A startling mega merger is rocking Corporate America: Big Business is buying Big
Laughs. For years, CEOs have covertly used joke writers to animate their stuffy images. The
New York Times reveals that many corporations now retain "humor consultants" to rally the
troops at corporate meetings. The Wall Street Journal reports that some Fortune 500 companies
make their executives attend comedy school. No kidding. The aim: sharpen worker's creative
skills and make them more productive. Funny Business.
Laughter is the best medicine, but will it prove a productivity elixir in the workplace?
With more jokes at work, Human Resources may become comedy police. On an interview, the
first question will no longer be "Tell me about yourself"; it'll be "Tell me a joke!"
What if your colleagues notice you're acting kind of funny? When a customer says
"You've got to be kidding?", how will you respond? No one will take you seriously, but isn't that
the idea? Whatever you do, always remember: let your boss have the last laugh.
We all know workers so busy kidding around, they never get anything done. Every
office has a comedian and, tragically, once they make that first joke, they just can't stop. They
need the twelve step program, Jokeaholics Anonymous. The only requirement for joining is a
desire to stop joking. Jokeaholics acknowledge the devastating effect humor has had on their
lives; how it's hurt their jobs, damaged relationships, that their joking is out of control. In time,
they learn that too much joking just isn't funny.
Is humor taking over corporate America ? In the 1990's, many investors laughed all the
way to the bank. Internet stocks made lots of funny money. It seems the business world had
fool's gold. Corporations often embrace any hot new trend. If Wall Street thought losing money
would be profitable, firms would go out of business quicker than the next IPO came to market.
Comedy already IS big business. Seinfeld's cashed out and Saturday Night Live's a cash
cow. But while the market rewards a lucky few, even a booming economy and labor shortage
haven't dented the rampant unemployment of most comedians.
Since the NEA is functionally dysfunctional, and with the largest Federal budget deficit
in generations, I propose a program to subsidize the comedically challenged: "Jokefare" means
fair jokes. One need not be funny to qualify. In fact, only the dull comic can demonstrate real
need. We will "level the comedy stage" and give all an equal opportunity to jest. Under Jokefare,
comics won't care if it's "a hand up" or "a hand out." Just give 'em a hand!
President Bush, a laughingstock, will surely support this historic
hysteria. The Congressional votes may not be there, but most Americans
think their government's a joke.
Sadly, because I've made money being funny, I wouldn't qualify for
Jokefare, my own creation. I've been published, worked in clubs and on
tv. Still, my student loans and back taxes demand more; liquid
financing, soft money or hard cash. With such unstable income, I'm often
asked about my 401K. My retirement plan is to die; quickly, I hope,
before the jokes do.
So finally...the ridiculous question regulators must contend with: Will
Funny Business create an absurd cartel where one company steals all the
jokes and nobody's laughing? In that case, the rest of us might end up
Comedy is about the truth and we laugh because we recognize the pain. In the business
world, otherwise good people lie all the time. The dishonesty can be as simple as a colleague
politely asking "How are you?" and pretending they care. Or as complex as trying to understand
contractual fine print, only to learn that the fine print had fine print. All day long, the American
worker is besieged by lies and unwittingly passes them along. W.C. Fields said, "comedy is
tragedy happening to someone else". Too often, business is the lie happening to someone else.
Corporate America will tolerate Funny Business until it's gets too close to the truth.
Imagine a McKinsey led staff retreat wherein a CEO engages his top managers, recent comedy
school graduates. When the big boss hears what the little people really think of him, via
improvised skits and jokes, his outrage will mark the last time comedy is welcomed at that firm.
Unlike humor, business has an underlying fear of exposure and will drop the joking
posture the moment it costs too much. No corporation wants the bottom line to turn out funny.
Sadly, we'll continue to take work all too seriously.