Borrowing a Big Idea from Improv Comedy to Master Life

By Dr. John Schinnerer

One of the best ways to heal from pain and deal with the vicissitudes of life is laughter.  Over the years, I have made a conscious decision to be quicker to laugh; to be more open to poking fun at my self and to seeing the humor that is all around me.  And research has shown the benefits to doing so are massive – less depression, less anxiety, better cardiovascular health, higher quality relationships and more satisfaction with life.

One of the ways I’ve cultivated more laughter is by going to see live improv comedy as often as I am able. I’ve been to see Whose Line is It Anyway live several times. I go to stand up comedy clubs. I seek out top of the line comedians like Kevin Hart, Christopher Titus, Louis C.K. Sarah Silverman and more. I’ll even go with my teenage children to  watch improv at their high school.  The last time I went, I was really amazed how often I laughed at the teenagers – teens who had little comedic training or experience.  And this made me wonder, “How do improv actors build on other actors’ lines to create laughter?”

The answer is that improv relies on building upon whatever the last person who spoke provides you.

Imagine you are on stage performing improv comedy: It is your turn to speak next in a ridiculous scene where you are at a dentist trying to numb up a patient with a shot of novocaine. The patient is nervously waiting for the shot and asks you how often you use the laughing gas. For improv to be successful and funny, you must build on that premise. You don’t question it. You don’t negate any part of the scene. You build upon it. So, one possibility is to tell the patient that you had a large dose of laughing gas that morning and you begin to act drunk; shooting the novocaine into your own arm, and then your leg, and then you have a numb arm and leg (a la the classic Carol Burnett sketch).  The main rule is that you build upon what came before.

This is seen in daily language as “Yes, and.”

As in…

“Yes, I hear you, AND have you tried this?”

“Yes, I would like to go to the movies, AND I’d like to see a comedy.”

This approach draws other people closer to you, gets you engaged in life and generates stories which you can share with others, particularly when you say yes to fun activities with friends and family that lay just on the other side of your comfort zone.

On the other hand, one of the thoughts that fuels depression and pessimism is ‘Yea, but…” I hear this frequently with certain clients who are anxious, angry or depressed. For example…

“Yea, but I’ve tried all those things.”

“Yea, but that will never work for me.”

“Yea, but I could never do that.”

“Yea, but that’s too much work.”

As I’m teaching certain clients proven tools that could alleviate their suffering, they are ‘yea, butting’ me. This error in thinking prevents people from actually trying new tools which could improve their lives. It shuts down the flow of ideas. It kills conversations. And it keeps people safely in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, real personal growth only happens outside of the comfort zone.

Here are some examples of better ways to reframe these ‘Yea, but…’ statements:

“Yes, I tried that before. And perhaps I didn’t grasp it entirely. I’m going to try it again!”

“I haven’t had much success with that. And I know people don’t always learn on the first try. I’m open to another attempt.”

“I haven’t done that in the past.  However, what I’ve done in the past hasn’t worked so well for me. Let me try something different. I’ll give it a shot!”

“It seems like that will take some work. And no change has ever come without effort and perseverance. I’ll try it!”

In the 2008 comedy, Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays Carl, an introverted, pessimistic single guy with a dead end loan officer job (the ‘Yea, but’ guy).  Carl hides from life and friends in his apartment until he attends a personal growth seminar with a ‘Yes Guru,’ Terrance. Carl makes a reluctant ‘covenant’ with Terrance to say ‘Yes’ at every opportunity. And this simple change to ‘Yes, and’ transforms his life. Carl has a series of adventures which make his life more interesting and fulfilling – even when the story isn’t altogether pleasant. When life hands you an invitation, accept the invitation.

Life is all about the story. Today’s story may be good or it may be bad. Regardless, it’s an interesting, emotionally-compelling story to share with those you love.  And stories are the main way in which we connect with others. And connection is key.

So try saying ‘Yes, and’ to life. Pay attention to what you say for a week. When you hear ‘Yea, but’ change it to ‘Yes, and’. It takes practice. It will push you out of your comfort zone. This one tiny change has lead to impressive improvement in the lives of many of my clients. Try ‘Yes, and’ for yourself for one week. Be a Yes Man (or a Yes Woman). Your future self will thank you for it down the road as you will be significantly more satisfied and happier with life.

 

Laugh for Better Health – The Funniest Websites to Crack You Up

By Dr. John Schinnerer

Everyone knows ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ right? It’s an old saying yet recent studies have coaxed it up to the capstone of credible clichés.

Laughter is known to have all sorts of short term and long term benefits. It aids in relaxation, improves cardiovascular health, increases pain tolerance, releases powerful painkilling endorphins into the bloodstream, and of course, improves your mood. There is even evidence that laughter increases T-cell activity which benefit your immune system functioning.

A recent study from the University of Maryland looked at the physiological reactions of a group of participants to funny compared to intense movies. The group who viewed a comedy had an increase in blood flow in 95% of cases, thereby increasing cardiovascular health. On the other hand, the majority (74%) of those who watched a sad movie experienced decreased blood flow. In the “comedy” group, the cardiovascular benefits lasted up to 24 hours.

Given the scientific evidence that’s stacking up, it seems that laughter is good for us on many levels. So being easy to laugh is a trait to which to aspire.

With that said, here are some 7 of the funniest videos and websites to induce laughter whenever you need some quick relaxation or an emotional pick-me-up…

Funny Or Die

A great Youtube channel which includes Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.
It also includes a classic skit by Will Ferrell and his daughter called The Landlord which I find hilarious.

Barats and Bereta

Of the many funny videos online, this skit by these two is one of my favorites. It’s of two brothers trying to record a video greeting for their mom for Mother’s Day. Anyone with a brother gets this piece at a deep level!

S*&% My Students Write

This site offers bits of writing from confused students.

Example: “There actually doesn’t seem to be a definitive thesis. There is however a statement that overviews what the entire chapter is going to talk about.”

Clients From Hell

Amusing exchanges between clients and freelance programmers and writers. Like this prime conversation…

After sending two invoices for payment, I sent another and called the client when the receipt that they had received it came back.

CLIENT: Why are you calling me?

ME: You haven’t paid and this is the third invoice I’ve sent.

CLIENT: It’s even more than the last one!

ME: Yes. The contract you signed stated that I would add a late fee for payment.

CLIENT: You mean I have to actually pay you? I thought you were joking!

ME: What on earth made you think that?

CLIENT: You’re a freelancer!

ME: And…

CLIENT: Well, you work for free! If you were supposed to be paid, you’d be called a paidlancer or something!

Parents Shouldn’t Text

This site puts up mistaken, tongue-in-cheek and/or sarcastic texts from new-to-the-texting-world parents to their children.

 

Funniest websites funny videos
Funny Parent Texts

 

Reddit – Funny Jokes

There is some great material on Reddit in the Funny Jokes subreddit but be warned, the material is not typically PG-13! However, much of it is funny. For example, this (old) joke…

Three old ladies are at the park talking when the topic of how wonderfully devoted their children are comes up.
The first lady says: “I have a daughter like you wouldn’t imagine. Every winter she takes me to Florida for two weeks!”
The second lady, not to be outdone, says: “Pfft, you think you’ve got it good? My daughter takes me to Hawaii every summer for 2 months!”
The third lady looks at both of them and says “You two think you have good daughters. You don’t know what it means to have a good daughter. You know what my daughter does? Every Sunday, she goes to her psychologist and pays him $200 an hour, just to talk about me!”

 

D*%$ You Autocorrect

A site that posts some of the funniest autocorrect errors ever.

Funniest Websites Funny videos
Funny Autocorrect Errors

To life, love and laughter,

Dr. John Schinnerer
Executive Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion & Thought
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Happiness blog: http://HowICanBeHappy.com
Twitter: @johnschin

 

Positive psychologyWikipedia: Positive psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life, rather than merely treating mental illness.

Student Rehab – 12 Step Program for the Digitally Addicted

It’s August 12th! Less than 2 weeks left before school starts!

You know what time it is!

Time for Back to School Rehab!

Teacher: ‘So students, did everyone have a wonderful Summer?

Okay, glad to hear it.

Now I know you’ve spent the past 3 months playing video games, tweeting and texting on your phones, and fondling the remote control mindlessly, so it’s time for some brief solution-focused group therapy.

How many of you can focus on one thing for longer than 3 seconds?

How many of you have heard of a handheld wireless tool called a ‘book?’

Award-winning book Guide To Self: The Beginners Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought

Let’s see a show of hands please….hold them up. Okay, 2 of you.

In that case, let’s talk about addiction.

Johnny, I need you to stop moving your thumbs.

 

Yes, just use your thoughts, dear. Really, you can stop fidgeting using your mind!

I know it’s difficult, dear. Just give it a try.

The withdrawals from your iPhones, video games and laptops seem just as bad as nicotine detox.

Addiction is when you can’t stop thinking about where your next fix is coming from. So if all you can think about is getting home to fire up WOW or COD, you just might be addicted!

Call of Duty (COD)

Addiction is when you spend all your energy focusing on how your going to get your next fix. So if you are counting the seconds from first period to the end of the school day while worrying about playing Angry Birds on the iPhone, you just might be addicted!

Remember, quitting technology cold turkey can be brutal.

So if you need a fix during the school day, we were just got in some brand new Kindles. You can use them in the meantime to quiet those nasty eye twitches and finger tics.

Alright. I’m glad we had the chance to have this little chat. There’s the school bell.

ON YOUR MARK…

GET SET…

LEARN!’

Enjoy!

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Top 10 Warning Signs That You Are Crazy (Humor)

 (Note: This is humor!) 

1. You start out each morning with a 30-minute jog around the bathroom.

2. You write to your mother in Denmark every week, even though she sends you mail from Ohio asking why you never write.

3. You wear your boxers on your head because you heard it will ward of evil alien spirits.

4. You begin to stop and consider all of the blades of grass you’ve stepped on as a child, and worry that their ancestors are going to one day seek revenge.

5. You have meaningful conversations with your toaster.

6. Your father pretends you don’t exist, just to play along with your little illusion.

7. You put tennis balls in the microwave to see if they’ll hatch.

8. Your dentist asks you why each one of your teeth has your name etched on it and you say it’s for security reasons.

9. You tend to agree with everything your mother’s dead uncle tells you.

10. You argue with yourself about which is better, to be eaten by a koala or to be loved by an infectious disease.

Have a mirth-filled week!

Dr. John Schinnerer

Guide To Self, Inc.

Positive Psychology Coach

Author of #1 Positive Psych blog on the web

Keynote speaker

Swell guy

Positive Psychology – The Science of Optimal Human Functioning

Free teleclass
Positive Psychology – The Science of Optimal Human Functioning
11/18/09 (Wednesday)
6 pm PST/9 pm EST
with John Schinnerer, Ph.D.,
Author, positive psychology coach, speaker, amusing guy
Simply call 212-461-5903 and enter Pin 3474#

 

Positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal functioning, the applied approach to human flourishing. The lessons of positive psych are appropriate for everyone – teenagers, executives, managers and the elderly. Even the Army is currently training thousands of sergeants in positive psychology to boost the resiliency of troops and to decrease the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder. While our Army troops have always been physically fit, we are now seeing a momentous shift in thinking to enable them to become psychologically fit as well.

So this class and PP in general definitely has something to offer you and it is as valuable in your personal life as in your professional life. At the heart of positive psychology are a number of research based findings into how and when people function at their very best.