The mission of The HUMOR Project has always been to focus full-time (or fool-time) on the positive power of humor and creativity… and how people can bring more humor and creativity into their lives and jobs. However, the origin of The HUMOR Project is not funny.
When Dr. Joel Goodman founded The HUMOR Project in Saratoga Springs in 1977 he had no career premeditations. “The origin of our organization actually grew out of a very painful and scary time when my father faced a life-or-death surgery for an aortic aneurysm. It was during that time that our family discovered humor as a godsend to help us keep our sanity and humanity in the face of the terror and trauma,” he said. Goodman is thankful that his Dad recovered. “I was inspired to learn more about the positive power of humor, which led me to found The HUMOR Project. My goal was not to analyze humor to death, but rather to see if there are practical ways of bringing humor to life.” Goodman jokes that his Mom and Dad were always asked, “Your son does WHAT for a living?!” Goodman, the director of The HUMOR Project, is a popular speaker and seminar leader.
When asked why laughter is so important Goodman laces the truth with humor. “Perhaps the most significant bottom line is your health– without it, you’re dead (literally or figuratively),” he said. He went on to explain the benefits of humor and laughter on mental health. ““Stress and burn-out have become household words in the 21st century,” he said. “Humor can be a powerful antidote to stress– in the midst of challenging times. It can help us to move from a “grim and bear it” mentality to a “grin and share it” orientation. This notion is captured well by George Burns, who said that ‘You can’t help growing older, but you can help growing old’.” Goodman continues, “If you stand rigidly in the face of stress, you are much more easily knocked off-balance. If you are flexible mentally, you are in a much better position to “roll with the punches” that life throws you.” Goodman knows humor has an impact on mental health. It is no surprise that he thinks there is a place for humor in the workplace. Since 1977, The HUMOR Project has been “taking humor seriously.” He cites five points:
1. The funny line and the bottom line intersect! Goodman said: “In a survey of 737 CEO’s, over 98 percent of them indicated they would much rather hire somebody with a good sense of humor than somebody without one. You can take your job seriously… and yourself lightly!”
2. A smile is the shortest distance between two people, according to Victor Borge: Goodman said: “Humor can be a magnet to attract people, to build positive working relationships, and to improve morale and teamwork.
3. The HAHA-AHA connection: Goodman said: “There definitely is a connection between humor and creativity. Humor can jump-start your creativity and give you the energy to think (and laugh) outside the box!”
4. The laughing-learning link: Goodman said: “Humor can be a powerful (and delightful) way to capture and maintain attention and free up tension… which means that retention increases!”
5. Humor as a saving (and amusing) grace for the planet: Goodman said: “As our world gets proverbially smaller all the time, humor could help build important bridges between countries and cultures. As Erma Bombeck once said, ‘“When humor goes, there goes civilization!’”
Goodman had been described by New Age magazine as “the first full-time humor educator in the world.” His programs on the positive power of humor and creativity have touched the lives of millions attending his presentations in Canada, Panama, Australia, Argentina, Antarctica, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Norway, Sweden, England, Germany, South Africa, North Dakota, and many places in between. Since 1968, he has spoken at national and state conferences and in-house training programs for schools, human service organizations, corporations, non-profits, government agencies, and professional associations.
Goodman has been a pioneer in focusing on practical ways for people to develop and use their sense of humor. He has been featured in 7000+ television and radio shows, newspapers, and magazines in 175+ countries, including: The TODAY Show, PBS, ABC NEWS’ prime-time special on The Mystery of Happiness (aired nationally three times), BBC, Latenight America, Donahue, CNBC’s Management Today, All Things Considered, the front page of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Washington Post, USA Today, Readers’ Digest, Successful Meetings, and numerous AP national features. What made his kids most proud was Goodman being highlighted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Goodman has authored ten books and edited an exciting quarterly magazine, LAUGHING MATTERS, which has generated rave reviews and much laughter from thousands of people around the world. Goodman publishes the bi-monthly Laughing Matters e-zine, which has had 20,000+ subscribers from around the world.
April is National Humor Month. Goodman will be featured at a free event on April 20, 2018, at the award-winning Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs starting at 7 p.m. He will be speaking about his eighth book, Laffirmations: 1,001 Ways to Add Humor to Your Life and Work, which is now in its 26th printing. In the book Goodman highlights 52 weeks of ideas to strengthen your sense of humor, including quotes, questions, and practical tips designed to make you smile. “I will share fun tips on how you can improve your H.Q. (Humor Quotient) and how you can get more smileage out of your life and work,” Goodman said. “As the book’s subtitle suggests, there are thousands of ways of inviting smiles and laughter… in addition to joke-telling. Ultimately, humor is much broader than mere joke-telling… humor is an attitude, a perspective, a way of dealing with and embracing life’s challenges.”
Goodman is aware that April 22 is Earth Day and will merge this into his presentation on April 20. “I am also looking forward to talking about my two most recent books: Humanizing Outdoor and Environmental Education and 201 Nature and Human Nature Activities. These companion books include a gazillion (give or take a quadrillion) practical, enjoyable, engaging, and fun activities to help youth and adults learn more about themselves, their values, and self-esteem,” Goodman said. “The books address the importance of prizing, preserving, and protecting Mother Nature.” The event at Northshire is free and open to the public. Goodman will be sticking around after the event to sign copies of his books saying a copy would “make great gifts for National Humor Month, Earth Day, birthdays, and mirthdays.”
Goodman notes that humor is different for each person. “At The HUMOR Project, we have been promoting the positive use of humor as a tool to build people up and bring people together rather than as a weapon to tear people down and tear people apart,” he said. He gives the example of being a part of the “Laughter Has No Accent” exchange program with Russia 30 years ago. He said humor bridged together cultures. He also had the opportunity to speak in South Africa after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison. He said that experience was all about “focusing on positive humor and creativity as ways of bringing us together and building on what we have in common as human/humane/humor beings.”
Goodman knows his career, which has spanned decades, can be described as serendipitous. He has given humor presentations to millions of people in all 50 states and all seven continents. Despite traveling around the world, sharing the power of humor with millions, he says some of his fondest memories are of sponsoring 20 international humor conferences in Saratoga Springs at the City Center with his wife and conference coordinator, Margie Ingram.
What’s next for Goodman? “I may sign up with Elon Musk to give the first humor presentation on Mars.”
To sign up for the free Laughing Matters email newsletter and for more information on The HUMOR Project, including information about the Speakers Bureau and HUMOResources (the online bookstore), visit their website: www.HumorProject.com. Folks can also reach Dr. Goodman at 518-587-8770 and email: info@nullHumorProject.com.
Emily Marcason-Tolmie, a Saratoga native, is a writer, researcher, wife and mother. Emily and her husband, Ryan, are the parents to two wonderful little boys, ages 4 and 1.