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Transcript – Create a Humor Habit for 2024 With Paul Osincup

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Create a Humor Habit for 2024 With Paul Osincup




[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for Episode 450 of Live Happy Now. What’s so funny about 2024? You’re about to find out. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and today I’m talking with Paul Osincup, a speaker, corporate trainer, and author of the forthcoming book, The Humor Habit.


Paul recognizes the importance of humor as a tool to relieve stress, improve our physical and mental health, and to make the world more enjoyable for ourselves and those around us. He’s here today to tell us how we can create our own humor strategy for 2024, and make it a healthier, funnier year. Let’s have a listen.




[0:00:39] PF: Paul, welcome to Live Happy Now.


[0:00:41] PO: Thank you, Paula. This is my first time doing any kind of show or back and forth with a Paula. So, I’m excited to do it with Paula.


[0:00:50] PF: I know we can do like Paul and Paula Show.


[0:00:51] PO: That’s right.


[0:00:54] PF: I’ll run that up the flagpole and let you know how it goes.


[0:00:56] PO: Yes, check with the supervisors.


[0:00:59] PF: So, I’m really excited to have you on the show. For me, it was a great way to start the year, because you are all about humor and how we can develop it and use it. And honestly, coming into 2024, there’s people with a lot of trepidation, and they’re not feeling that there’s a lot of humor right now. So, we want to kind of get into that. But first, I’m interested to know how you got into the subject of humor? How did you study it, learn its benefits? And like, are you a naturally funny guy?


[0:01:28] PO: Well, I mean, I suppose there’s part of the natural proclivity for it, because I’ll tell you a quick story. The first time that I noticed the impact of humor, I was in third grade, and my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Temple, I was speaking in class again when I wasn’t supposed to. And Mrs. Temple looked at me and goes, “Paul, you have diarrhea of the mouth.” The whole class goes, “Ooh.” Like, “Sick, burn.” And I was on the spot, and I was feeling like, totally cornered. She goes, “You have diarrhea of the mouth.” So, I put my hand under my chin and I go, “Oh, sick. It’s running down my chin.” Everybody laughed and the whole class. Mrs. Temple goes, “You need to go to the principal’s office.”


So, I went to the principal’s office, and I realized even in that moment that my little sophomoric yet, age-appropriate come back there, it got me out of this stressful situation where I was feeling put on the spot by my teacher. But then in the principal’s office, and a principal, there was another adult there, said, “Well, why are you here, Paul?” And I told him, “Well, she said I have diarrhea of the mouth. I said, it’s running down my chin.” And they were trying to be stern, but I could see they were kind of smi – they were like, “You know you shouldn’t do that, Paul.” And I was like, “They can’t be that mad at me because it’s kind of funny.” I remember that moment of thinking, “Oh, this humor thing got some power to it.” But then, fast forward to my career working with college students in distress, like severe mental, cooccurring mental health and substance abuse issues.


I was kind of living this double life. I was also performing stand-up and improv, and I was noticing at work how humor helped disarm people at times, helped bring my team together. So, I started researching it. I was just really interested and I kind of just became a humor nerd. I started doing some presentations on what I had learned on the power of humor, how I use it, and one thing led to another. Now, that’s what I do for a living.


[0:03:27] PF: That’s fantastic. I love that because I think we really underestimate humor, and we try to put it in its place. Because throughout – I’m sure you heard this throughout your life as well, where people would say, “Well, humor is just not appropriate here.” It’s like, “Yes, it is.” There’s almost always a way that humor can be used appropriately in any situation. For me, it’s been like the great stress reliever. Make somebody laugh or even make yourself laugh. It changes the tenor of the situation entirely.


[0:03:58] PO: Yes. I mean, how sad is it if we spend a third of our lives at work? So, if there are people saying, “Well, it’s just not appropriate.” Here, it’s like, “Well, I don’t want to live in a world where we can go a third of our lives without accessing a basic part of the human experience, which is our sense of humor. I mean, that’s just crushing the human spirit to me.


[0:04:20] PF: It is, and what happens because as children, we like to tell little jokes, and we like to laugh, and we kind of get away from that. We become grownups and think that humor is like we can go to a stand-up comedian show. We can go laugh there. We kind of reserve the spaces where we incorporate laughter. How does that happen?


[0:04:39] PO: Yes, it’s interesting you bring that up because I call it chronic seriousness. Over time, we develop this chronic seriousness. So, if you are someone who identifies as an adult, you may be suffering from chronic seriousness or may become an adult someday, but what happens there’s a study Gallup’s World Happiness Report, over 1.4 million people surveyed across 166 countries that are propensity to laugh, like nosedives, when we hit about age 23, which is coincidentally, when we start to hit the workforce. We graduate from college and we get families and we complicate our lives with these things like jobs and promotions and variable rate mortgages. It’s like, all of a sudden, I got to be serious, and I got things to do, and everything is just so serious.


We don’t start gaining those laughs back again. As you said, as kids, we laugh a lot more, have a lot more fun. We don’t start gaining those laughs back again until we’re nearly 80.


[0:05:37] PF: Oh, my god, that’s a long stretch.


[0:05:40] PO: Fifty-year desert of laughter, where we’re limiting our own access to a resilience tool that’s built into the human psyche.


[0:05:48] PF: Well, talk about that a little bit, because what does laughter and humor do for our overall health, our physical health, as well as our mental health?


[0:05:57] PO: Yes, well, on a real basic level, like when we find something humorous, and when we laugh, but you don’t have to laugh necessarily. Even just when your brain finds something funny, we get a dose of all these feel-good chemicals that flood our brain. By dose, I literally mean dose. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins flood our brain. We get all this like feel-good chemicals coming into our brain, and it lowers cortisol, which causes us stress, when we find something funny. That even happens just when we smile, when we start to smile.


So, for all the listeners, if you’re listening to this right now, just put the shape of a smile on your face. You don’t even have to mean it. You could be thinking anything right now. Like, he has no idea if I’m doing this or not, or whatever. I really have to pee right now. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s fine. But just by putting that shape of a smile on your face, or finding something amusing, you’re changing your brain chemistry to all of a sudden start having some happier chemicals in there. But a next step further, people who use humor to say, cope with life’s struggles, I call a developing a humor habit. Like, there’s all these habits we can create to see the humor in life more often and rewire our brain to do it.


People who do that actually end up becoming more positive, more optimistic, more resilient in the face of adversity. People who develop a humor habit, believe that they are more likely to get through traumatic situations and get through to the other side. So, there’s a lot it does for our own wellbeing and mental health.


[0:07:24] PF: So, what about people who have dark humor? Does that have the same kind of effect?


[0:07:29] PO: Yes. Dark humor could have the same kind of effect. I mean, it kind of depends. I mean, there’s a lot of research about, say, people in professions like police officers, medical professionals. Dark humor is really needed in terms of resilience to help people get through those difficult times. It is said too, that like dark humor, people who really liked dark humor, may have even higher intelligence levels as well.


That being said, if you get really into super dark, or sarcastic humor only as your only type of humor, there is some research that shows that that can start to go the other way for you a little bit and you start to depress yourself.


[0:08:08] PF: That’s good. So, you can kind of balance it, like the kind of humor you use and that you listen to. That’s an interesting point, too. If you say to skew toward dark and sarcastic humor, and you think like, I might be having a dark humor problem, can you correct that by listening to say lighter types of humor?


[0:08:26] PO: Yes. That’s a good question. I mean, I haven’t seen necessarily research on it. But I know from my own experience, and working with people all over the world around this, that the more you explore, and I call it even like lowering your humor threshold. One of the habits that I talked about is letting yourself laugh more. I was somebody who, like, as a comedian, you think I’d laugh all the time, right? But I wouldn’t laugh very much. I have a friend who just laughs all the time, really gregarious, and I was always jealous. I would watch my favorite comedies or go and see a comedian. I would kind of just sit there intellectualizing all of it, like, “Ah.”


Do you ever do that to where you’re like, watch a show, it’s like, genuinely, something’s funny. But you say to yourself, like, “That’s hilarious.” But you don’t laugh, right? Why not laughing if it’s so hilarious? So, I would find myself doing that, and I thought, well, this can’t be good. I should be laughing more. So, I kind of trained myself to let go and laugh a little more. The first step is to go into situations, whether it’s watching a movie or a show, or going to a comedy club, with the intention to laugh. And instead of thinking like arms folded, like, “This better make me laugh”, thinking, “I can’t wait to laugh”, and go into it with a smile on your face. Then, the second is to kind of fake it till you make it or kick it up a notch. So, if there was something that would kind of make me smirk or smile a little, I would just let out a little, “Huh.” And if there was something that gave me like a little, “Ha-ha”, I would purposely kind of push it to, “Ha-ha-ha.”


Eventually, as I just – not crazy amounts, but I would just push it just a little more than normal. I found myself genuinely laughing out loud more often until now, I laugh out loud, genuinely at things, maybe funny things friends say, or TV shows, or my dog getting trapped in a blanket and running around. I’ll laugh out loud numerous times a day.


[0:10:18] PF: And that, in addition to the benefits of humor, laughter has its own set of benefits for us, like both physically and mentally. So, you kind of get like a double, they kind of piggyback there together.


[0:10:29] PO: Yes. To me, part of it is finding a way to let yourself experience life in a lighter way, like finding the levity, just day to day, in day-to-day moments instead of – I had a job early on in my career, and I was like, fresh out of grad school, and I’d always been real light-hearted and gregarious, and I found myself in this job being really critical of everything. I was really negative. I didn’t know where all that came from. There was a lot of drama going on at the place I worked and I was really embroiled in that. I remember thinking to myself, I don’t want to live my life as an actor in a drama, just to reach the end to find out. I was the director and it could have been a comedy. The amount of evidence that supports just that thought that we actually have a lot of control over our own happiness, there’s a ton of it.


[0:11:21] PF: I love that you say that, because as we talked earlier, we’ve started a new year, no secret, and 2024, a lot of people have anxiety about it. We have a big election coming up. People are concerned. It doesn’t matter where you stand. People are concerned. There’s so much going on, wars, discontent, division, and people are like, “Okay, how am I supposed to be happier, funnier? How do I find more humor this year?” You have some great tips, like how can we incorporate humor into our lives, even in challenging and uncomfortable times?


[0:11:59] PO: Yes. So, one of the things that’s important to consider is the overall kind of rewiring of your brain. Just like you would you would do with anything else. I want to learn a foreign language or a musical instrument. It’s by incorporating small habits over time, because the priming effect is like our brains are wired to see what we set them up to expect. You’re going to buy a new car. You’re like, I really want a Jeep and you start looking at Jeeps on the Internet. And now everywhere you drive around town, there’s a Jeep everywhere, and you see all these Jeeps.


Well, we can do that with humor, and start to rewire our brain to see the humor more often in life. Instead of everywhere you see Jeeps, you see jokes. Here’s one way to kind of start doing that. One of my favorite habits is a humor jar. You have a jar, glass jar, say, and some slips of multicolored paper, and you could do this at work, in your office, or you could do this at home with the family, or both. In your humor jar, you’ve got those slips of paper, and then when funny things happen randomly, which they do, someone does or says something funny, and everyone cracks up, you write that down on a slip of paper, put it in the jar, and then depending on how many people you have doing it over the course of time, you go back at the end of each month, or quarter, or year, and relive all your funniest moments. And this is bound in positive psychology research about savoring the moment and also reminiscing on past good moments. But you’re also wiring your brain to look for the funny moments, savor those funny moments. Remember those funny moments in life, so you’ll see more and more of them, because that’s what we’re looking for.


[0:13:36] PF: That’s so cool. You know what, like, one thing I do that really helps me and I’ve got a couple of really funny friends. So, our friends, Doug and Jolene, we text a lot with them. Sometimes it’s just like, out of the blue, I’ll be like, “I’m not maybe having a great day. But I’m like, what can I say that’s going to make them laugh, because then they’re going to try to top whatever I texted to them.” And it works. It’s a rabbit hole that we go down. And it helps me change my state.


[0:14:03] PO: That’s great. Why I liked that, too, is it kind of taps into – in my life, things changed a lot for me when I started focusing more on giving a laugh than getting a laugh. I want other people to laugh for them, not necessarily for me. So, it sounds to me like that’s what you’re doing.


Another one of the habits is I call having a humor homie, and you could do it like as a one-week trial where you and your humor homie just make an agreement that like every day this week, or this month or whatever, we’re each going to find something that cracks us up and send it to the other with no obligation of a reply back like, “Oh, now I have to watch this video and I don’t really have time right now.” Because sometimes you feel like, “Oh, gosh. This one person sends me all these memes or whatever.” But it’s just what we’re doing is we’re holding each other accountable to you look for something funny, I’ll look for something funny, and we’re going to share it with each other and you’re also building up your comedy treasure trove of funny stuff.


[0:15:02] PF: Oh, that’s terrific. So, you’ve got a couple of other practices I wanted to talk about, and one is having a mantra. Right now, everyone’s like, they’re setting their word of the year, they’re setting their intentions, they’re creating their mantras. You have a whole different take on that.


[0:15:17] PO: Yes. Part of it, maybe it’s because I’m so into comedy and humor, is that I’m like, I’m a cynical person, right? So, I’ve been through a lot of workshops and wellness seminars and stuff like that, and some of the stuff really resonates with me. And other stuff is like, I cannot picture myself or take myself seriously doing this. Some of these serious mantras, they work. I mean, the research is out there. They work. So, if it works for you, great. But for me, I can’t take myself seriously sitting at my desk going, “I am not angry. I am calm. I am not angry. I am calm.” If I’m doing that, I’m about to put a five iron through my monitor and do snow angels on the carpet or something.


[0:15:59] PF: You just sounded like the Headspace app right now.


[0:16:01] PO: Exactly. Yes. Except if I was that app, it would be Headcase. Yes. So, you can still have a mantra, but have it be something funny or less serious. For example, Bud Light had these commercials for a long time where this king only liked to drink Bud Light and all the peasants would bring him all these drinks like these fine mead wines or whatever. When he didn’t get what he wanted, he would say, “To the pit of misery” with this guy who brought him like a wine or whatever. And the whole town would yell, “Dilly, dilly.”


So, for some reason, my wife and I anytime things were not going well in life or whatever, it was like our cross-country skis one time flew off the roof rack and got run over behind us. It’s like, “Dilly, dilly.”


[0:16:50] PF: I hope you were on the way back from the vacation.


[0:16:54] PO: Yes. It was all the way to, and two skis. It was two skis, but it wasn’t like one pair. It was one of hers and one of mine. Like, come on man. But that mantra dilly, dilly like she ended up engraving dilly, dilly at a money clip she gave to me one year for Christmas because it’s just an easy way to reframe and go, okay, these sucks but whatever.


[0:17:17] PF: So, did it make you laugh? You just lost basically two sets of skis because you can’t just buy like a single. Did it change the situation when you’re like, dilly, dilly?


[0:17:26] PO: Yes. It doesn’t always make me laugh. What it does is gives me perspective. It helps my brain remember that like, okay, although this may not be funny right now, there is humor in this. So, taking out of the freak-out from a nine to a six? Hey, your perspective in this whole situation, it’s okay, dilly, dilly to the pit of misery.


[0:17:47] PF: So, how did someone really start finding that mirthful mantra? Because you can do a song. It might be hard for someone to be like, “Oh, what’s that going to be?” Because we can’t – I mean, you kind of topped us with the Budweiser, dilly, dilly thing.


[0:18:02] PO: Yes. So, it could be something like that Budweiser thing started as kind of an inside joke, so it could be like an inside joke, or saying that happens with you, and your colleagues at work, or at home. It could be a song that you turn into a mantra. You could take a serious mantra, and give it a little makeover, serious mantra makeover. So, take your serious mantra, and in your head, or out loud, if you can do it out loud. Just picture a funny voice saying that mantra.


Like, Gandalf, from the Lord of the Rings going, “This too shall pass.” Or Elmo like, “I have a choice and I choose peace.” And that might just give you a little perspective to make you laugh a little bit and go, “Okay. It’s not the end of the world.”


[0:18:47] PF: I love that. When you do this, how long does it take for it to kind of become second nature? Because we’re trying to override all this negative stuff that’s been thrown at us all day long. How much work does it take to let the humor override that? And how long does it take to make it a habit?


[0:19:07] PO: Like anything. It’s different for everybody. But I think, that’s why I really liked the ones that start out as little inside jokes or things that you’re already doing or saying that you think, “Wait a minute. We may already have some kind of a mantra that I’m just not using that that much.” There was this one hospital team I was working with and a woman said that she was rushing around, running around room to room and there was this one patient she had this woman with a real southern twang voice. She came in real quick to check on her and a woman grabbed her arm and said, “Breathe baby, breathe.” She told her other nursing staff that their whole team now when somebody’s getting worked up, they all just go, “Breathe baby, breathe.”


So, those types of ones I think are the easiest because they’re already in the lexicon. I had one when I was working with college students that were having a hard time, and I had to have disciplinary conversations with them and stuff, and sometimes it didn’t go well. I remember this one student at the end of the day. It was a long week. The end of the day, the student and his attorney, and mom left my office, they’re angry, and I hear the student just yell, “I hate this F’n school.” I walk into the office and my colleague goes, “How you doing?” I go, “Oh, you know, changing lives.” And that changing lives kind of became one of those mantras where both good and bad. Sometimes we’d have breakthroughs and we’d be like, “Hey, changing lives.” And other times, it’d be like a tough day, like, “Changing lives.” But it kind of gave us a perspective that we’re in it together.


[0:20:41] PF: I love that. I love that. So, as the year gets dicey, not that it will. If the year feels dicey, how can we then like make sure like really double down on our humor? Really make it, like find ways to make ourselves laugh, and make ourselves think everything’s okay?


[0:20:56] PO: One thing is, at times, you don’t have to make everything okay. The great humorous Charlie Chaplin once said, “In order to really laugh, you need to be able to take your pain and play with it.” If you’re into theater, or comedy, movies, or TV shows. I mean, the real great comedy comes from the pain points in life. The struggles. No one wants to watch TV show where the guy wakes up and loves his job, and everything’s great with his family. It’s like, who cares? But it’s the funny things happen with the struggles.


So, what I teach with groups and workshops is to be able to take your pain points, and play with them a little bit. Start with minor things. There’s something called humorous reappraisal, where we take minor stressors that we had, and then look back and see how can I reframe that with humor? Or I call it play in the what I could have said game. How can I look back and go, “What could I have done or said in that stressful moment, to add some levity to it so that I didn’t get quite so worked up?” That’s a good way. There’s a lot of research about that, that doing that, actually increases our overall positive emotions and decreases negative emotions more than just normal positive reappraisal. Numerous reappraisal does so even more.


So, I can give an example. I always tell people, just start with real minor things, and then work your way up to more real difficult personal traumatic things. But like, let’s say you’re in an important meeting at work, with all the leadership team there, and you go to make a brilliant point, right? You spill your mug of coffee all over the table. And now, you’re immediately flustered, your next getting red, your face is getting red. And you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry.” Apologizing profusely and embarrassed, and then you realize later, like, “I didn’t even get to make my great point. And why did I let myself get so flustered about this? I wish I could have handled that with some levity.”


Go back and play the what I could have said game. What would you have done? What would you have said to lighten the mood and settle yourself down and others down? Maybe you spill it and go, “This is going to generate a latte excitement.” Or, “It’s okay, everyone. It’s just half and half. Half on the table, half in my lap.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t even matter if what you come up with when you’re doing this exercise cracks you up. Because you’re training your brain to associate these minor stressors and working your way up to major stressors with humor.


Eventually, what will happen is, you’ll think to play the what I could have said game like a couple days later, and then a day later, and then a few hours later, until eventually your brain is starting to make this humor connection closer to real time than retrospect. And you’re starting to be hardwired for humor.


[0:23:36] PF: I love that. I love that. There’s so much that you can teach us and we’re going to tell people how they can find you and where they can see your TED Talk and just all the great stuff that you’ve done. But before you go, I love this, I want you to tell us about a comedy chaser, because this is something we started doing in our house before like we didn’t even realize it how to name. But it was something we had to do this because we couldn’t go to bed with anything else in our mind. So, tell us what a comedy chaser is and how we can use this. I love it.


[0:24:04] PO: Yes. And that’s cool to hear that you’ve been doing that too, because that’s just actually helped me a lot as well. But I’m not going to like screen shame anyone. We all have our screen habits where maybe we’re on a certain app too long, or depending on what you like to watch. For some reason right now, True Crime documentaries, and like serial killer documentaries are huge. Some of us watch the news way too much. Whatever it is, it’s fine. But a comedy chaser is at the end of the day, make the last thing you watch funny. After you’ve binged your True Crime thing, before you go to bed, or maybe it’s before you get to work or sit down to do some work, make the last thing you watch something funny. Watch a couple of funny TikTok videos or whatever it is that makes you laugh, because then what you’re doing is you’re replacing stress-inducing hormones with stress-reducing before you go to bed, or get to work, or see your family, or whatever it is.


[0:25:00] PF: Then, that’s what’s stuck in your head too. When you lay down, you’re like rethinking that joke, rethinking what you just saw, and it’s a much more pleasant experience.


[0:25:08] PO: Absolutely. All of those benefits of humor and laughter are flooding your body before sleep, or whatever the next thing is that you’re going to do, for sure.


[0:25:19] PF: What I’ve noticed has happened with me is I’ve started doing that. I tend to have really funny dreams. I don’t always remember them, but I will wake up laughing.


[0:25:28] PO: Really? Oh, that’s great.


[0:25:28] PF: Yes. Then, sometimes I’m like, “I got to write that down because I got to try that.” As I’ve started doing comedy, before I go to bed, I see that happening more and more, where it’s like –


[0:25:38] PO: That’s awesome.


[0:25:39] PF: – you just kind of wake up and you’re laughing. You don’t know why. It’s like, it must have been a good dream. Wish I knew what it was.


[0:25:45] PO: See. You’re rewiring your brain for humor, and it’s even happening in your sleep. That’s amazing.


[0:25:49] PF: That’s so easy. I can do it in my sleep.


[0:25:51] PO: That’s right. That’s right. Very good. I need you to write something for me. “So, easy. You can do it in your sleep.”


[0:25:59] PF: Well, Paul, you are a delight to talk to. I’m glad you could share this with us. Again, thank you for coming on. We’re going to tell everyone how to find you and make 2024 a happier, more humorous year.


[0:26:12] PO: That’s right. Have a great 2024 everyone.




[0:26:19] PF: That was Paul Osincup, talking about the power of humor. If you’d like to learn more about Paul, follow him on social media or learn more about his book, The Humor Habit, just visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.


That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.



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