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Cross Country 61 - Humor Me; Teach Me

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  • Cross Country 61 - Humor Me; Teach Me

    It’s been a quiet week in Cuyahoga Falls…

    Man alone suffers so excruciatingly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter.


    I decided a while ago to begin my courses in this way, “Good morning. I’m Barrett Dorko and this is Manually Managing Pain sponsored by Cross Country Education and I’d like to welcome you to wherever it is I am today.”

    Now, as you read it, this line may seem a little lame, but I’ve found it gets a decent laugh most of the time, sometimes a pretty good one. And sometimes – nothin’.

    It’s that last one I worry about, of course, but even more, I wonder what the silence means. It’s my first attempt at humor and I know there will be a few others that I’ve planned carefully and, if I’m lucky, several that just come to me. I wonder: Does this first bomb mean there will be many more?

    In my first course last week I exploded one bomb after another. I tried everything I knew: self-deprecation, pregnant pauses (ala Johnny Carson), I altered my timing and found only “time-bombs” in return. Finally, I asked quite plainly why they weren’t laughing even just a little and in reply I got more of the same – nothin’. I started to sweat.

    In Humor and the Health Professions by Vera Robinson the author makes the point repeatedly that laughter itself is intimately related to learning. She even has this worked out down to the molecular level, citing the rise in the amount of catecholamine and adrenaline in the brain it produces thus enhancing alertness and memory. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I never sensed the silent class was actually learning anything as I spoke. They certainly didn’t reveal any recall in the afternoon when I asked them questions relevant to the morning’s lectures.

    I even had the experience of seeing in one student the presence of a non-Duchenne smile, which is a chilling experience.

    The next two days I was a hit, comedically anyway. I was especially funny when describing the absence of response earlier in the week to the classes who were laughing at what I had just said. This made them howl. They also came up with reasons for what I had experienced and, believe me; none were especially complimentary to the first group. Of course, the laughing classes learned more, or seemed to anyway.

    We’ll see if that learning lasts.

    I have the impression it doesn’t, but that the laughter does.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 19-02-2007, 02:18 PM.
    Barrett L. Dorko

  • #2
    Keep going Barrett. I noticed that in the span of two years time, Lorimer Moseley must have found his own funny bone, because the first time I went to hear him speak he was serious, and the second time he had the audience rolling in the aisles. I got much more from the second lecture even though the material was much the same.
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    "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

    “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

    “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

    "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

    "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire


    • #3
      All I can say is that it's a good thing you don't draw comics.
      "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


      • #4
        So, "What is the nature of humor?" you might ask. Well, I'll tell you. This I learned from another member of the juggling community, a performer name David Deeble.

        A few years ago David was taking a class on comedy in LA. The assignment one evening was to write an original joke and tell it to the class the next day. Carpooling with a fellow student the next day, he told him the joke on the way to class:

        "The most difficult thing about becoming a vegetarian is that you have to quit cold turkey."

        His friend agreed that he had completed the assignment. David then stood in front of the class and said:

        "The most difficult thing about about becoming a vegetarian is that you have to quit cold meat."

        "Nobody laughed," says David, except for the guy that had been in the car with me, he laughed his head off."

        And that's the nature of humor.
        Barrett L. Dorko


        • #5
          I listened to the podcast by goleman this weekend. I can't remember who posted it, but it was about the neuroloscience of social interaction.

          Mirror neurons were mentioned as a means of empathy and how research was conducted showing that when 2 people were in a discussion and were in tune, they were actually in tune. They had certain similarities in their neural profile.

          Then I thought about this thread. Could humor be a way to form a connection on a common ground upon which to build? Like a sort of primer to make sure everyone is in the same frame of mind, connected so to speak.

          If so, maybe many other devices could have similar value depending on the situation. I think that this is all common sense, but now has some neuroscience behind it.
          Cory Blickenstaff, PT, OCS

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          • #6

            I'll have to search for this, but the pop psychologist Sam Keen once wrote a piece I refered to in a column years ago. He pointed out that almost any story can be told primarily to elicit a response from the listener. The first depicted the teller as a hero, the second (I think) evoked empathy and the third found the humor in it. This last one created what Keen called "communion."

            I think that we can see many of our personal stories progress through these stages. We should seek that last stage in its telling as soon as we can. Some stories never get there simply because they are too tragic. Others arrive rapidly but this has a great deal to do with what the teller wants from the audience.

            I want this "communion" whenever possible, thus stories of clinical success are nearly absent from my workshops.
            Barrett L. Dorko