So, You Can’t Tell a Joke?

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“The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed.”  –Sebastian Chamfort
“When we see how funny we are, we see how dear we are.” –Anne Wilson Schaef
            I am grateful that in today’s world there is an increasing awareness that humor and laughter are good for us. The evidence is mounting. Every day there is more news about the power of humor and laughter to heal us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Every system of the body responds to laughter in some important, positive, healing way.  Most folks seem to want to get all the laughs they can, and would love to tell jokes. Two big obstacles to joke telling are 1) most of us don’t have very good memory for jokes, and 2) very few people know the secrets of telling a joke really well.  (Perhaps, from listening to your brother-in-law’s attempts to jokes, you already knew that.)
It has been said that there are two sure rules for making something funny; unfortunately, nobody knows what they are! Therefore, this blog is NOT going to teach you how to tell jokes. It IS going to show you how to add vast quantities of humor to your life WITHOUT telling jokes. 
But, while we’re on the subject, here are my two best tips for telling jokes. 1) The punchline comes at the end. Don’t ruin the joke by asking, “Did you hear the one about…” and then saying the punchline. By the way, a well-crafted punchline will have a punch word. If you tell it right, the punch word is the absolutely last word of the joke! 2) If you can’t remember a joke don’t dismember it. Telling a joke well requires practice and getting feedback so you can revise the telling and practice again. Do NOT unleash a joke on a key audience until you know it cold, and have mastered the gestures, voice inflections and timing.
Not interested or capable of the following my advice? Never could tell a joke? Relax. Not to worry. You can earn a reputation for being funny without ever telling a joke. Ninety-five percent of people believe that they have a good sense of humor, but only about 2% – 5% can tell a joke really well.  Most people can’t think of a snappy comeback when someone hits them with a zinger, until about two hours later when they realize, “Now I know what I should have said to him!”  By then, of course, it’s too late.
Sound like you? I hope you’re feeling better about not doing a good job of telling jokes because you are in good company, and the humor doctor is here.  I believe that everyone can locate and develop their sense of humor.  First, we should clear up two mistaken ideas about humor and laughter.
            1. Many people mistakenly believe that you are born with a sense of humor.  The parts of the brain and central nervous system that control laughing and smiling are mature at birth in human infants, but that is not the same thing as having a sense of humor. (After all, when an infant laughs in its crib we don’t rush over and say, “That kid has a great sense of humor!”)  Your sense of humor is something you can develop over a lifetime.
            2. Humor covers a lot more than laughing and joke telling.  A sense of humor requires an attitude that includes the willingness and ability to see the funny side of life’s situations as they happen to ourselves and others. One of the best definitions of a sense of humor is: the ability to see the non-serious element in a situation.  The ability to tell jokes is only one small part of humor.  
            You may know people who have taken the time to memorize some jokes, and they may have good timing and delivery, but if they cannot see the humor in everyday life when there are foul-ups or set-backs, they don’t really have a very good sense of humor.  On the other hand, if you can see the humor in everyday situations, even if you are terrible at telling jokes, you still have a great sense of humor!
For example, I saw this sign in a store window. I am sure the store manager placed the sign to impress customers with the service they would receive there. That is a serious point in business these days, but to me the sign was humorous. It read: Any Faulty Merchandise Will Be Cheerfully Replaced With Merchandise of Equal Quality. Pretty funny, eh?
The Top Ten (eleven, actually) Ways to Have Humor (and be funny) Without Joke-Telling
1. Look for the unintended humor of reality. Example: a sign seen in an Acapulco restaurant, “The manager has personally passed all the water served here”. Collect examples like this in a notebook so you have them available whenever you want to share a laugh with others or just to review yourself whenever your spirits need a lift. 
2. Wear funny hats or T-shirts with funny sayings printed on them.  Conduct a “Funny Hat Day” at work.  My wife, Pam’s favorite T-shirt is emblazoned with, “My Next Husband Will Be Normal“. Good for loads of laughs and understanding looks from other women.
3.  Become a toy collector.  You never outgrow your need for toys. They induce playfulness and laughter in yourself and others.  Make it a point to shop for toys for yourself.  Buy the toys that suit you best.  Whether its a simple wind-up toy that bounces and jiggles across your desk or an elaborate electronic gizmo. It may be just the icebreaker to get to know a new employee at work or to create a pleasant exchange with a new customer. If it brings a smile to your face, it can give you the relief you need to ward off the ill-effects of stress. 
4. Wear fun badges.  Start your own collection.  Some of my favorites read, “I’m not deaf!  I’m ignoring you!” and “Enjoy life!  This is not a dress rehearsal!”  The badge conveys the humor; you don’t have too tell a joke.
5. Place humor in your environment. Put cartoons on bulletin boards at work, or put up a humorous poster in your office or at your desk.  When there are cartoons on bulletin boards, people will read more of the other notices. When your eye catches your funny poster, you get a lightening quick boost.
6. Schedule time for fun.  Be sure you get to see that favorite funny TV show, or go to a comedy club, or just take time to play with your kids.  If you have a very busy schedule it’s important to put it on the calendar and mark it “Don’t Postpone Joy!”
7. Enroll in a humor class.  Many adult education programs are now offering classes designed to help you discover and develop your humorous personality.  Several types of “Humor Conventions” are now held throughout the year.
8. Hang out with people who have a well-developed sense of humor.  Watch them and see what makes them laugh. Let them serve as good examples for you. If some people leave you feeling tense, drained, guilty, depresses, or otherwise bummed-out, get away from those energy thieves as fast as you can!  Get with people who make you laugh, who leave you feeling good, uplifted, re-energized!
9. Subscribe to humorous publications or read them at the library.  Check them out! (I love that pun.)
10. Become a HUMOR i-PENPAL. Line up a few friends who share your sense of humor, maybe even include a couple who’s sense of humor is diferent, off-beat. Viia e-mail or snail mail, exchange anyhing you find humorous – a greeting card, cartoon, bumper sticker, badge, poem, story, whatever. This is a great way to see what others are finding funny and infuse your day with laughs.  And, be sure to Google “jokes” because even if you can’t tell them, you sure can enjoy reading them!
11. Join a laughter circle or laughter club. These popular gatherings are for the love of laughter, NOT about jokes. They help you unleash your inner spirit of laughter through activities that are fun and “emotionally safe”. i.e., laughing with rather than laughter at, no judgment or criticism. Especialy good therapy for jesters who have lost their jingle. 
Use these ideas and find others that work to help you be more humorous and less serious and get the most out of life.  Everything goes better with humor and you definitely don’t have to be able to tell jokes!
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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and