Humor & Motivation: Like Chocolate Cake & Kale


So I want to lay down a marker about the odd pairing of motivation and humor. First, I’ve always found the label motivational humorist to be downright silly. For me the title “motivational humorist” is a made-up mash-up for mid-day comics who can make you laugh at your Lunch ‘n’ Learn and not feel like there’s a hefty drink tab waiting to drop. And for a long time even thinking of myself as an inspiring funny guy gave me what my mom still refers to as the heebie-jeebies — and here’s why. Humor and motivation are not peanut butter and chocolate — they’re much closer to hummus and fudge. Which you may enjoy in equal measure, just not on a twisty cone. More simply put, comedy or good comedy in my opinion depends on something troubled, slightly painful, cynical and a little perverse to lean on or rub against. While in contrast motivation depends on … ?

Well, I’m not sure precisely what it depends on given my greatest inspirations came from a series of worst practices and fabulous failures, but I do know your basic P.M.A. retreat rarely springs from perversity, pain or trouble. That I am sure of. But throughout my stealthy white collar comedy career I’ve often struggled to find that perfect mix of magic and mojo tied into what I feel is quality humor.

For those limited few who don’t know someone in the comedy biz, and hooray for you, we often come packed with necessary traits that foster a messy blend of nagging insecurity that is only overcome by time-tested confidence.

So, for example, I’ve often wondered when it comes to the field of laughter and inspiration if I’m more akin to a comic sous-chef who knows how to arrange one-liners on a plate than a nutritionist who helps you figure out better eating habits. I’ve struggled for years to not just find a synergy between laughter and motivation but to develop a more dynamic compound that stands alone and separate from each. Yes, me, man of misery and mockery dared to hope that hummus and fudge, chocolate cake and kale could perhaps not simply sit plateside but — if compressed properly at the next linked-in laugh ‘n learn — make for something unique, compelling, original, goofy and fun.

Of course, I had my doubts this was possible. As a teacher and a writer I liked the challenge of creating a new mold but was unsure when putting the angst-riddled cynic into the pod with the cockeyed optimist if what comes out might be more man-fly than flying man.

Here are some process notes. First came anger then jealousy.

I started thinking about all the Zig Ziglar redux postulators who made millions telling biz folks to move the cheese, say cheese, and go hopscotch on some coals before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a speedo. BTW picture that and you’ll now have a working definition of “the heebie-jeebies.”

Jealousy. Hmm, why couldn’t I have been one of those wealthy rat-a-tat-tat motivational samplers? Right? Just pick a positive riff, give it a beat, and stick with it as long as you can until you need another toe-tapping trick to hip-hop on over to your publisher. “Don’t sweat the 7 small habits you’ve never bothered with.” This one’s easy but you’re already ahead of me — not me. And I soon discovered that any type of art, even in front of retired actuaries, is still a near-death experience and then repose, repair, and remount. I learned that presentation even in the business of humor is never easy if you’re really trying to create something that feels on-point, worthwhile and with purpose.

2013 05-02 Humor & Motivation
2013 05-02 Humor & Motivation

So, rather recently I started to take not just my comic-ness, but my teacher self, writer self, and even bad actor self and pour it together. I began to think about how I could use the tools of humor and motivation as a way to help others collaborate with less corporate angst. I thought maybe there is a place for a blue pill, laffernator-slash-motivator to help stimulate better conversations. Neo you recall took the blue pill and was flushed from his droney dream state into some nasty gooey stuff. Rebirth analogies aside, I realize I’m far from “The One.” But I’ve found, if not a calling, then I’d say a decent echo that has brought the world of corporate catharsis and comedy onto a dish that I’m ready to serve with a comic’s persona and a motivator’s passion.

For those of you who like cliffhangers, maybe I’ll follow this up with a part two at some point, where I go into more detail about how this carefully concocted recipe works.