On one of my international trips, I was in the car with three or four young men when one of them asked me a question: "Dr. Stanko," he said, "I probably won't ever get another chance to be with you like this. I like to be in front of people and make them laugh. You do that so well. Can you share any secrets with me?" I am often asked questions about how I do what I do, so I had an answer ready. I thought I would share with you what I told him.
1. Accept who you are. I've always made people laugh and I love it—most of the time. There were occasions, however, when I abused and misused humor to make people look silly. I can remember one night when I asked the Lord to take away my humor because I had used it incorrectly. However, I sensed that God had no intention of taking it away; He wanted to teach me how to use it properly.
Many times since then I have been able to use my humor to de-fuse sensitive situations. My humor has enhanced my ability to speak and write. In other words, being funny is who I am. The first step to using it properly was to accept it as a gift.
2. Develop who you are. Once I accepted the fact that being humorous is part of who I am, I then set out to make my humor effective. I studied other humorous people. I watched their routines, studying what worked and what didn't. I noticed that people did not laugh at everything they said, yet they were still considered comics.
I've still made lots of mistakes and I've said and written many things that weren't funny. Yet I keep working at it, studying how I can be better at what I do and who I am. More often than not, I will hear feedback that says, "You should be a stand-up comic." I laugh and respond, "I already am!"
3. Work at who you are. The final thing I said to the young man in the car surprised him. I told him that after I accepted who I who and began to develop my skill, I then had to work at being funny. I think a lot about what to say in certain situations. I may even go back and reconsider, "What could or should I have said in that situation that may have been funny?" When I am an emcee or a speaker, I try to plan scenarios that could be funny before I go on, even if I'm working with another person.
However, much of what I do is spontaneous; I'm not a good joke teller. Yet I have found the more work I do to make people laugh, the more opportunities present themselves for me to be humorous.
YOU MAY NOT BE FUNNY BUT. . .
So there you have my three secrets of humor, and they really aren't so secret. They apply to almost any gift or talent you may have. Humor may not be your gift. I know, however, that you do have one, and that you may be looking past it or doing nothing with it. So, your assignment is to take these three tips and apply them to your own life and work.
For instance, are you a good cook? If so, then are you applying these three principles to your life in the kitchen? Are you taking cooking lessons? Giving lessons? Writing cookbooks? Teaching others to cook?
Creativity, productivity and purpose aren't magical concepts. They require a lot of work on your part, not only to find them, but to fulfill and express them. I urge you to do your part so that the world can enjoy you to the fullest. As you work on your gifts, I promise to continue to work on my ability to make people laugh.