Can we ever have too much laughter in our lives?

Orangutans Laughing

It’s one thing to share laughs with friends of a like-minded nature but what about laughter in a business environment? How does one measure what is appropriate and what isn’t?

Let me share a story… I was having dinner with two potential business clients. One was a lovely, open-hearted gentleman who laughed easily. The other was much more reserved and of a serious nature. Here we were on a sparsely populated Caribbean island, as we perused the menu at about the same speed of reading, there was an item called Festival for an additional $2. The easy natured gentleman asked aloud, “I wonder what the Festival is?” I responded, “I don’t know but there’s a donkey that looks very nervous standing over there.”

We both burst out laughing. It was a strong hardy laugh one that could easily have produced a spit-take. And then the serious gentleman said, “Well, it didn’t take you long to go there.”

Clearly, I had offended the man. I looked at him and all I could say was that I thought this conversation was to get to know each other and I was comfortable enough to be myself.

I share this story because I believe that incident cost me the client. I can’t say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I believe it’s more important to be myself than to “behave” or put on an act to get the contract signed. The truth is, I knew there were differences between myself and this man but I felt we could work through it to create something special that would satisfy both of our needs. That moment made it very clear that we would not have worked well together.  I often tell people that I date my clients. In that I mean, it is a true relationship and I seek to work with people that I enjoy spending time with and therefore happy to give from the depths of my soul.

What makes humor in business more difficult is that there is such diversity in what makes us laugh as opposed to what makes us cry.  When you include humor in your marketing and branding, it is a very thin line – you don’t want to offend, or worse, be perceived as stupid and just plain not funny.

Interesting that the cavemen from the Geico commercials were hugely successful yet the television series was not. The fast-talking businessman in the FedEx commercials, “Where’s the Beef?”, talking babies for E*Trade, Hump Day and one of my favorites, the Volkswagen mini Darth Vadar are all brilliant examples of humor in advertising. They all have a personal charm. In creating humor, one of the lessons I give to my students in comedy class is DON’T TRY TO BE FUNNY, LET THE HUMOR COME FROM THE SITUATION.  It works every time.

So, how do you choose when to use humor and what kind of humor? Know your brand, know your story, if it fits who you are, then go with it. If it makes you laugh and feel good about your product, that’s a winner. For those that don’t get it or like it, chances are they are not your market. And, as with my gentlemen friends at dinner, you can’t be everything to everyone so be your best self.

photo credit: IStock-team-laughter