For those of us comedy nerds, the new biopic, I Am Chris Farley, was something special. There wasn’t necessarily anything I did not already know, but it was a nice reminder of how incredibly funny Chris could be. With his pratfalls and quick-witted comments, Chris was a comedy legend before he turned 25.
From Second City to Saturday Night Live to his movies, Chris had an energy that made him the living embodiment of funny. Just wearing a tiny coat could stir a laugh, let alone competing with Patrick Swayze in a Chippendales dance off. It’s easy to understand how humor led to Chris’ success, but you may be interested in knowing that a comedic streak can aid your success, as well. Here are four ways humor can help you and your team be more creative and effective.
Remember that time you were frustrated with your team and yelled at them? It may have felt good (for you), but research shows that improving their mood is a more effective way to boost problem solving skills. In a study by neuroscientist Karuna Subramaniam, participants who watched a comedy were significantly better at the task using insight than those who watched a horror film or a lecture on quantum electronics.
Karuna found that creative insight is correlated with areas of the brain that are responsible for attention and problem solving. By improving someone’s mood, increased activity in these regions prepares the brain for novel solutions, whereas generating fear decreased activity and inhibited creativity. As a result, you and your team can think more broadly, associate ideas more freely, and problem solve more effectively with an injection of humor.
If you want to increase your team’s brainstorming skills, improvisational comedy training may be in order. In a study by Barry Kudrowitz, professional product designers and improvisational comedians were given a cartoon and asked to write as many captions as they could think of. The comedians produced 20% more ideas AND generated ideas that were rated 25% more creative.
The games used in improvisational comedy training provide trainees with the same skills needed in your meetings – associative thinking, spontaneous idea production, and the ability to make nonobvious connections between seemingly unrelated things. And good news, the research found that these skills can be taught; those who participated increased idea output on average by 37% in a subsequent product brainstorming session.
Are you familiar with the effects of humor on formal education? A study by psychologist Randy Garner found that students were more likely to recall a statistics lecture when the instructor incorporated topic-related jokes. This study has been replicated in numerous settings and has consistently demonstrated the need for humor-integrated learning.
Well-planned, appropriate, contextual humor can help students ingrain information. – Randy Garner
Humor does more than improve people’s understanding of the topic; it improves their desire to learn. In study published in Teaching of Psychology, instructors who inserted self-deprecating jokes and topic-related cartoons into their online course had a significantly higher log-on rate than those offering the same curricula minus the humor and received higher ratings on course evaluations.
Professors’ jobs are to educate, not to entertain, but if humor can make the learning process more enjoyable, then I think everybody benefits as a result. – Mark Shatz
You don’t need the skills of Chris Farley to interject humor into your organization’s culture. Harness your comedic abilities to lighten the mood, illustrate examples, and kick start those creative juices. It doesn’t diminish your authority; if anything, it will make you more influential…unless you try to replicate Chris’ Chippendales dance. If this happens, you are on your own.