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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