It’s said that laughter is the best medicine. Yet many of us don’t have enough in our lives. And having a good sense of humor is considered an very attractive quality in both sexes. That’s why I’m happy to have Spiritual Comedian Alicia Dattner as my guest today. She has been touring the world, selling out her one-woman shows, Eat, Pray, Laugh!, The Oy of Sex, and The Punchline, and winning awards, including “Best Storyteller” in the NY United Solo Festival, “Best of the Fringe” in the SF Fringe Festival, and “Best Comedian 2011? in the East Bay Express. Now she’s bringing together comedians with a sense of spirituality and spiritual teachers with a sense of humor in the world’s first Online Spiritual Comedy Festival, from Jan. 29-March 21, 2013. If you want to be funnier but don’t know how, here are some of Alicia’s tips:
Want to be Funnier? 5 Cheesy Steps. I Mean Easy Steps
By Alicia Dattner
You can read it every day in the news. A new study about the health benefits of laughter, and how it warms up relationships. Humor does all sorts of good things on paper. But in real life, how can you put it into practice?
Have you ever wondered, “How can I be funnier?” As a standup comic and spiritual comedy coach, I get this question a lot. In fact, even when people aren’t asking me outright, I can tell that’s what they’re thinking by the questions they don’t ask. The moment they hear I’m a comedian, they start laughing. Usually not because they’re incredulous. People love to be near comedians, and all of the desire to be more joyful and playful kind of gets projected onto us. I don’t even have to say anything funny, and people’s faces light up. I’ve even purposely been un-funny, and they still get happy when they hear what I do. What this tells me is that each of us has a fountain of desire to feel joy, as well as a fountain of actual joy bubbling up from within. It’s all already there. It simply has to be activated. And what is “funny”? For the most part, it’s an openness to play, to truth, and to the unexpected.
“Spiritual” Comedy: I coach people in comedy and in particular spiritual comedy. I have found that those of us, who have a background in spirituality, whether teaching or practicing it, tend to have this kind of airy-fairy way of moving through our day. “Did you just cut me off in traffic? Well, that’s okay! I send you peace.” Our habitual “spiritual” inclination is to stay “positive” and make nice. Bzzzzzzzzz! No!
The truth is that we don’t always feel light and happy and nice. And when we feel and express the truth, we’re a lot funnier than when we’re trying to be funny or trying to be positive. The reason: comedy is conflict. Comedy is complaining. Laughter can be totally pure and light, but comedy usually comes from strife. The truly “spiritual” thing to do is to be with the truth of how you feel, and then get over it. And then make peace. And then have equanimity. Otherwise, you’re just stuffing it away for later in order to look good.
Tell Your Truth I ask my clients to “step into” that part of themselves that has an opinion or a struggle or a conflict. It’s uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. And when they do, suddenly they’re really funny – without even trying to be. I call this telling your truth. (So does everyone else.) It can be a difficult thing to practice if you don’t know what it feels like. Plus, there are layers upon layers of our truth, some funny, some funny to other people, some not so much. Here are a few ways to begin if you feel like you’ve never really told your truth before.
1. Observe how you feel physically. Physical sensation is actually the manifestation of the unconscious, so just by noticing you have a stomach ache or you feel tired, and you acknowledge it to yourself, that’s telling your truth. “I feel an itching sensation in my nether regions.”
2. Observe how you feel emotionally. If you feel a particular emotion, and you say it out loud to yourself, that’s telling the truth. Bonus points if you can identify it somewhere in your body, “I feel anxiousness in my throat.”
3. Observe what story, thought, opinion, or attitude you have about the feeling, and say that out loud. This is where the funny comes, but only if you’re not trying, and only sometimes. “My throat hurts. I think it’s because I’m scared to tell my truth. The truth is, I hate women who hate women. I guess that makes me a self-hating shrew. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense.”
Get High! “I used to get high on life, but then I built up a tolerance. I used to seize the day, then I started seizing two days, three days, then I was a seizing a week, just to get the same buzz.” – Arj Barker
Here’s another way I coach my clients to be funny. No, not with drugs – I’m talking about letting go to make more space for play and fun. The more relaxed we are, the more in touch we are with our true experience and our connection to the source of all our ideas and inspiration. We make more absurd connections with our brains. We allow ourselves the freedom and space to notice and enjoy life. We are less in our heads, less judgmental, less in the adult ego. We are less self-censoring, less fearful of looking or sounding foolish.
Whatever helps you feel that way is good for comedy. A few ideas:
* Meditate. It doesn’t matter what kind of meditation, as long as it leaves you feeling more expansive, lighter, and clearer than when you started.
* Dance. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind, but you should do a lot of bumping, shaking, and sweating. Jump around enough so all the endorphins start flowing. Dance with other people who are playful. Some of my funniest physical comedy has come out of totally ridiculous scenes I’ve created on the dance floor, where, for example, I’m acting out the lyrics of a song, or fake-flirting with someone or trying to look really cool but actually being a total dork.
* Improv. Lots of comedians will tell you they hate improv comedy as much as they hate clowning. Who cares? Try acting exercises, theatrical improvisation, improv comedy, or any kind of movement where you let your body tell the story.
* Laughter Yoga. I know you’re going to think it’s crazy, but it works. Now, some Laughter Yoga teachers have that thing where their throats are all tight and they’re terrified you won’t laugh. They teach at the senior center and they have kazoos and bubbles and rubber chickens to make you smile. I’m not talking about that kind. I’m talking about Laughter Yoga where you do a lot of breathing, some meditation, and you actually let yourself play with other folks and kind of pretend you’re a kid again. Laugh at shoelaces. Bark like a monkey. Play air trombone. Seeing the world with innocent, fresh eyes can be so freeing.
* Hang out with little kids. Kids under 4 (and hopefully older too) are naturally high, especially the ones who don’t play video games and watch TV a lot. Spend half an hour really playing with kids, and they’ll have you making sock puppets talk in wacky voices and inventing fairy tales. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll say some wise, candid, hilarious, quotable thing, and you’ll get a great new story out of it you can tell at parties for the next year.
We laugh at what we recognize, so start figuring out who is going to recognize you and your sense of humor. Then you’ll know who you can make laugh.
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