Friday, June 22, 2012


A funny thing happened to me on the way to creativity. As part of my current process in exploring a possible new direction for myself, by attending classes at the San Francisco Comedy College and performing stand-up at the famed Purple Onion club, I have been watching and listening to a lot of comedy. 

Many comedians think outside the box and have perceptions and perspectives on the world they observe that are different from the conventional view most people have. And this can change the way the rest of us perceive and create. One example of this happened for me over twenty years ago when I saw Robin Williams do a bit in which he made fun of men who said they knew exactly what women went through during pregnancy. He said, "That's just not true unless you are a man who shoved an umbrella up your ass and then opened it."  Funny, yes, but it also gave me a whole new awareness of the level of pain women endure and what seems to be their superior ability to endure it.

We know from the work pioneered by my friend and mentor, the late Norman Cousins, that laughter releases those powerful brain chemicals known as endorphins, and that this can have a powerful effect on our immune system. My friend, author Allen Klein, who calls himself The Jollytologist, has a number of books on the healing power of humor, and how it can reduce stress in life and in the workplace. 

I have dozens of comedy performances lined up in my streaming Netflix queue, so I can tap into a comedy bombardment, or just a short burst anytime I want. This includes about a dozen George Carlin specials, each one containing many of his original thoughts on life and the way things work. He obviously spent a lot of time in deep thought and introspection, and we can benefit from the results.  You can Google Carlin or any other comedian, and not only get videos of their work, but find that when these YouTube videos appear, you usually get a large choice of other comedy performances in the righthand margin. 

And if you want to kickstart your own creative energy, one strategy I suggest is to try to come up with a funny line or gag of your own that addresses the subject. In the beginning comedy classes at SF Comedy College, instructor Kurtis Matthews suggests students start by exploring something that is not working or upsetting them currently. I would suggest the same approach can be useful in exploring a challenge for which you are seeking a solution. Funny thoughts are still thoughts, and sometimes produce the exact mental booster shot we need.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012


The genius is dead, but long live the genius in the impact his imagination had. Two days ago, we lost Ray Bradbury at the age of 91. Yes, I am a bit sad at the passing of my mentor and friend (perhaps it would be more accurate to call him an acquaintance, as we only chatted or visited intermittently over the past thirty years). We first met when I was a student at the famous Santa Barbara Writers Conference. The following year, based on the success of my book, Moneylove, I was invited to join the faculty and teach a class on nonfiction. I also ran the midnight-to-whenever Pirate Workshop. This was a session where writers of all levels of experience and success met to read portions of their works-in-progress and get feedback. Ray was the permanent opening night keynote speaker. As in his books and short stories, his talks were always mind-challenging and totally entertaining.

I interviewed him for my 1981 book, Psychological Immortality, and we began a correspondence. I was fascinated when he told me of his Mr. Electrico experience and he promised to send me a copy so I could refer to it in my writings and seminars. When it didn't arrive right away, I presumed he had forgotten the promise, but never reminded him. So imagine my surprise when it arrived about six months later, with a scribbled note on the  photocopied typed nine page manuscript. His note said, "Dear Jerry, I promised you this many months ago. I hope  you can still use it. Best, Ray."  The somewhat tattered pages have remained one of my most prized possessions for thirty years. In the hours since his death, I've been surprised at the attention this relatively unknown tale has gotten, along with several articles on the apparent mystery of whether there really was a Mr. Electrico. But real or not, it's a great story of the magic of inspiration, which Ray Bradbury provided so many of us.!

I recently did some writing about Albert Einstein, as well as featuring him on my latest audio for the Moneylove Club. I noted that though Einstein was always modest about his intellect, calling his great achievements a result of his patience and persistence in looking for solutions, he really was a genius. Scientists studying his brain years after he died in 1955, discovered it was much larger than usual, and even had some physiological differences from the brains of most of us, allowing him to make some connections more easily than normal human beings. I suspect the same might be true of Ray Bradbury. 

At one point, chatting with him while he was approaching 80, he told me he still wrote one short story a week, and was working on some ideas with the Disney theme park people and on a project with the Jacques Cousteau Society, as well as various movie and TV projects, and his beloved visits to high schools to talk to students. Yes, I'm a bit sad, but also very envious. What a life! What a long and creative career, and he seemed to love every minute of it. One of his quirks was that he never had lunch with anyone, thinking it was usually a waste of precious time. I therefore considered it a unique honor that we once shared some street food while walking around his LA neighborhood. I will continue to honor his memory by striving to imitate his creative energy, and never bemoaning the fact that to do so is probably impossible.

More of what I learned from Ray Bradbury on my other blog: