Work Can Be Funny, Says Descheneaux

funny-businessAndre Descheneaux has made a career out of funny business. And after one of his lighten-up lectures, you may find yourself laughing all the way to the bank.

ANDRE DESCHENEAUX’S grey hair may suggest sober maturity, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Standing in front of a audience of seminar-takers, he clowns and prances, he gesticulates and performs a little dance. His routine may not be the kind of subject usually given at these events. Still, he gets his point across. As the head (and only member) of the Applied Humour Association, his purpose is to educate people about humour on the job. And his advice is unequivocal: make them laugh.

Why? Because it motivates people, it …

In Jokes, What Exactly Is Tasteless?

exactlyistasteless“It’s a joke, a J-O-K-E,” said one Great Man of Canadian magazines, while various newspaper columns filled up with diatribes on how humorless Frum and Amiel were. After all, the joke was made by an actress in her role as a slattern from Newfoundland.

Me, well, I shrugged, having long got the measure of Canada’s media elites. Of course, it was a joke–a bad, tasteless joke. As far as I’m concerned, if people want to make bad tasteless jokes, let them. I wondered, though, what the same group might have said if at a benefit for rape victims, a co-host in the role of an Alberta redneck joked that some women, perhaps Judy Rebick and Michele Landsberg, might be a …

All Hail Mouth-breathers!

mouth-breathSleeping is the best thing that a human can allow their body to do. Sleep replenishes your energy, allows your blood pressure to slow down and your heart to calm. It is great for mental refreshment as well. There are a lot of issues that can plague people while they are trying to sleep though. For instance, if you have an uncomfortable bed you probably won’t get a great nights’ sleep. You might toss and turn a lot which will interrupt your REM cycle and not allow your body to get that relaxation it needs. As well, if you have a lot of stress or you’re one of those people whose mind works a mile a minute just the act of falling asleep can be difficult. There’s also another big preventer of sleep: snoring. Whether you are the one who actually does the snoring the one who has to live with the snoring it’s not a nice environment and it can cause a lot of stress and problems.

But there are ways to circumvent snoring. There are many products on the market that are designed to help you alleviate snoring from special pillows to nasal strips to mouthpieces. Of course, not every single product is going to work for everyone and you really shouldn’t think that there is a cookie-cutter solution for the issue. Every single person is different so what works for your friend might not work for you. You need to consider your position when you sleep, the amount of sleep you’re getting and even the way you breathe when you sleep.
Most people are able to breathe through their noses whether they snore or not. For those people, anti-snoring mouthpieces are generally the way to go. Of course, if you are a mouth-breather that doesn’t mean your options are limited. This is where careful research will come into play and consideration for your own comfort. Mouthpieces have been proven to reduce or eliminate snoring and many of them have to undergo rigorous testing to be approved for sale by health authorities.

If you Google anti-snoring mouthpieces you will probably see a lot of pictures and products that look like a mouth guard that you wear when you sleep. At this point, all the mouth-breathers are probably thinking this is not for them. If you breathe through your mouth and this hunk of plastic blocks off that airway your snoring will probably get worse, right? Not necessarily. You need to look for those snoring mouthpieces that keep mouth-breathers in mind. They’re people too!

One of the better Read More »

Writing Funny Cards Can Pay Off

magazineWhen you sell an article to a magazine — or even research a market in hopes of selling to it — you’ve done everything a cartoonist would do, short of waiting a joke. If you know the editor well enough to make her think, you can probably make her laugh. With a few extra steps, why not tease extra income from your research by writing cartoons?

I’m a cartoonist, and when I approach a market — Air & Space Smithsonian, for example — I study it as any writer would. I read the articles and notice the ads. I research around the magazine and browse through popular-science books and journals. A few years ago, when Shoemaker and Levy announced that a train of comets would derail into Jupiter, I behaved as a writer: I made sure that no stray bits would hit my house, then I rallied the facts and submitted a proposal to the editor. Unlike a writer, however, my proposal was a cartoon, my text was a caption, and the editor laughed.

That’s the trick, of course. Humor is unpredictable. But you can sharpen its reliability with simple exercises. Here are a few proven paths to a gag:

* You Know Their Names. Celebrities, historical figures, fairy tale characters. They all have familiar attributes. Create situations that highlight them. If the cow jumps over the moon, for example, turn it into a cartoon about exercise. If “George Washington slept here,” place the sign on a bird house. If George Lucas is known for Star Wars, show him as a baby with toy spaceships hanging in his crib.

* Buzzwords. According to tech and computer hardware site, if you hear it in the news or in a general interest Read More »

Laughing For Straight Cash

laughingforstarightAlthough they don’t like to admit it, even hit TV shows will crank up the response to a so-so joke with an extra chuckle here, a war whoop there. Notes Walter Barnett, former producer of the ABC sitcom Spin City, “People don’t seem to think sitcoms are as funny if they don’t have a laugh track. This is purely anecdoted. I can’t give you any science.” Ah, but scientists can: Ever since the first laugh track appeared on a television sitcom in 1950, social scientists have confirmed that canned laughs (today available on CD) encourage laughter and actually make people feel as though the material is funnier. Weirder still–but good news to sitcom producers–laughter by itself, even in the absence …

Laughing Cures All, But Can Cut As Well

laughingcuresallIt’s a funny thing: Laughter eases stress–and helps fight all kinds of ailments. Another funny thing: The way you laugh–and what sets you off–can be very revealing.

Things were going well–too well, I thought, as I nervously picked at my salad. Normally, when I went on a blind date (this was before I was married), I made sure I knew all the bad news up front. But my friend Kate had only enthused about my date’s good points. So far, she’d been fight: I was having dinner with a rakishly handsome, impeccably groomed, obviously intelligent man. By the time we got to the main course, I was praying he liked me.

And then he laughed.

It was not like any …

Cancer Doesn’t Get Him Down

cancerJonathan Ferguson is the kind of problem-solver who tackles a challenge head-on-even when he has every right to be inactive.

Ferguson, 37, a vice president of technology for the Members Choice Credit Union in Ashland, Ky., became a cancer patient at the new Taussig Cancer Center at the Cleveland Clinic, where he stumbled upon a shortcoming of the high-tech outpatient facility.

“The center has 60 individual treatment rooms, each equipped with a combination TV/VCR,” Ferguson says. “But they only had a handful of movies for patients to watch during their treatments.”

So Ferguson, who was diagnosed in March with acute lymphocytic leukemia and completed a bone marrow transplant in July, kicked off a video donation drive. Friends and family …

Misc Chuckles

miscchucklesAshley Cowan’s story is also more than just about an athletic feat. When she was just 18 months old, her limbs were amputated below the elbows and knees after she survived a near-fatal bout of meningitis. Her condition was initially diagnosed as a fever, but her mother, Shurlene, sought a second, and then a third opinion. Cowan was sent by ambulance to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and, on the way, her heart stopped for 15 minutes. By the time she was resuscitated by paramedics, gangrene had set into her limbs.

Her disability has not stopped her. Cowan competed as a figure skater until, at age 8, she watched news coverage of distance swimmer Vicki Keith crossing the Great Lakes. …

Get Funny. Quickly.

americanssenYou’ve read a lot about the art of memoir, about the power of telling a story from the personal point of view. Despite my well-known prejudices against injecting yourself into your nonfiction, I want to fess up to yet another area – besides the obvious example of memoirs – where putting yourself in the story pays off.

It’s humor. As is always noted by my friends at Project Vibe, if you seek to poke fun, there’s no better or funnier target than yourself. Even if your true aim is to satirize some foible in society, making yourself ostensibly the butt of the joke is the best way to get a laugh while making your point.

Think about how Dave …

Writing Funny: Not Easy, Believe Me

writingfunnyYOU WON’T BECOME a humor writer just by following a set of rules. People become humor writers because they can’t help themselves. But if that’s your bent, you might find that these suggestions–gleaned from my years of experience as a humorist–provide some encouragement and direction.

1 Never write about real-life humor. Every so often, I will receive a letter that goes something like this: “We were all going fishing down at the river, and my Uncle Ed, he says he’s going to walk a log to get to the other side. Well, about halfway across, Uncle Ed hits a slick patch, his legs shoot out from under him, and he goes right in the river. We laughed ourselves sick. You …