The World of Humor and Self Help: I’m Awesome, but Getting Better

Awesome, but Getting Better

I’m Awesome, but Getting Better….

….And here is why…..

Humorists Keep Me Alive
Groucho Marx Swami Beyondanada Antsy McClain

I have always loved humor. It always makes me feel better.  There are studies that argue strongly that happiness and laughter are natural immune boosters (see this one). In fact, before you continue with this post, enjoy the following video from Belgium entitled “Merci!” produced and directed by Christine Rabbette in 2003.  If this doesn’t give you a chuckle and keep you smiling for a while nothing will. The man laughing in the video is Belgian comic Jan Hammeneker. I love this piece!!

Though always one for fun, I have always sought for laugh inducement, whether it be Dr. Demento in the early 1970s to the Blues Brothers or Steve Martin comedies in the movies and TV.  One of my favorite “immune boosters” is the Marx Brothers.  I was first introduced to them in the 1970s and totally embraced the world of Punnishment (using puns…). Then in the 1980s I got to embrace FUNdamentalism via the great Swami Beyondananda. Finally in the 1990s I got to Enjoy the Ride of the Way Cool World of Singer/Songwriter/Humorist/Artist/Author Antsy McClain. I have never looked back since and humor keeps me alive, happy and well.

The Marx Brothers – I’d Never Join a Club That Would Have Me as a Member

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

I was officially introduced to the Marx Brothers and their antics while I was a senior at Murray High School in Utah. Like many others my age I had grown up watching the Three Stooges on TV and had seen some Laurel and Hardy shows and had even seen some of the Marx Brothers skits (and all about slapstick).  But the real impact happened when I joined my friends at the Blue Mouse Theater in downtown Salt Lake City (which closed around 1987). This arts-centric theater showed a number of old movies, hosted the Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc.  During 1974 they hosted a number of Marx Brothers movies on the big screen.  We went and had a blast.  In fact, though already a good punster, my punning skill level zoomed to new heights after watching Groucho Marx and his verbal antics.  To this day I have been known to repeat many of his famous one-liners such as the following:

  • I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it
  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana
  • Whatever it is, I’m against it
  • I would never join a club that would have me as a member
  • While in my pajamas I shot an elephant.  What it was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.

Click here to visit a great page of Groucho’s one-liners.  And even more are here!

Then there is my favorite quote from Chico Marx in “A Night at the Opera.” It’s a scene where they are discussing terms of a contract.  This is one of my all time favorites!!

The contract scene between Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico) (“the party of the first part …”) is telling of my kind of humor (and have used the punch line myriads of times:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Here is the actual video clip:

Swami Beyondanda – Take Humor Seriously, and Seriousness Humorously

Swami Beyondananda

Swami Beyondananda

In the 1980s I was introduced to a book entitled “Driving Your Own Karma: Swami Beyondananda’s Tour Guide to Enlightenment ” by Swami Beyondanda. My step dad had it and thought I would enjoy it.  This book had me in stitches from the first page, but I was also impressed about the “self-help” content intertwined with it.  The Swami uses puns and humor to actually work towards this self help. It was my first venture into FUN-da-Mentalism where the effort is on more FUN and less mental.  Or, as the Swami says on his site: He has “held forth on topics such as “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects” (“… unbridled sects can lead to unwanted misconceptions …”), “Teach Your Dog to Heal” (“… being around friendly canines generates healthy hormones called puptides …”), “Tantrum Yoga” (“… the latest rage on the path to ire consciousness”), and “Be There Now, Swami’s ultimate take on bi-location” (“… the first time I stepped outside my body, I was beside myself with excitement …”).

DrivingYourKarmaThe Swami is the alter ego of Steve Bhaerman, an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 23 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and has been described both as “comedy disguised as wisdom” and “wisdom disguised as comedy.” One of his many mantras is “It’s time to take humor seriously, and seriousness humorously.”

Steve Bhaerman

Steve Bhaerman

The Swami teaches the ancient art of “Foo Ling” — where people use laughter as a tool to enlighten up their own lives, and the lives of those around them. And one of the best ways to multiply healing laughter is to celebrate those moments when laughter leads to a breakthrough — what the Swami calls moments of “Fool-Realization“.

DuckSoup In a play on the Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” (this was the movie with the oft parodied mirror scene and see Lucy and Harpo Marx do it ) coupled with the 1990s “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and other Chicken Soup books (now over 200 titles) by success guru Jack Canfield and Inspirational speaker Mark Victor Hansen, the Swami teaches in “Duck Soup for the Soul” that we can alter our own reality (and the reality of those around us) by Making Fools of ourselves, putting levity over gravity, remembering to Tell-A-Vision, being Esteem-Generators, and Committing Random Acts of Comedy and Beautiful Nonsense.

Antsy McClain – Welcome to the Trailer Park

Antsy McClain

Antsy McClain

I first met Antsy McClain (this is his stage name) in 1993 in Kentucky.  We worked together at an auto parts production plant as Japanese interpreters.  I was away from family, who stayed back in Arizona and Antsy too worked away from family on this limited time contract position. It was during this time that we discovered a shared love of humor and music.  It was soon after that Antsy had left the company and had coupled with a friend to form the “Trailer Park Troubadours,” a musical group with a bit of a goofy “schtick”.  Over the years I have worked with Antsy, managing his website, working concert shows, producing some of his videos, doing some of his photography (like the one above), sometimes touring and even singing with him on stage. (See my “History of the Troubs” for more on the group). Antsy is not only an amazing musician, but is a noted professional artist and has published a number of books.  If I die before he does, I want him singing at my funeral!!! Many of his earlier songs were quite funny, but over the years he has also developed some serious leaning, yet inspiring songs. One of the more humorous videos that I produced for him was that of “The Bathroom Songwriter (clink link below)

I did this for him in 2008 and have a number of his other videos on my YouTube Channel. Antsy’s unique humor and his famed “Antsyisms” have kept thousands of fans happy.  If I ever have a down day, I just need to pull out “Trailercana” or “Way Cool World” and may day is brightened.

Roger McFuddleton's Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

Roger McFuddleton’s Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

But music is not his only forte.  He has produced books such as the Pet Grudge picture book above, which is a delightful story of a man with a Pet Grudge that eventually gets too big. Won’t tell the ending…would ruin the story for you.  And then, almost mirroring Swami Beyondanada, in 2012 Antsy published “Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps: A Guide to Making Mistakes

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps by Antsy McClain

Between Antsy’s music, art and writing, he helps us to learn about “another code of living – the Aluminum Rule: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”, he helps men learn that the three most important words they can say to their wife are “I Married Up” and teaches us that “a burden is small ’til you feed it” and so we need to “Let the Little Things Go.”  His amazing use of double entendre in his songs mixed with some humor and inspirational thought has endeared him to 1000s who now call themselves “Flamingoheads.”   He always can sing “A Happy Song” to make me happy.

laughter_medicineSo, I try to take my laughter pills every day to keep me smiling, reduce stress and even help others around me have a brighter day. This is what keeps me “Awesome, but getting better”

Jolly Sumoflam

Jolly Sumoflam

If Swami Beyondanda can don a funny colored wig, so can I……

Sumoflam's Alter Ego

Sumoflam’s Alter Ego – always smiling!

I Love Trivia!

I am always in pursuit of trivia…all that useless knowledge makes for great and fun conversation. Trivia is (or are) unimportant (or “trivial”) items, especially of information. Usually these are unimportant facts that everybody has stored somewhere at the back of the brain and are useful in conversation or in games.

Jeopardy!_1974It all started for me in the 1960s when I would catch the television trivia show “Jeopardy“, which got its start in the 1960s and continues as a popular show today.  I loved that the material for the questions covered a wide variety of topics (including history and current events, the sciences, the arts, popular culture, literature, and languages),and that there were also pun-laden titles (many of which refer to the standard subjects), wordplay categories, and even entire sets of categories with a common theme.

Trivial Pursuit

Always in pursuit of Trivia!

I have always been a fan of trivia.  I can remember reading the newspaper daily in the 1970s and 1980s…I wanted to see the L.M. Boyd column, which was chock full of trivia.  Here is an example (L.M. Boyd Selections)

“It’s only a coincidence that “nasa” in Hebrew means “to go up.”

Readers_Digest_LogoWhen I was young I also loved to read through the Reader’s Digest. The jokes and funny stories were a blast, but the magazine always had a tons of little trivia tidbits.  Even today on their online site you can find trivia quizzes, such as this “Great State Nicknames” quiz (which by the way, I got a 100% correct on!!).  As trivia became more popular, other magazines began using it.

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

One cannot have a discussion about trivia without including the trivia master of AM Radio…Paul Harvey. Known for his conservative and sometimes opinion-laden news stories on ABC radio for decades, he later produced an interesting Trivia type of radio series known as The Rest of the Story, which can be described as a blend of mystery and history. It premiered on May 10, 1976 and quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true. True or not, they were always interesting and his listeners, including me, would wait for his “And now, the rest of the story” portion — this was the trivial meat of the broadcast.

FactoidAlso in the 1970s, media had grasped this trivia concept full force and was including it in news reports. In 1973 the novelist/columnist Norman Mailer was attributed with the creation of a new word from his biography of Marilyn Monroe.  The term was “factoid” and it was defined as a questionable or spurious statement presented as a fact, but without supporting evidence. The word can also be used to describe a particularly insignificant or novel fact, in the absence of much relevant context.  Many magazines and TV news shows now have their little Factoids. (Now there is a piece of Trivia you probably didn’t know!!)

One of many Uncle John's Bathroom Reader titles

One of many Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader titles

Through the years I have enjoyed the “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” books too. The first edition, simply titled Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, was released in 1987 with little fanfare, but to Uncle John’s delight, people loved it…and they wanted more. So the following year the “Bathroom Readers Institute” (BRI) released a second edition, and then one after that, and another, and another. In the early 2000s, when Uncle John decided to expand the line beyond those annual “Big John” editions, the series hit the big time. Now there are Bathroom Readers for kids, plus books that cover single subjects such as horses, hockey, history, Texas, quotations, puzzles, baseball, music, Minnesota, Hollywood, Christmas, cats, dogs, golf, New Jersey, trivia quizzes, and loads more.  I don’t have them all, but I have probably read eight or nine different versions!

DUH! - The Stupid History of the Human Race

DUH! – The Stupid History of the Human Race

There are dozens of Trivia books out there, but they have one thread in common…fun and useless trivia.

Antique Archaeology

Antique Archaeology, home the History Channel’s “American Pickers

Then there are the TV shows that come full of trivia. The History Channel features American Pickers and Pawn Stars, both of which always provide history of the things they are showing and also have some nice Trivia breaks in each show. Many shows have trivia pieces in them now so we can always learn something totally useless if we want.

Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit

In 1982 the board game Trivial Pursuit hit stores. If you have lived in a cave and never heard of this game, the object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering trivia questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own color to identify itself; in the classic version of Trivial Pursuit, the Genus edition, these are Geography (blue), Entertainment (pink), History (yellow), Arts & Literature (brown), Science & Nature (green), and Sports & Leisure (orange). Since 1982 there have been dozens of versions of the game, with numerous themes.  The fun for this in my mind has been the thousands of trivia-filled cards that come with the games.  We have taken them on trips and just read through them for fun.  Amazing facts and information have been gathered!!

TriviaWith the widespread growth of the internet in the past couple of decades, there has also been an explosion in Trivia Web Sites and Trivia Apps for mobile devices.  In fact, there are likely trivia sites for every theme imaginable.  A couple of my favorites:

mental_floss – This evolved from the Magazine of the same name (which I believe may have gotten the name from Swami Beyondanda)  Regardless, the magazine has a massive factoid and trivia filled website and blog, has produced its own game called “Split Decision” and has produced a number of books.

Roadside America – My favorite travel site on the web, it is also filled with trivia and useless (but fun) quirkyness. With over 10,000 offbeat sites in the United States featured on their Website, many of them include a brief history of the quirky and strange places, like the Museum of Clean (in Idaho), the Mustard Museum (in Wisconsin), the world’s biggest twine ball (or all five of them), etc.

But there are many more. One person has compiled a list of 100 “Best of Web” Trivia websites. But there are other lists as well.

wikipediaPerhaps my FAVORITE site of choice for all trivial pursuits of both useful and useless knowledge is Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the site a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia’s 30 million articles in 287 languages, including over 4.3 million in the English Wikipedia, are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. And this is where I have my fun….here are a few examples

  • When in church we may sing a hymn and I am curious about the composer and his/her background.  I pull out the iPhone, look them up in a Google search and click on the Wikipedia link. VOILA! There is now a whole bunch of detail and many links to other documents.
  • Many evenings I watch television for a couple of hours before bed.  As I see the actors I can look them up on Wikipedia and then typically IMDB (a large data base about movies, TV and the industry).  It is here that we can find out about they kinds of jobs an actor may have had before becoming famous or what obscure movie they may have been in early in their career.
  • I may see something interesting on TV, in a magazine or elsewhere.  Wikipedia will most likely have the details (after a Google search of course).

Google and Wikipedia are my friends — they constantly feed my mind.