Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

Cutting Ties to the Past

sign-43984_1280Way back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs stalked the earth and the gods still supped with the mortals (so, somewhere around 1978) I used to be an apprentice hairdresser.

Yes, no shit. I spent four years shampooing, cutting, tinting and asking people where they were going for their holidays.

I loved the job. I loved the busy-ness, I loved the creativity and I loved helping people look absolutely smashing. I hated the usual things about being an apprentice – i.e. not having control of what I was doing (hell, I was 17 and like every other 17 year old I knew everything, didn’t I?). I hated drying the stinky perm towels in an ancient dryer because the boss was too mean to launder them more than once a week and I hated the worst job of all – picking the rollers and hairpins out of the piles of swept up hair cuttings at the end of the day. I would do this and dry retch the whole time. ‘Twas shit. I was also scared that one never saw an old hairdresser. Where did they go? I saw the 40 year old ones develop dowagers humps from bending over all the time (now being seen in younger techno geeks), but not older, retirement age ones. It remains a mystery to me.

It was at that time though that I was issued, through my college course (City & Guilds of London Hairdressing Apprenticeship), with my kit for the job. My own personal set of rollers, hairpins, pincurl pins combs brushes and scissors.

To this day I still cut hair. I’ve cut my son’s hair his whole life. He’s 19 now and he’s only been to a hairdresser once (when he was 15, they didn’t do it right, they didn’t understand his white afro like I do). I cut my dad’s hair from when I started til he died in 2008. I cut my mum’s hair till she went to the salon in the sky in ‘95 and I mostly cut my own hair because I cannot be arsed explaining to a hairdresser what I want when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. My husband struggles with this. I think he sees self-done haircuts as a signifier of poverty. Personally, I see them as soothing my need for control.

Anyway, the thing is, I lost my cutting comb.

I do not know what happened, but in the past couple of weeks the comb I use for cutting hair has disappeared. It’s the comb I’ve used since my apprenticeship and it works in perfect harmony with my scissors, which I’ve taken care of and I’ve had since that tender age as an apprentice.

Son needed a haircut but cutting comb is nowhere to be seen. I’m stumped. I cannot use a normal, mere mortal, civilian comb! That just wouldn’t be right. So I had to seek a new one out. EEEk!

In town today I walked into one of those hairdressing suppliers with a fabulously pun-y name like Hairhouse Warehouse or similar, and the chick in charge came up to me, fixed her mascara’ed, lined eyes upon me, and from underneath her product enhanced swept fringe asked if she could help me. I looked straight back and said ‘Yes, I need a cutting comb’. It was as if she’d been told I was the queen in disguise. Her back straightened, her eyes widened and a very respectful sales assistant showed me their range. She obviously recognised a veteran of the trade.

I got the new comb. I regarded it suspiciously. It’s a different shape from the 35 year old one that’s gone missing, but nevertheless I used it this afternoon to cut son’s hair. And oh boy!

This comb with its new shape but still fabulous cutting comb qualities had me cutting faster and more accurately than I have in years. It’s easier to hold and easier to work with the scissors. I finished the cut in record time and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Which is all a long winded way to say, don’t do what I did. I feared having to use a new comb and I mourned the loss of the old one, when in reality the old one’s just a comb and only has the meaning I give it, and the new comb is a boon to my speed and accuracy.

I had attributed too much of what I did to the old comb. Yes we’ve been through a lot that comb and I, but let’s face it, it’s just a piece of plastic with no feelings and it wouldn’t be very resourceful of me to mourn it, would it?

So, what I say is welcome change, expect things to get even better than before, and as for the past, the good memories (and people) will stay, no matter what. Here’s to another 35 years of cutting!

I Close My Eyes and Jump

angel-81392_1280Goodness gracious what a week!

I had always imagined that when days arrive that will change my life, they would be huge and dramatic. Maybe fireworks and heavenly choirs, marching bands and trumpets, a boom or two of thunder and lightning splitting the sky.

But what really happened was an unprecedented overwhelming wave of peace, and then deep, deep inside I heard a quiet, loving voice say very firmly “No, enough. It is time now”.

And the decision that had to be made wasn’t scary. I have no doubts about the way forward, and indeed it seems to be the most natural, normal thing in the world.

So, what actually happened is that this week I resigned from my well-paid job to devote my life to coaching and training, to helping people get happy (and therefore successful) quickly and easily, and to have fun doing it using a combination of comedy and cutting edge science (for those that don’t know me I’m also an actor and comedian).

Just to re-emphasise, on Tuesday I had a six-figure, relatively safe government job, and now, after I work my notice, in about 3.5 weeks time I’ll be working for my own business Elegant Concepts Group.

What I’ve done goes against all conventional wisdom. Women my age (52) find it increasingly difficult to get decent work in the corporate sector, and those who tread cautiously would say that it really isn’t the time to be striking out on one’s own.

However, here’s the crux of the matter; for the past 30-odd years – most of my working life – I’ve been suppressing who I really am in order to fit into the ‘corporate box’. I’ve been living a double life; appearing on stage either in theatre or comedy in the evening and by day I’ve been hiding my true passions to fit in with everyone else, and in the process I’ve been exhausting myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have also been disappointing myself for not standing up for whatever oddity I feel I must be.

I have often looked with envy at people who love their 9 to 5 jobs and wished for some of the peace of mind they seem to have. But maybe they too are hiding their passions in some way to fit in with what our society asks of us. I know that for me, as I’ve got older, it has been increasingly difficult.

And then I had the health scares of the past couple of months (see previous post) to bring me to very sharp awareness of the fragility and transient nature of our time here on earth.

The key has been a question of alignment. I’ve been out of alignment and not living my values, and yet that is what I ask my clients to do, to live according to their values. How can I ask that of them when I haven’t done it myself?  That non-alignment has probably been at the basis of my health and stress problems. I can hear my old Scottish mum’s voice in my head “Ye cannay be the servant of two masters.” And that’s why I’m now giving up on one and following, with such a happy heart, the other.

I have the advantage of a fabulously supportive husband, my lovely Steven, who in his own quiet way has been pointing out my fierce defence of this middling stance for some time. And now I’ve stepped out of no-man’s-land and made the commitment he is with me all the way.

So, here goes. The countdown is on. I have my methodology and content that I want, no – need – to deliver, my products for individuals and corporates are almost ready, and even in the past few days opportunities have opened up that I would never have even noticed before. The Universe responds.

I close my eyes,

I take a big breath, and

JUMP!