffing your pronunciations with pregnant pauses. Allow listeners to think, to expect something routine, then WOW them with the unexpected!
Triples. The late comedian Steve Allen wrote about triples in one of his books about how to be a comedian. Build up a joke with three possibilities, the last one being a surprise ending to the lull building up in your listeners’ mind.
Turning the Situation on its Side with Laughter. Treat the problem at hand as if it were a naughty puppy or a friend with a wicked sense of humor.
Poke Fun at Pain. Pain is a universal, part of everyone’s lives. Prove that emotional and physical pain do not control your mind. Let everyone around you know that your responses to pain and to painful circumstances come from your sense of willpower and your desire for better times. Your attitude will invite people into your wonderful world of coping mechanisms.
Here, I’ll try to illustrate with some non-medical situations:
GOOGLE kinda lost it for a while yesterday. Several bloggers couldn’t update their messages. Not good news for those of us selling something. I E-mailed a writing colleague several times to find out how she was coping. Here’s how that went as I Turned the Situation on its Side with Laughter:
ME: Nuts! I can’t access my blog.
Is Google goin’ ga-ga?
JEAN: Yes! And I’m kinda peeved at the mo’!
ME: I need to correct a typo before my readers catch it. I have a “can can” in the middle of a sentence. French dancing is NOT on my blog's agenda ;^
One more illustration before I leave you for the day:
A different colleague asked a professional writers' listserv for a solution to dirty mirrors and windows for an article she’s writing in WASHPOST. Hmmm, my chance to make it into a prestigious paper. So, here’s our cyber-dialogue (I hope it helps to hoist me into journalistic fame and sells my book by the truckload):
FREELANCE WRITER: I'm working on a story for the Washington Post Real Estate Section on cleaning windows, mirrors and glass...
How do you clean yours? Looking for your successes AND failures. (Grandma's technique anyone?)
And/or professional (or not so professional) window washers you have used and any stories (disasters) you'd care to share.
Please reply off-list to +=+=
Here’s my respone to that journalistic research effort:
ME: I use 2 methods:
Newsprint and vinegar (works like a charm and WOW is it cheap!) for total surface cleansing and brilliant shine.
A soft puff of air followed by a wipe-down with clean flannel cloth (usually an old shirt or nightie that saw better days) whenever I spot wispy-looking smudges (WHERE do those come from, anyway?).
But the unexpected happened (use it for more humor) and I was ready for it, using Humor with a Twist of Utter Silliness:
FREELANCE WRITER: Those wispy looking smudges are part of the problem...
Me: They come from cooking, humidity and outer space. I kinda wonder which evil aliens are sending those smudges down here. Slobs! Go back to your own galaxy (or is it too messy for even you?)
FW: do you have a preferred newspaper? (City Paper works better for me).
ME: I live in Israel so I use whatever's handy, although I remember City Paper as quite helpful when I was in the DC area.
FW: could this "soft puff of air" be you blowing on the surface or is there some thingus that you use?
ME: Me. Does that make me a Me-ngus? ;^ )
FW: Is this approach one you discovered yourself or was it handed down or read about?
ME: The air puff was my idea. The newspapers with vinegar trick is older than than the Flintstones.
FW: There are over 1 million glass cleaning references on google. Could it all come down to newsprint and vinegar?
ME: Yep. Merchandisers take advantage of unaware consumers willing to pay for something to solve problems for them.
I first learned to make fun of life with its weird twists and painful turns from a grade-school friend I used to play with in downtown Detroit. Her dad sold a business to my father, and we little girls relieved our boredom from business discussions by wrapping towels around our trunks or sticking towels in our T-shirt collars, then pretending to be Wonder Woman or Super Girl as we leapt off tall buildings and rescued endangered animals (bouncy beds and stuffed toys, actually).
Aw c'mon, it was fun to pretend to be pretty and strong, not goofy girls as awkward as we'd been.
Readers, YOU CAN COPE with the vagaries of life. A neighbor, loved one, book (MINE for instance!) or your favorite blog could prove helpful to you. Seek out your solution. As Roseanne Rosannadanna would have said, "It just goes to show you, it's always something."
To my first mentor for funny frou-frou, here's to you Gilda Radner. May you rest in happiness.
To your good health,
Coping with a Medical Crisis?
Make the Changes You Need in Your Life.