Home » 132 – Funny in the Workplace

132 – Funny in the Workplace

by Jill

Humor can be a powerful tool in the workplace, helping to build rapport, relieve stress, and make training more engaging. It can also improve health and well-being, and help people connect and communicate more effectively. The book Humor. Seriously encourages readers to embrace humor in the workplace, debunking myths about its appropriateness and effectiveness, and providing tips for developing a sense of humor and using it to build connections and improve communication. You like being with funny people, so why not be more funny?!


What kind of jokes do they tell that makes it funny for you, and Are there ways that you could start being more observational in your life and maybe even tell similar jokes You know, jokes are one of those things that everybody steals everybody else’s jokes, but if you can get that Observational mindset where you start seeing levity in the moment. It’ll make you all the funnier.



Humor can be a powerful tool in the workplace, helping to build connections, relieve stress, and make training more engaging. Being funny is like a muscle that can be developed through practice, and it’s important to find a humor style that is appropriate and effective. Levity is a mindset that actively seeks joy and can help balance out the seriousness of work. Humor can also have health benefits and improve overall well-being.

<MUSIC PLAYING> Have you ever wondered, could I be funnier at work. And what kind of impact would it have with the people around me.

<MUSIC PLAYING> If you can find humor in your own troubles, you will actually begin to see them in a different light. Christine Joy Esquerila, 50 Things to know about living in the moment.

Today we’re gonna talk about the book, “Humor Seriously, Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life and How Anyone Can Harness It, Even You,” by Jennifer Aker and Naomi Bagdonas.

I get a big kick out of humor at work. It makes it fun when you can be around people who tell jokes, people I like at work tend to be nice. Lighthearted people who tell good jokes, say funny things, makes the workday go a lot better. But as a trainer and someone who helps people use software better, I find it a good tool for being people awake during boring trainings or breaking the tension in a serious moment.

Now, a lot of times the people I work with are cancer researchers and researchers of other devastating diseases. And one might think that that is not a great time to start cracking jokes, but boy, if anyone needed a good joke, it’s people have a serious, important job, like during cancer.

I do use humor at work, and I think it’s one thing that helps me be more approachable to the people around me. I think people feel comfortable talking to me because I crack a good number of jokes.

A few weeks ago, I was at a customer site visiting, And I told them that I was going to be working on a podcast about humor in the workplace, and that I was about to tell them a joke. And you know what. I blew the joke. Every possible way you can blow a joke. I said the wrong words. I mean, this is a joke that I’ve been telling for a decade. How did I get this wrong. But as soon as I thought about humor in the workplace, suddenly I was out thinking myself and then I messed up my joke, which made everyone laugh. They thought it was funny that I messed up this joke. So even when you don’t get your joke out right, somehow it still ends up being funny.

And they say that one of the best ways that you can get people on an emotional level, that you can bring workplaces together, is about humor and having it resonate with the people you’re telling the jokes. Believe it or not, I do a lot of hospital billing type of work And I have hospital billing jokes. I mean, who ever heard of a person having hospital billing jokes. But I actively go out looking for jokes that I can tell in that type of workplace. And then I also look for other jokes that you can talk about in doctor clinics and other types of things that end up being funny. And even when there’s times when things are stressful or people just need a little bit of relief from what’s going on, having a good sense of humor helps, I think everyone break that tension. And that’s why I thought this book was a good way to go. If we could have more humor in the workplace, the right humor at the right time, it could help us do all sorts of important work better.

And they say about humor, quote, “Doing so with a healthy sense of humor, with intellectual perspective, empathy, and humanity, It brings a vital part of responding to the unexpected, of adapting to new realities. Words matter little. Behavior and attitude are what count. That means that a lot of times too, when it comes to humor, just like my bad joke, it was the attitude, it was me trying to bring something to them, that ended up making it funny, even if the words I said were not exactly the words I intended to say.

They also say that what happens when we use humor in the workplace is that it helps make us more influential. People like us better, and it helps us to stand out. It also builds like a rapport and really kind of brings that bridge together.

If I go into a new workplace and I’m doing some training for them, and I’m standing around at the beginning, got my little Diet Coke, and I’m waiting for people to come into the training room, I start walking around and talking to people and cracking little tiny jokes, more like about how I woke up and tripped because my shoelaces were Velcroed to the carpet or something. You know, I immediately start building this kind of funny rapport with them. And then when they find out I’m the actual trainer and not just some coworker they didn’t meet, suddenly they lighten up a little bit when it comes to training.

I can tell you that if you have software training and you’re gonna tell someone, We’re going to sit here for the next five days, the next eight hours a day and learn software. People just are not into it, believe it or not.

So when I go in there and I start cracking jokes, it immediately tells them this could be better than just software training. This might be more than software training. Maybe I’m actually going to get to laugh and maybe the days won’t feel so long. I hope that’s what they’re thinking. Or maybe they’re thinking, oh, gosh, there we go. Another joking person.

We even had a situation at a conference where the microphone system went down for a little bit, and you could tell that the people up on stage were just getting nervous and weren’t public speakers, they weren’t feeling great about what was going on. So immediately, as I have a really loud voice, being a trainer, that I can command a training room without a microphone, I started telling jokes, got up there, start telling jokes while the IT team frantically goes about and tries to fix the speaker system and filled the next five to seven minutes with some jokes. And, you know, I even did a little standup routine with some of the people I knew in the room and it went really well. And it relieved the stress of an entire room looking at these two people on stage waiting for them to say something. I know that they came and thanked me after it was done because they were so nervous and getting more nervous. I had fun because I got to tell a bunch of jokes and the people in the room seemed to like it enough. So even that humor can bring about just a sense of relief when a situation needs some relieving.

They give a quote from a comedian, John Sherman, who says, quote, If people are laughing, it means they’re paying attention. So that also helps grip people into what you’re saying. They’re checking their mail, they’re reading something else, they’re not following along in training. A good joke will often bring them back to me.

The other fun thing about it is that if you make a mistake or you say something, you know, that would be embarrassing. I know a lot of people when they do public speaking, the one thing that they’re most horrified about is, “Am I going to screw up. Am I going to do something that will embarrass me, will embarrass my company or, you know, like that. And so they mentioned that if you make a mistake, it’s easy to kind of get into that shame spiral, they say. Or just be embarrassed about what happened. But if you can put some humor to it, suddenly it becomes hilarious. It becomes something that people will talk about, people come up and you know realize that you’re moving on, that you’re not stuck in that moment. It reminds me in Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure movie, there’s this point where he’s riding his bicycle and he hits a rock or something and he goes flying off his bicycle and he rolls 30 feet in front of it and he stands up and he brushes himself off and says I meant to do that. I have used that joke where I’ve tripped in front of the training room and everyone’s like and then I say I meant to do that and then they all laugh and it’s all good so you can see that humor really breaks that bridge.

And they give statistics about how cortisol and levels of heart disease and other types of infection all can be helped with people that have a high sense of humor. Meaning not just that they can tell jokes or laugh at situations, but they can laugh with people and they can laugh at almost anything. There’s so much around us that can give us joy and humor us that it’s also good for our health.

I even remember that after 9/11, you know, everyone just was stunned and dragged out, you know, for months and weeks and it just seemed like nothing was funny. And I remember at one of the Saturday Night Lives, the first one that came back after 9/11, and remember this is a show that is filmed live in New York, suddenly they had the producer of the show, Lorne Michaels, come on and he was talking and he says, “Well, is it okay for us to laugh again. ” Yeah, it’s time. you could sense that almost a break in this dread that was going on. That as soon as Saturday Night Live could laugh again, we could too. And so it really helped us get over even a big tragedy in the appropriate amount of time.

They talk about the difference between gravity and levity, that some things are very serious, like 9/11, or even the fact that I’m talking to people who treat cancer patients every day. Gravity, but levity is that balance to it and it helps people in very grave situations, whatever it is to gain a Little bit of relief from it They say that if we stop taking ourselves so seriously it helps even relief our stress about ourselves Again, if I trip in front of a training room or I say the wrong thing or I screw up a joke in front of customers. Being funny about it and being humorous about it relieved my stress, hopefully it relieved their stress, and so it helps us build those connections we have with other people

So they say that that’s really the point of this book, so that we can learn the power of humor and why we need to do more of it when we’re at work even.

They have something that they call the humor cliff and that is basically this edge that we’re afraid to start telling jokes or being humorous because maybe we feel we’re not funny, maybe we feel our jokes aren’t funny, maybe we feel like oh this is a very serious situation I shouldn’t be telling jokes and so there’s this thing that’s keeping us from being humorous at work and it just might be be pure embarrassment.

So what they did is they created a quiz that you can take on their website for free and it’ll tell you what kind of humor person you are. And it’s a cross section of basically kind of the level of aggression of the jokes you do and whether you’re making fun of the people around you or you’re incorporating them into your joke and you’re bringing them up.

So I thought the test was really interesting and if you’ve listen to this podcast, you know I like personality tests.

Regardless of what science is behind them, I do like a good personality test.

And they say that being funny, having a sense of humor is like a muscle.

The more we do it, the better we get at it.

And the less we use it, the less good we’re at it.

And so we can see that first step of us trying to use humor more often is to use it more often.

And they think that just the fact that everything is so serious, maybe in the workplace, maybe in the world around us, it’s really harming our societies as a whole.

They bring up a chart which they call the global humor cliff and essentially what they’re saying is as people get older they start losing their laughing.

How many percentage of people who reported smiling or laughing a lot and And it goes down from when you’re a kid, but somewhere after 75 it starts to rebound and people start laughing again So it’s interesting to me.

We do need more humaner in our lives regardless of what age we are They say that the last thing we need is more Professionalism at work because we need to be more human and one of the greatest ways to be more human at work is to bring our humor out So they gave what they said are the four deadly myths of humor at work The first one is believing that her isn’t great to have in the workplace and that is entirely not true It’s one of the best places to have it And they give some statistics about people who feel like there’s just not enough humor at work and When people feel like there’s funny people in the office how much they like their jobs much more One of the funny things is it talks about Speaking like a regular person and one of the things that I think I do very well And my performance review backs me up on this is that I speak like a regular person that I’m approachable That regardless if you’re a clinical research person, you’re a billing person.

You’re a doctor.

You’re in leadership You’re an IT I talk to you like a human being and I try to bring my language to the level of the person I’m talking to That helps people feel comfortable that makes them feel comfortable asking you questions It makes them feel comfortable that you’re not going to talk over their head Once I was in a training class and he used all this very big lingo And so I kind of asked him gently and you know, why are you using all this big lingo, you know here, you know I’m not sure that everyone knows this word or that word and he goes because I’m on the younger side of everyone in this room and I want them to know I’m a professional.

” So he was using big words so people took him seriously but instead he was confusing everybody because not everyone in that room had that same experience.

And they did a little chart which I liked a lot.

They had a lever with a weight on one side and a balloon on the other meaning that levity creates the balance between hard things.

It makes life worth living and it makes a day happier.

So don’t think of work humor as something that you don’t want to do.

And she gave a quote to Eisenhower who once said, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.

” What a great quote.

Then the second myth is that we might fail if our joke doesn’t work.

What if you completely screw up the joke and everyone laughs at you because you screwed up the joke.

Well, you know, that’s part of it too.

And so people don’t tell jokes at work or do humorous things because they’re worried it’s gonna fall flat.

And so they give you a chart that there’s appropriateness and there’s laughter.

And if nobody laughs but the joke’s appropriate, it’s fine.

Just like it was fine for my joke.

If people laugh and it’s appropriate, bingo.

You did the money shot on that joke.

But if it’s not an appropriate joke and people don’t laugh, you’re a jerk.

And if it’s not appropriate and people laugh, you’re being a villain, meaning you’re picking on somebody.

So it’s really not that you have to worry about work having humor or you telling a joke.

You have to just make sure that your joke is appropriate and something that is safe, good for the workplace.

Something that’s not gonna get you fired either.

The third myth is that in order to be funny you have to be a funny person.

Well you know you think that there’s you know there’s people and I hear all this time well Jill you’re funny you tell jokes you’re good at this I’m terrible at this but it’s not true that you have to be good at it.

You get better at it by doing it more it will earn you respect.

And it’s really about having observations.

I mean 90% of my jokes are just something that I observe around the room.

I have prepared jokes like when that conference kind of broke down and I had something I had to do to tell jokes.

But for the most part I don’t.

I don’t bring a full set of jokes.

What I do is I sort of observe everything in the room.

I said, “You see this thing.

My hair standing up here in front of the room.

This is what happens when you stay in a hotel your hair does this No matter how hard you try to look great in the morning You’re gonna look like this and then everyone laughs and it’s not funny it was just something that happens in hotel rooms, right or if you Tell a joke about the weather outside, you know, and I where I was going it was very cold I’m, not someone who often gets cold.

I never wear a jacket unless it gets to 20 degrees And so everyone had a good joke on my behalf because they were all freezing to death And I was telling them about how I was gonna go And get my bathing suit and go out to the ocean and swim because it was so balmy out, you know And it was just a observation about how chilly everybody was when I wasn’t cold So really if you want to get better at humor just look for moments That are funny and we’re going to talk in the next podcast about how to be funnier right now The book is trying to convince you that funny is important So I talked about how that they had a quiz and so they wanted you to take this quiz and find your humor style And then they said that there are four humor styles there Stand up sweetheart the magnet that was me the sniper and it’s on a chart of Kind or affiliative it says versus aggressive or subtle versus expressive And so I tend to tell jokes that are pretty obvious very kind and funny.

I don’t make fun of people I don’t poke people while the stand-up personality is Expressive but it also might make fun of the person in the room. It might look at someone who was there I mentioned that I like the comedian Emo Phillips quite a bit. His humor too is Observational and I saw him when I was in college and I was sitting at a table right by the stage and he just started talking to me and making, you know, some kind of joke about what I was doing. And I don’t remember what the joke was, but I was a freshman in college and I was horrified.

But, you know, that’s stand up routine, you know, that you’re walking around the room and making fun of it. If you watch the marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you’ll see a lot of her poking fun of people in the audience.

Then the sweetheart is someone who does the affiliative kinder jokes, but it’s subtle. So you might even miss that that person’s telling a joke because it’s very quiet joke, you know, and so there’s some good humor there. And then there’s the aggressive, a subtle person, and that’s the sniper.

And I think you’ve seen those in maybe sitcoms or something where someone will not be saying anything and all of a sudden, bam, they just nail someone in the room with something that’s an aggressive joke, you know, maybe takes them down a not interested in it. The link to the quiz is going to be in the show notes and you can see what kind of person you are.

But typically my jokes are expressive. I’m an extroverted person. I like to tell big expressive jokes. And so that tends to be my way to go. It was funny when I was working in Los Angeles for a hospital, someone said, you’re funny. You should try going to one of these standup comic places and seeing if you can’t do a standup routine.

And I thought about it because I was working for them for over a year. And I thought, you know, I might be funny for the Midwest. I don’t know that I’m Los Angeles funny. That sounds to me probably like a whole other level. So I think I could do a good Midwest kind of humor. I’m not sure I’d make it in Los Angeles. You know, it’s I never tried.

That’s bad on me for not even giving it a shot. And they said in the end, regardless of whatever humor type you are, The world of humor in the workplace is pretty low. You don’t want to be too expressive. You don’t want people rolling on the floor laughing. You don’t want to certainly be aggressive. It’s just about creating that very small moment where you’re connecting with the people you’re talking to.

And so that’s the thing I like best about it. That’s why I like presenting at conferences. I did a lot before the pandemic, a lot of public speaking. And when you had an audience that was just connecting with you, and you were telling some good jokes, and they were laughing, but you were making a good point, boy, there was just no better feeling on the planet.

So they say in the end, “Levity is a mindset, an inherent state of receptiveness to, and actively seeking, joy” And I like that because it just means that you’re trying to make other people in the room feel good. You’re trying to build up that room, particularly in the workplace, to just make everybody’s day better, to bring a serious situation and make it easier or funnier, and just making people laugh and building that connection with it. I remember I made this mistake once.

So there’s some basic forms that you can create in my software. And at some point I said, “Okay, well, let’s just talk about a topic. What kind of form could we build. There in the medical industry, what kind of form is typical for you.

” And someone said, “Well, I did a study where it was talking about bad behaviors.

” And then I said in my mind, “Uh-oh.

” “But you know what they say about comedy is you’re always saying yes.

” If I would have said, “No, let’s just do something more medical,” you know, then the room would have brought down and, you know, it wouldn’t have been as good.

But you know what.

We did that form.

And it had some raucous moments in there, but everybody laughed and I still you know Like ten years later people still come up to me and talk about how much they enjoyed my form-building session And it was all because of the topic and it was all because people got to have a little bit of fun with it But you know what train them on building a form in a fun way I also don’t know that I would pick that topic again, but it was great at the moment

And so they asked us to ask ourselves some questions And that’s why I recommend this book because I think it helps you to think about humor in your own life I mean what makes you laugh and how much do you laugh and when was the last time someone made you laugh.

What kind of humor do you like or people around you who makes you laugh around you.

So I think that if you can kind of think about what you think of it and what makes you laugh and have a good Time then I think you’ll know what your style will do I know that I like Emo Phillips.

He sort of has this intellectual Style of words and he tells some very good jokes He tells this joke about how his nephew came up to him and says uncle give me a wish and so I picked him up And I spun him around wish wish wish.

I thought it was important to teach him the dangers of homonyms Was hilarious and when I saw him locally just last year He got up and he says these are the expensive seats.

That means you are very important people For this town and that was the hilarious part because a lot of people in my town do think they’re very important But you know, he’s someone who goes to New York He’s someone who goes to Los Angeles and just by putting in that extra phrase in your town Made the whole thing so much funnier and we all laughed and so I’m starting to notice more about what makes me laugh, so maybe I can be better at making other people laugh.

So we’ll stop at this point.

I hope now that the book has convinced you that humor is important in the office, and we’ll talk a little bit about how to be funnier, how to make our jokes work for the office place, and some other issues when it comes to humor in the workplace.

My challenge to you is try to dissect some people that you think are funny.

And why do you think they’re funny.

What kind of jokes do they tell that makes it funny for you and Are there ways that you could start being more observational in your life and maybe even tell similar jokes You know jokes are one of those things that everybody steals everybody else’s jokes, but if you can get that Observational mindset where you start seeing levity in the moment. It’ll make you all the funnier.

All right, everyone And thanks so much. I appreciate listening to the podcast. Please remember to leave a review, tell a friend. It’ll help this podcast grow. I’m hoping to get to more people, see different topics that they would like to hear about. And as always, if you have a topic that you would like to hear, please email me at ji**@sm***********.com.

And just remember, the road is so much better when we can laugh along the way.


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