On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, I welcome Andrew Tarvin on the show to discuss humor in the workplace.  Andrew Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. Combining his background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with his experience as a stand-up comedian, he reverse-engineers the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable, and gets results in the workplace.

In this episode, we discuss:

-How to construct humor and learn the skill of humor

-The benefits of humor for the individual and the organization

-Types of humor that are appropriate for the workplace

-The importance of the “Yes, and” mindset

-And so much more!


Andrew Tarvin Website

Andrew Tarvin Twitter

Andrew Tarvin Facebook

Andrew Tarvin LinkedIn

The Skill of Humor TedX Video

Humor That Works Website

For more information on Andrew:

Andrew Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. Combining his background as a project manager at Procter & Gamble with his experience as a stand-up comedian, he reverse-engineers the skill of humor in a way that is practical, actionable, and gets results in the workplace. Through his company, Humor That Works, Drew has worked with more than 35,000 people at over 250 organizations, including Microsoft, the FBI, and the International Association of Canine Professionals. He is a bestselling author; has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fast Company; and his TEDx talk has been viewed more than four million times. He loves the color orange, is obsessed with chocolate, and can solve a Rubiks Cube (but it takes like 7 minutes).

For more information, please visit, www.drewtarvin.com and connect with Drew (@drewtarvin) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.

Humor That Works is available on Amazon and wherever fine (and funny) books are sold.

Read the full transcript below:

Karen Litzy:                   00:01                Hi Andrew, welcome to the podcast. I am happy to have you on. And now today we’re going to be talking about humor and why humor is important in the workplace and in life. So the first question I have is you say humor is a skill, so how is it a skill and can that really be learned by anyone?

Andrew Tarvin:             00:28                I think a lot of people have this question or this belief, like, you know, humor is just an innate ability, right? You’re either funny or you’re not. I will say that I’ve done over a thousand shows as a standup comedian and spoken word artist, storyteller, et cetera. I have spoken or performed in all 50 states and 25 countries and on one planet. This one. But when I went to my high school reunion and people found out that I did comedy, they’re like, but you’re not funny. And that’s because, you know, growing up I was never the life of the party or the class clown. My senior year. I was voted teacher’s pet. So much more of an academic, much more quiet. You know, I’m a very much an introvert. And then I started doing Improv and standup in college and admittedly was terrible when I first started out.

Andrew Tarvin:             01:22                Like we often are in a new skill that we try, but with practice and repetition I got better. And so I realized that, you know, really there there’s an art and science to humor. And so what we do with our organization, with humor that works is we teach people the science. So we teach things like comedic structure, things like a comic triple things like timing and understanding how to like position things in different, you know, strategies that humorous use between say association or incongruity or a story, et cetera. All of this kind of science stuff that’s easy to, you know, this conceptually you can learn and then there’s an art, there is an art piece to it, right? There is, you know, some of that comes from your own perspective, the thing that you like and that you improve with practice and repetition. And so what we say is, you know, with the skill of humor, we can help to teach anyone to be funnier not necessarily, you know, across the board. Funny. It’s not like, you know, you can magically teach someone to be so funny, they’re going to magically have a Netflix comedy special, but you can learn certain things that are gonna take whatever your base level, you know, ability to use humor is now and take it up to the next level.

Karen Litzy:                   02:30                Okay. So let’s break this down a little bit because I know the listeners love to get these little nuggets of knowledge that we can start applying today in our life and in our workplace. So you said that with your company that you can teach people what is comic structure and timing. So can you first tell me, cause I don’t even know the answer to this question, but what is comic structure?

Andrew Tarvin:             02:55                Yeah. So there’s certain things that, you know, there’s certain ways that you can structure a sentence or a joke that make it more effective. So, one of the big things is, is learning to put the funny part of the punch line of something at the end. So a great example of this is, I think it’s a George Burns quote that says, ‘happiness is having a caring, a close, tight knit family in another city’ right? Which I think is a pretty funny, you know, a humorous line. That line doesn’t work if you say, ‘happiness is having a family in another sitting who is in another city who is carrying and close and tight knit, right? So you put the funny part, the unexpected, the surprise piece at the end, right? So that’s just a simple structure thing. It’s kind of the structure of set up and punchline another example of that is something called a comic triple.

Andrew Tarvin:             03:52                And so a comic triple is anytime when you have a list of three things, the third item is something unexpected. So, for example, when I give my, you know, when I’m talking about some of the clients that we’ve worked with, we’ll say, you know, we’ve worked with organizations such as Microsoft. The FBI and the International Association of Canine Professionals. And so that last one is just something different, something unexpected where it’s like, okay, Microsoft, okay. Corporate FBI, all that’s kind of interesting. They seem serious. That’s kind of cool. International Association of Canine Professionals. What does that mean? Right? So it, and again, we put that at the end. So simple things like structure or things that you know, kind of anyone can learn. And that’s a starting point. The other thing that’s kind of important to understand, maybe not necessarily specifically about comedic structure, but about the skill of humor, is that humor is more broad than comedy.

Andrew Tarvin:             04:46                So a lot of times when we think of humor, we do think of comedy. We think of funny, we think of laughter, we think of jokes. But humor is defined as a comic absurd or Incongruence, quality causing amusement. So it could be a joke or it could be just something a little bit silly or something a little bit different that you do that doesn’t necessarily make someone laugh, but maybe it makes them smile. And that broader definition means that, you know, maybe you’re not a great joke teller, but maybe you’re good at telling stories or maybe you’re not going to storytellings or jokes, but you’re really good at drawing interesting visuals that will get people to pay attention. Right? So that’s, that’s part of what we mean by this skill.

Karen Litzy:                                           And what about timing? How do you teach timing?

Andrew Tarvin:             05:33                It can be a tough one to do, but that’s, that’s where the practice and repetition comes from because even as standup Comedians, like, you know, Seinfeld or, Ellen or that kind of thing, when they’re doing new special, when they’re going to new materials, they have to get it in front of people to see, okay, where do people actually laugh and how long of a pause should it have. Cause sometimes the difference between getting a big laugh and no laugh at all is how long you pause or how long you allow someone to get something. So, one example within timing is a lot of times when people are first starting out with humor, they’ll say something that’s actually pretty funny. And they’ll leave a brief pause and then they’ll start talking again right away. And this is something called stepping on your laughter is if someone starts to kind of laugh, but then you start talking again, people will stop laughing, they’ll shut down the laughter response because they want to hear what you say next.

Andrew Tarvin:             06:25                And so sometimes one of the hardest parts is a brand new comedian to learn. And sometimes you have to be quiet a little bit longer because it takes the audience a second to actually get the joke to then process that it is a joke process that it is funny and then start to laugh. And that, you know, you need to be comfortable kind of in that short silence to allow them to then laugh and then also to not talk while they’re laughing so that, they kind of finish that laughter out as opposed to stopping at short.

Karen Litzy:                   06:50                And I would imagine if you’re up on stage and your, you know, telling the story or joke that time from the end of you finishing your sentence to a little, maybe pause to laughter building must feel like it’s an hour.

Andrew Tarvin:             07:10                Yeah. It can feel like a really, really long time, especially as you’ve, if you do a certain joke over and over again or one that you know, that works because as you went, you think about it and like, oh, that’s funny. I want to share that you’ve already thought about and processed why it’s funny. And so you’re like, oh, if they don’t get it immediately, they must not think it’s funny and it’s they’ve never heard that construction of those ideas together before. So for example, I love puns and wordplay and I recently tweeted out, you know, that I’m a pale person. The only time I get Tan is when I do trigonometry.

Andrew Tarvin:             07:47                And that joke, particularly when said verbally is it’s talking about get Tan. So Tan being short for Tangent. Exactly. So the only time I get there is, you know, it takes a while. It takes a moment for people to be like, wait, why is that funny? Is that a joke? That doesn’t, you know, what is what is, you know, that has to do with trigonometry. Oh wait, 10 to there was like cos sign and tan like, yeah. So it takes time for that to happen and you have to get comfortable kind of in that silence. The other thing to, to recognize though is that that’s true specifically of, kind of planned humor. Things like conversational humor. They don’t necessarily, one you may not have, it might not be a preplan thing, but even conversational humor, something that can be learned and something that can be practiced through, you know, drawing on some principles from improvisation.

Karen Litzy:                   08:40                Right. So now I actually took a number of Improv classes to help me with the podcast to help me, like you said, just carry out a better conversation and to yes. And, and all of that. So can you a little bit about improvisation and how that can help with general conversations, especially let’s say at work.

Andrew Tarvin:             09:05                Yeah. So, you kind of mentioned the fundamental mindset of improvisation. The key that really helps with a lot of that in that is the mentality of yes and, where yes. And is really about kind of taking whatever was offered and building off of it. And so that can be fantastic for conversations. In fact, if you’re ever in a conversation and you don’t know what to say next, you can just simply yes. And the last thing that was said, so like you can even take, you know, the stereotypical small talk example of, how, how about this weather, right? So I’m in New York. It’s sunny, it’s 85 degrees. Someone asked me, how about this weather, if I’m say at a networking event, right. Or say one-on-one with a client, how about this weather, I can be like, yes, it is, it’s beautiful out. It’s, it’s sunny out now. You know, if you weren’t at this meeting, if we weren’t interacting right now, how would you be out enjoying, you know, 90 degree weather? Right. And then so that gives him a chance to be like, oh well, you know, I’d go swimming because it’s hot out or I’d stay indoors because it’s too hot. Or I’d go out on the bike, you know? And that turns a conversation that was about weather into something more interesting about like in getting to know that person in terms of things like their hobby.

Karen Litzy:                   10:16                That’s great. I love that because that networking and going to those kinds of events is always so daunting. And especially as an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you kind of have to do those things.

Andrew Tarvin:             10:30                70% of jobs are found through networking and, and to your point, entrepreneurs, I’d say it’s a way that a lot of people drum up business. And I learned that pretty early on as an introvert, you know, going to networking meetings, like you said, is daunting. It’s a little bit awkward. And so for me, I developed a three step process for being able to network with people. And that yes, and piece is the third step is how you continue the conversation is just to continue to build off of what was said.

Karen Litzy:                                           Nice. What is step one?

Andrew Tarvin:                                     Step one is to ask interesting questions. And so, you know, if we think about Dale Carnegie and how to win friends and influence people, you know, great quintessential business book, he said that you will get, you’ll make more friends and a month by getting people interested, by being interested in other people than you will in an entire year in trying to get people interested in you.

Andrew Tarvin:             11:24                And so what that translates into is basically getting other people to talk and then shutting up and then listening to them. And you know, if we go to a networking event and we have the same kind of boring questions, the same, you know, what do you do type questions and at least the same boring answers. And that’s not distinguishable. That doesn’t stand out to anyone. And so instead of you, if you ask more interesting questions, so simple questions, you know, what’s the coolest thing that you’ve worked on in the last three months? That a lot of times people, you will end up answering the question of what do you do, right? They’ll say, oh, when I was working at blank. But it gets him to think a little bit differently. It gives him a more interesting response and you can actually kind of connect a little bit closer.

Andrew Tarvin:             12:11                And that’s an example of something that’s a little bit in congruent. So maybe it’s not laugh out loud funny, but it is something a little bit different that maybe gets people to smile a little bit more or at least thinking a little bit differently. So that’s step one is to ask interesting questions. The second step is to tell a compelling stories. So when someone asks you a question, right? Sometimes we hear this advice of like, Oh, you’ve got to ask people questions. That’s how you build rapport. But if all you ever do is ask them questions and never answer anything that they say, it starts to feel like a weird interrogation. Or like why is this person being so closed off? And so when someone asks you a question rather than just giving a yes or no answer, you can give a little bit of a story or a little bit of a background.

Andrew Tarvin:             12:54                So if they’re asking, you know, why did you get into healthcare? Why did you get into physical therapy? Or why didn’t, you know? Rather than just being like, oh, it was fun. Like, you know, oh, growing up I always felt like this, or I was an app. Like just giving that background allows people to connect with those ideas and maybe they don’t connect with physical therapy. But if you’re like, oh, well growing up when I used to play soccer, I felt like this. And then on to the next thing, people are like, oh, I played soccer as well, and now you’ve created a connecting point with this person through a shared interest or a shared commonality.

Karen Litzy:                   13:25                That’s great. Thank you. Those are great tips. And finally finishing up, like you said, using the yes and to continue that conversation is great. Now since you brought up health care and physical therapy, a lot of the audience, are in those professions. So sometimes humor in that workplace can be a little difficult cause there are times where we have to be pretty serious. So can you kind of talk a little bit about how using humor at work can even work when we have to, you know, sometimes give bad news?

Andrew Tarvin:             14:01                I think your is a great point and this is something I think for, for all professions to, to recognize with humor is that it’s simply another tool in the tool belt in the sense that it’s not something that you’re going to use all the time. 100, you know, 24, seven and everything that you do. It’s, it’s true that there are times that humor may be inappropriate. And, one of the ways that we can avoid inappropriate humor is by following what we call a humor map. And the map stands for your medium, your audience, and your purpose. So your medium is how are you going to execute that humor? Is it an email? Is it in a one on one consultation or conversation? Is it in a phone call? Is it in a presentation to a bunch of people? Because that medium impacts the message, right?

Andrew Tarvin:             14:47                The second piece is the audience and who you know, who is the, what do they know? What do they need and what do they expect? Because when you’re using humor and say communication, you probably are, you do want to deliver on what that person needs while doing it. Maybe in a way they don’t just 100% expect by adding a little bit of something different can add be that humor component. The other thing is also understanding your relationship with that person because you know something that you, if you have a client that you’re meeting for the very first time, that’s going to be very different than the humor that you might use with the client that you’ve been working with for 15 years, right? You’ve got to know each other a little bit better. And then the final piece is the purpose. Why are you using humor?

Andrew Tarvin:             15:27                And this is the most important one. This is why as an engineer, I like it because humor can be effective in using or achieving certain goals. So you could use humor as a way to get people to pay attention. Or maybe you use humor as a way to build a relationship with someone to build rapport, right? If you’re meeting a client or if you’re just now starting to work with someone, you can find a way for you to both laugh together. You kind of show that where you’re standing on the same side and then after you’ve built that rapport, then if you have to get more serious news, that’s, that might be when you become a little bit more serious or a little bit more somber or whatever. Right? So again, it’s just recognizing that it is, it’s a tool. It helps us achieve certain goals and that when we have those as goals, it might be the appropriate tool to use.

Karen Litzy:                   16:10                Great. I love it. And I like that acronym of the humor map. That’s really easy to remember. Now let’s talk about, we’re talking about humor, right? There’s maybe good humor, bad humor. What is the type of humor one should kind of stay away from in the workplace?

Andrew Tarvin:             16:34                I think that’s a great question. So to give it a little bit of additional context, a psychologist Rod A Martin defined four styles of humor. He said in general, humor kind of falls into these four buckets. The first bucket is affiliative humor and this is positive inclusive humor. This is to me, I think of like Ellen Degenerous, like her style of humor, her TV show, it’s very positive, upbeat. Everyone is included. There is no target, if not aggressive. It’s not calling anyone out. It seems like team building events in the corporate world or activities that you may be doing with your clients or your patients, right as positive and inclusive, everyone is included. The second style is self enhancing humor. And this is a humor where the target is kind of yourself, but it’s positive in nature. To me it’s kind of best summed up by, there’s a great Kurt Vonnegut quote that says laughter and tears are both responses to frustration.

Andrew Tarvin:             17:33                I myself prefer to laugh because there’s less cleaning up to do afterwards, right? It’s that idea of like when we’re thinking about the challenges or the hardships that we have to go through day to day, it’s finding the humor in them so that you laugh about them instead of cry about them. So that’s another great form of humor and that’s, that’s kind of like, you know, finding ways to make your own work more fun. It’s, you know, listening to music when you have to go through email or you know, rocking out to a song and you’re in the car on the way home, or you know, these small examples of things that are just improving your life day to day. A third style is self-defeating. Humor, self-defeating humor as a negative form of humor where the target is yourself. And so this is, you know, Rodney Dangerfield.

Andrew Tarvin:             18:15                I get no respect. That’s kind of poking fun at yourself. And this can be a great form of humor when used one in a high status position. So if you are a presenter that sometimes adds a little bit of status to it, or if you’re the boss or the CEO as a way to reduce status. Differentials can be very good. And it’s best used when sparingly. So like you don’t want to use it as every single joke that you do, but every now and then on occasion, and that can be a good form in many ways. But if it’s used too much since people started to think like, oh, this person isn’t confident or they’re not actually good at what they do, or you know, they’re throwing a pity party and I don’t know if I laugh or not. So there’s some limitations to that one.

Andrew Tarvin:             18:55                And then finally there is aggressive humor and aggressive humor is a negative form of humor where the target is someone else. You’re doing it to try to manipulate them or try to make fun of them or that kind of thing. And so that tends to, to not be appropriate in the workplace. It includes things like sarcasm and satire, which can be okay in a group setting where you’re all very comfortable with you, with each other, and it can be a very good form of Catharsis. So I know a lot of like say doctors, surgeons, we do some work with emergency first responders. They sometimes have a dark sense of humor as a group, because it, you know, serves as Catharsis. They see so many stressful, so many crazy things that they need some outlet to relieve that stress. And so that type of humor can be helpful there. But again, only when it’s a very close knit group, when the relationships are kind of already formed and you know that it’s going to be seen as catharsis and not seen as aggressive.

Karen Litzy:                   19:52                Yeah. And I think we’ve all been in those situations where you’re just sitting there and it’s like awkward. Like this did not fall the way that the person intended it to.

Andrew Tarvin:             20:03                Yeah. And that’s why, you know, if you stick to the other three forms a lot more, you’re going to be, it’s gonna be a lot better. And, and that’s the other differences, again, we’re not trying to teach people how to use humor to become stand up comedians. Cause yes, absolutely tons of comedians or kinds of comedy shows, you’ll see a lot of sarcasm, a lot of satire, a lot of aggressive humor. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is using humor so that we get better results.

Karen Litzy:                   20:29                And so that was my next question. You just led me right into it. So let’s talk about results. What kind of benefits can, let’s say myself as an entrepreneur or within an organization, get from humor at work

Andrew Tarvin:             20:44                It’s great question. And as individuals, there are 30 benefits at least that we found. 30 plus benefits from using humor in the workplace that are all backed by research case studies and real world examples. And so they range from ways to improve your communication skill as a way to, you know, for example, do you use a little bit of incongruity, get people to pay attention a little bit more cause they’re like, oh that person just made me laugh. That’s a little bit different than what I was expecting. Now I’m listening and paying attention, to helping with creativity and backed in one study they found that kids to watch a 30 minute comedy video before trying to solve a problem. They were nearly four times more likely to solve that problem in kids. You watched either a math video or no video at all.

Andrew Tarvin:             21:28                So we can use humor as a way to kind of just warm up the brain to be able to think about things a little bit differently. Give ourselves a different perspective. We can use it for things like relieving stress so we know that, you know, stress by itself is not a bad thing, right? As a physical therapist, you know that you have to stress muscles to some extent in order to get them to grow. That’s what we’re doing when we’re working out is we’re breaking down muscles, but then they grow when we rest and we feed them and the body, our capacity for being able to do work is the same thing. We can stress, you know, we needed a little bit of stress to sometimes get to that next level in terms of productivity. But if we never relieved that stress, that’s when we see an increase in blood pressure and increase in muscle tension, a decrease in the immune system. Well humor can help counteract those things. When we take a break to actually laugh, we increase oxygen flow through our body, we relax our muscles and we boost our immune system as well. So we can use it for things like that as well.

Karen Litzy:                   22:25                Well they are all really great benefits especially to use at work. And now these are, like I said, these are all great benefits. So why is this not being implemented more? Why aren’t more people quote unquote funny at work? And I know that’s not the right term, but I think that’s what people think. Right?

Andrew Tarvin:             22:46                Right. Yeah. And what we say kind of with humor in the workplace as a goal isn’t necessarily to be, to make the workplace funny, but it is to make things a little bit more fun. And you ask a very, I think, important question to say, okay, why don’t people use humor more? And we wanted to do the answer to that. So we ran a study through our site and we found that the number one reason why people didn’t use humor in the workplace as they said that they didn’t think that their boss or coworkers would approve.

Karen Litzy:                   23:12                Interesting. I can see that. Yeah, I can totally see that.

Andrew Tarvin:             23:15                Right? Yeah. Cause if you work in a culture and no one’s really laughing or smiling all that much, then you’re kind of like, oh, I guess it’s not welcome. I guess it’s not what we do here. It’s a, you know, quote unquote serious workplace. And the reality is that 98% of CEOs preferred job can edge with a sense of humor and 81% of employees at a fun workplace would make them more productive. So I think people actually want it. It’s just that we’re still stuck sometimes in this old mentality that work has to feel like work and we don’t that well, we’re human beings. And humor is an effective way to reach human beings. And so if we want to be more effective in what we do, we have this tool that we can use. And I think specifically for entrepreneurs and leaders of others or team leads and stuff, that’s an important thing to recognize is that if you’re the leader of a team or an organization and people don’t constantly laugh or people don’t kind of have that sense of humor, it doesn’t seem like you might be part of the reason why.

Andrew Tarvin:             24:12                And it’s probably not intentional, right? You probably like haven’t gone out to be like, all right, let me squash any remote mode of fun. That happens every single day. But if you don’t use it yourself as a leader, if you don’t encourage it, if you never laugh or smile in the workplace, if you never kind of express some humor or share a little bit more about yourself, people will kind of take whatever the leader does and say, this must be how we have to act.

Karen Litzy:                   24:36                I mean things trickled down from the top. There’s no question. It makes me, as you were saying that the thing that came to my mind was the movie the Devil Wears Prada and Meryl Streep’s character who was just, I don’t think she cracked a smile except like the very end of the film. And you can just sense the tension among everyone that worked below her.

Andrew Tarvin:             25:02                Exactly. And I think we, I think we need more, we need more metaphors to the movie devil wears Prada. So I’m happy that we’ve gotten there for this. But I think you’re exactly right. How the managers behave does tend to set the tone. And, but with that being said, one of the things that, you know, I’m a big believer in is that, you are responsible for your own happiness. And so even if you do work for an organization or you do work for a manager or a leader who doesn’t really use humor, I think that it’s still up to you. You choose how you do your work every single day. And, and it’s not really the responsibility of your manager, your coworkers, or your patients or clients or customers to make sure that you’re having fun, right? That’s an individual choice that you make. And hopefully they don’t detract from that. But even at a minimum, like they can’t control how you think. Right. One of the things that I like to do when getting bored and emails that I’ll start to read each of the emails in a different accent in my head. And this is something kind of fun, something a little bit different to do and no one can stop me from doing that, right? No manager could come up and be like, hey, you’re reading emails in the accent in your head. Stop it.

Karen Litzy:                   26:10                Yeah, totally. And so when you go into these companies, you go into Microsoft or in working with the government, how do you enter into those situations to kind of explain to them that using humor in the workplace is important? Because I would have to think you have had to encounter some hard nuts to crack.

Andrew Tarvin:             26:38                Yeah, absolutely. And in conveying the value of humor is a little bit of a challenge. You know, no one really thinks of humor as a bad thing. They typically don’t think of it as kind of a nice to have. But to me it’s a must have. If you just look at kind of the statistics, if you look at the numbers, you know, 83% of Americans are stressed out at work, 55% are unsatisfied with their jobs and 47% struggle to stay happy leads to 70% of the workforce being disengaged. And then Gallup has estimated that’s a cost on the US economy of about $500 billion lost, you can do the math of that. That’s, you know, you take the number of employees and all that. It’s an average of about $4,638.

Andrew Tarvin:             27:29                And lost productivity. And so then when you’re starting to talk with people, so if you’re talking with Microsoft or other organizations and saying, Hey, if you know 70% of your workforce is disengaged and each one costs you $4,700, now they start to see like, oh, okay, there’s numerical losses here. Because if you look at the benefits of using humor, we talked about some on the individual level, when an organization uses humor, you see an increase and you one create a more positive workplace culture. You see an increase in employee engagement, you see an increase and company loyalty, see a decrease in turnover. And on a lot of organizations, you also see an increase in overall profit. And so when I’m talking with the organizations, it’s talking about the business benefit of it. It’s recognizing that, you know, well, as a gross simplification of it, I have a dumb question for you.

Andrew Tarvin:             28:22                But it’s still wants you to kind of answer it, but, would you rather do something that is fun or not fun? Fun, right? Yeah. You’d rather do something fun. So if you were to make your work a little bit more fun, probably stands to reason that you might be a little bit more engaged in it. Or if you were to make your kind of conversations with your patients or your clients a little bit more fun, you might see that they might be a little bit more willing to actually want to go to them or pay attention in them. So that’s a big part of when you consistently use humor, that’s when people are like, oh they actually look forward to that meeting. They maybe know that it’s going to be hard or they know that, you know they’re going to have to do some work, but they’re like, at least it’s not going to be terribly boring.

Andrew Tarvin:             29:10                At least it’s not going to be awful and that’s that fun component. And so that’s kind of the higher level. And then we have a bunch of studies and a bunch of background kind of back all those things up. But that’s been the messaging is like, this is again, it’s not about let’s all hold hands, Kumbaya. You know, we should all enjoy our work just because we’re happy. Go lucky. It’s more of here’s a strategic use of a tool that will get you better results. And here’s all the research that says that it has done that.

Karen Litzy:                   29:42                And when, when we’re talking about humor in the workplace, it doesn’t mean like your boss coming out and doing a standup bit every morning.

Andrew Tarvin:             29:47                Exactly. Yeah. Right. It’s more about making it a little bit more fun. It’s more about bringing the your humanness to work. Right. And this is one of the things that I’ll share with my corporate audiences, you know, I’ll say to an entire room full of people is I’ll be like, you know what my guess is that many of you, and this is probably true of your listeners as well, many of you are likable people at home, right? And then they go into the workplace and something changes right? At home. They laugh with their friends, they smile, they make jokes, say, are conversational, et cetera. Maybe a little bit silly, you know, maybe they sing in the shower, they dance in the kitchen, whatever. And then they go into the workplace and something changes. They put on a work face and they feel like they have to be like a robot with no emotions or anything like that. And that’s not effective for the way that we work today. Maybe that made sense, the industrial revolution, whereas all about efficiency and the most widgets that you could produce. But now when humor, interactions are important now when your emotions impact your ability to be, say, creative or productive, we have to manage the human experience. And humor is just one effective way to do that.

Karen Litzy:                   31:00                And so if I’m hearing you correctly, when we’re talking about bringing humor into the workplace, it’s really about being kind of open and trying to be a little bit more yourself and perhaps letting your guard down a little bit to allow yourself to be present and to, like you said, be funny or to not be so serious all the time. Or to, you know, have more conversations where you’re injecting your personality. Because I do think most people have funny things to say in conversation. We’re not all like Debbie downers. Yeah, I’m green. And so is that kind of what you’re teaching when you’re going in and talking about humor outside of, you know, how you talked in the beginning about timing and about the comic triple and having those unexpected things at the end of your sentences or punchlines if you will. So you’re kind of teaching these tools, but in the end, as the worker or as the company, it’s sort about changing the culture.

Andrew Tarvin:             32:10                It is. Yeah. I think that’s a great articulation of it. So in the book we had a book that just recently came out and it’s called humor that works with missing scale for success and happiness at work. And, you know, we talk about 10 humor strategies for using humor in the workplace across five different kind of key skills at work. And so if you want to use humor to improve your productivity, you know, you can gamify your work or play your work and here are the steps how to do that. Or if you want to use humor and connecting with people here as a way to, you know, kind of a three step process we mentioned earlier about and that’s a way to build empathy with someone. But at the end of the day, the bonus strategy and I think kind of what articulates what you’re talking about is the biggest thing that we encourage.

Andrew Tarvin:             32:52                The biggest takeaway, and I would say the same is true of your podcast listeners, is to simply think one smile per hour. You know, what’s one thing that you can do each hour of the day that brings a smile either to your face or the face of someone else. And so that could mean, hey, if you like telling jokes and you want to learn more of them and you have that, you know, like you like that witty kind of feeling great, do that. If instead you’re about to, you know, get in traffic and you know, like how can I bring a smile to my own face? Like, Oh, well let me maybe listen to a comedy podcast on my way home from work so that I laugh and show up more present for my family when I get there. These are all just small choices. And to your point, I think everyone, everyone has a sense of humor.

Andrew Tarvin:             33:35                I think it might be a very specific sense of humor and sometimes you don’t always see it, but I think everyone has one. And so it’s like, okay, how can you leverage your sense of humor to bring that smile to the workplace? And the other thing is directing that you don’t always have to be the creator of humor. Instead, you can be kind of the conduit of it or the shepherd of it where you know, you don’t have to be the one that makes a funny joke. Maybe you find one online and you added as a pss or the end of a long email. Or you find images online using a creative Commons license and have that in your presentation as opposed to having a bunch of slides with just full of text. Maybe you watch a Tedx talk that you think is really, really good that you really like and you like, you share that with people to say, Hey, you know, let’s try to incorporate this type of thing a little bit more. So you don’t always have to be the creator of it, but you can be that source of it, that shepard of it.

Karen Litzy:                   34:24                Yeah. Great Advice. Thank you so much. That really helps to kind of break it down in my mind. And I would assume in the listeners minds as well. And you know, before I have one more question that I ask everyone, but before I do that, you had mentioned Tedx and I do want to mention that you had a great tedx talk that’s been viewed millions of times. I watched it, I loved it. Where can people find that talk?

Andrew Tarvin:             34:48                Ah, yes. So they can find it. If they just Google my name, Andrew Tarvin, Tedx, it’ll show up. Or they Google a skill of humor. Tedx, it’s on the official, you know, Tedx Youtube Channel. If you just Google my name, it’s one of the first things that comes up and you can getting near your, a fantastic story about my grandmother and we go in and talk. It’s funny, it goes into a little bit of that deeper dive of the scale of humor and for me at a, yeah, that can be a great starting point for people. And I know plenty of people have used that as a thing that they share out where they’re like, hey, you know, I want to incorporate more humor into the workplace. People don’t necessarily know why. So let me send this out to my team and say, Hey, this was a funny talk that I really like. Maybe it should encourage us to have a little bit more fun in what we do.

Karen Litzy:                   35:31                Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It was a great talk and it was funny in that bit with your grandmother is classic Classic Grandma classic grandma’s stuff. So everyone listening, definitely check out the TEDX. It’s really great. And like I said, before I finish, I usually like to ask everyone the same question. And that’s knowing where you are now in your life and your career. What advice would you give to yourself as a new Grad?

Andrew Tarvin:             36:00                As a brand new Grad. Two things kind of come to mind. The first, is more tactical and I would say do stand up comedy earlier, frequently. Just because one, I love stand up. I love doing stand up. It’s I think one of the hardest forms of public speaking you will ever do.

Karen Litzy:                   36:22                Yeah. I would never be able to do it. I give you all the credit in the world.

Andrew Tarvin:             36:26                Well, one, you absolutely could do it if I could do it. Anyone. But it is intimidating, but it’s made me much, much better as a speaker. In fact, that I think the reason that the Tedx talk has been successful is because I did a lot of stand up before it to work on it, to practice it, to try jokes. And it’s where I’ve refined, you know, my sense and my skill of humorous, I’d say do that, you know, first. And then I think the other thing would be get more clear on the articulating the value of humor. It took me a while Kinda to your point, you know, why do companies hire this? At first I was like, no, humor is just a brilliant idea. Shouldn’t everyone see that? And the reality is that no one cares about humor and the workplace, like in terms of they never think of it as something that they need. And, and they know that they need communication training or leadership training or they know that they need to improve morale or they know that they need to help people relieve stress. It just turns out that humor can be the tool to do a lot of those things. So getting more clear on how humor can be beneficial, I think would’ve helped my personal career a little bit more and would’ve gotten me out to sharing this message with more people sooner.

Karen Litzy:                   37:32                Great. I love it. And I don’t know that I would ever do standup. But you’re making me consider it. Like even when I took, even when I took improv classes, I had like an Improv teacher come to my apartment cause I was too nervous to go to a class because I didn’t want to screw up.

Andrew Tarvin:             37:51                Yeah. But here’s the thing though is you just rock this, this podcast and plenty of other ones in the future. That’s all Improv as well.

Karen Litzy:                   37:58                I know that’s why I took the class, but I don’t know. There’s something about being, I dunno, it’s a fear. I should probably, I’m working on my public speaking. I’ve been working on that for the past year. But yeah, I think taking an Improv class in front of actual people and with other actual people would probably only benefit me. But it’s just so darn scary.

Andrew Tarvin:             38:21                It is. That’s why you have to, you have to leverage that one light, that one evening that you like, have that like, you know what, I should do it. And then you sign up real quick and then force yourself to like go and there were only reason why I say that is is because I’m a big believer. Improv is fundamentally changed my life because as I mentioned I am very, very much was an introvert and everything growing up and that’s how I kind of got into this and so I’m a strong believer that anyone listening, you know if they have the capacity, if they have any slight interest in it, I think should take an Improv class because it teaches you life skills. In fact, one of the most popular blog posts that we have on our website is 10 life lessons from Improv. So much application. It teaches you the human skills to interact with other people on ways to be more present, to think on your feet, to be able to react quickly, to build your communication skills and your confidence. Like there’s tremendous number of benefits and once you get used to it, it’s so much fun to do.

Karen Litzy:                   39:19                All right, I’ll think about it next time UCB has like a one on one class. Granted that’s upright citizens brigade for those who aren’t, I guess in New York. They may not know that. If I can make the cut cause those classes fill up in about five minutes. But maybe I will do it this time. We’ll, we will see. And now you mentioned your blog. Where can people find you?

Andrew Tarvin:             39:42                Yeah, so if they’re interested more in the human in the workplace, if they go to humorthatworks.com we have a bunch of, you know, blog posts out there about different topics on humor. There’s a free newsletter to sign up to. There’s a link to our new book that has a lot of resources there as well. I information about our workshops and coaching and all that kind of stuff. And they want to connect with me directly. They can find me @drewtarvin on all social media. So whether that’s Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, a recently discovered, I still have a myspace page. So if my space is your jam, then you can connect with me there as well.

Karen Litzy:                   40:23                That’s amazing. Well thank you so much, Andrew, for coming on and sharing all of this great information on how to use humor in the workplace. So thank you so much.

Andrew Tarvin:             40:35                All right, sounds great. Well, thank you so much for having me, and hopefully this was valuable for the listeners.

Karen Litzy:                   40:41                I’m sure it was. And everyone out there listening, thanks so much. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.



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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.