The technical director at digital studio Spinifex Group shares tips on how to best laugh away the stress
Technology can be a tricky beast. Remembering to laugh in its face can be the only weapon we have against collapsing in on ourselves with shame. We all need to laugh things off sometimes, and I am no exception.
At a young age, I was sure that by 34, I would already have two successful moon landings under my belt and be finishing the final prep for my solo mission to Mars. Back to Earth. After many years of being a technical director for an agency, I now know I wouldn’t have made it past writing my first and last name on the astronaut registration forms. Still, whether in space or on the ground, we all experience stress.
For me, it often goes something like this:
It’s 10 minutes until show time and the lights on our rack of technical gear are flashing in patterns we’ve never seen before. We retrace our steps, going through every detail. Suddenly it happens. The hour is nigh and the show is starting. All is lost, the world is ending and lives (not really) hang in the balance.
Then, as if guided by a higher power, someone looks down and sees the internet cable unplugged and lying on the floor like it’s taking a break. Time turns to super slo-mo as a team member triumphantly plugs in the cable and the lights begin their familiar sequence. Order is restored.
Someone turns to the army of managers, PR pros, and account executives standing behind us gnawing on their nails and calmly says: “it must’ve been the flux capacitor.” They all breathe a sigh of relief and go about their jobs confident that we knew how to fix it all along. As soon as they’re gone, we silently and internally fall apart into a million little pieces. Then, we laugh, a kind of frantic, psychotic laughter and ponder why we never became professional snowboarders.
Because of the high-stress of live productions, it’s no surprise that many of our technicians have semi-professional side interests that include stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. Humor is so essential to the psyche some genius designated a day to celebrate laughter. No joke. In honor of National Tell a Joke Day on Aug. 16, dust off your best one-liners, gags, and pranks. Get ready to jab and jest.
Personally, I am planning a doozy but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Let’s just say that it involves a dubsmash remix of a Robert Frost poem. Do your thing, but keep it clean so you stay out of trouble with your HR department. Here’s some tips to keep your cohorts laughing.
Numero Uno (that’s Italian or something)
Don’t make fun of a person, make fun of a situation. We can all laugh at a shared experience that was weird or difficult, but singling out a person makes it feel like everyone versus that person. Situations don’t have feelings or care about why they are stupid. They also don’t know how to complain to agency brass. This can help diffuse a bad situation and make people more open to the explanation of why it happened and how to fix it, rather than trying to place blame.
Number Dos (Spanish. Nailing it)
Deflect to yourself in extremes. “I know right? Aren’t I just the WORST?” You can say whatever you want about yourself good or bad and no one can disagree. Extremes and specifics make jokes even better. Self-deprecation is an old standby in comedy. It can always be used to mediate a tough situation by inserting yourself and your personal shortcomings in the middle of a battle between two others or groups. Never being too big to be made fun of is vital. Even senior leadership can humanize themselves by allowing people to poke fun at them and this helps loosen everyone else up.
Number Trois: (French I think)
Don’t try too hard. Comedy is all about timing. If the mood isn’t right or you are trying to force a joke, it won’t work. Stand-up comedians talk about feeling out the room. If people are responding to a certain type of joke, do that one more. If no one is laughing, change the tactic. If all else fails, just pull up a YouTube video of a dog eating a watermelon from the inside.
You hear a lot these days about the importance of building company culture and how it can aid creativity. Humor is a big part of that culture-building process and is a necessity to maintain perspective. We all have to deal with stress but in end, our health and happiness is the most important thing. So laugh today and every day. It’s fun, medicinal, and magical.
This post originally appeared in Campaign. Read the original here.