Bizarro World

I sometimes wonder if on my way back from the Town Pump some late night I slipped through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and ended up in an alternate universe.

I must have jumped out of the hole in time to not fully live in this Bizarro World, but I still have the ability to see some of the inhabitants of that strange place, mainly by accessing our somewhat shared reality on the Internet.

I was following some links on writing and business blogs (mostly populated by fellow earthlings) when I ran across a woman who touts herself as a “humor consultant”.

That sounds like a pretty sweet gig, so I decided to investigate further.

She had some clips of her delivering her material that the Fortune 500 evidently clamors for.  I didn’t find it particularly funny, she seemed like a slightly more relaxed version of a Powerpoint presentation.

She also had a clip of her stand-up routine.  (Note to self:  If you decide to put a clip of yourself delivering a comedy routine online, do not do it standing in front of a vinyl banner that says “$2.50 Pabst All day” – and make sure more than 3 people are in the audience to help beef-up the laugh track a little more)

Now consultants are probably a good thing for companies to hire, if they lack certain skills and abilities.  I would wonder about any company that was so humorless that they had to bring in somebody to try and get a rise out of the employees.  Management FAIL!

Do companies really hire people like this?  How do you explain THAT particular invoice in today’s environment?  How do you get these gigs, be the CEO’s sister-in-law?

Seriously, though, more power to this lady if she is actually pulling this off.  I would expect the only laughter I would get if I tried something like this would be from the business types I tried to pitch this to.

Because I’ve been knocking around the business world for quite some time now, and there’s not much humor in it, in my experience.  And that’s not an accident.

Even in the warm-and-fuzzy pre-Depression world, humor was in short supply.  Mainly because in humor, somebody has to be the butt of the joke.  And making even polite fun of a situation or the participants in it seems to be a quick way to lose those dreaded “team player” points.

So the alternative is to poke fun of yourself, something that most people seem to be genetically unable to do.  Plus, come performance review time, you may find that you’ve written yourself into the part of the clown and out of the part of the prince.

I miss the few offices I’ve worked in where people genuinely got to be themselves, warts and all.  Because today’s environment seems to favor the “hive mind” mentality.   Leave your personality in the parking lot and plug into the “beige-ness” of the office and environment during your sentence there.

This also strikes me as the modern version of the King and Court Jester, tailored to the conference room set.

But who made these people King?


11 thoughts on “Bizarro World

  1. Hi Harry, politicians and other people giving presentations often hire speechwriters who add a few jokes, which is important. I think you’re right that the jokes should be self-deprecating, like a good comedian would do. It’s hard to imagine a “humor consultant” actually trying to make employees funnier. It’s ridiculous because in most offices, people do chat and joke among themselves unless they’re too scared to. It’s pretty hard to suppress a naturally funny person—I know I couldn’t be gloomy all day if there were people with lively personalities around me. Wow this reminds me of “Office Space.”

    • It’s funny you should mention “Office Space”, Deb….the last two places I’ve worked could definitely have been used as sets for that movie, complete with extras. Both of these places have been in the post-2008 world. Prior to that, I don’t recall things being so grim and humorless. Perhaps it is the “keep your head down and hope nobody notices you” fear of layoffs that people are afraid of.
      And I don’t think bringing in a mildly upbeat personality once is going to turn that round.

  2. Well, “humor consultant” tops them all. At least it made us laugh and didn’t cost anything.

    Like you, I applaud her for trying, but really… what’s the world coming to? All the “life coach” this and “humor coach” that makes me wonder if our brains haven’t just come off the rails.

  3. There really is an interesting dichotomy at play in a lot (most?) of companies. There’s a lot of talk and plaque-ware about innovation and collaboration and having fun (hence the many PowerPoint slides that show a picture of the bright colours in a Google environment) and saying, “that’s what we should be going”; but at the same time, once the presentation is over, it’s kind of back to a lot of time fussing with governance structures and budgets.

    Not that governance and budgets aren’t important – they are – but somehow they become an impediment to getting to the “fun” stuff, which is probably the stuff that will drive business growth and employee satisfaction.

    So, a humour consultant seems to be a classic case of focusing on the tactic rather than the strategy. Oops, there I go with suit-speak…

    • I guess it brings to mind the old saw “the crew will be whipped until morale improves”! In the most “fun” environments I’ve worked in, people were able to bring all of their “self” to work and not have to check ideas, humor, and personality at the door. If management can’t create an environment in which employees can relax and concentrate on the overall mission, I think they (management) are the ones who need consultants – of the career-change variety!

  4. “Leave your personality in the parking lot and plug into the “beige-ness” of the office and environment during your sentence there”

    It’s the “beige-ness” I struggle against. It’s everywhere. And all pervasive. I’ve been noticing it in the institutionalised education system over the past couple of months and I blame [some… not all] these institutions for installing that bland programming into the minds of the very young and impressionable. No wonder we can’t see the color of humor when everyone is expected to turn out the same.

    Canned laughter doesn’t work either. Humor can’t be manufactured. It’s either in you or it isn’t. I notice too how cultural differences play a part. Aussie humor is different to American or British [although I think more British than American due to our dominant heritage] Odd isn’t it?

    Good topic Harry… interesting stuff 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Jean. The older I get, the more I sometimes get the impression that the “bland programming” you mention is more of an intended result than a by-product. The education “system” is a good way to have people who will self-select for corporate positions in which docility and attention to a task not of their own choosing or interest comes in handy.
      I think humor is even different amongst different occupations, not just cultures. What makes engineers laugh and what the sales department thinks is funny are probably not the same thing.

    • That IS always the question….I certainly don’t see how, but then there are a lot of people making a living doing things that I wouldn’t think possible! I would think that unless you were connected to someone in the CEO suite this would be an awful tough sell.
      Thanks for the comment and for stopping by!

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