Humor Ideas from AATH

One of the great things about the AATH conference is hearing from experts in a number of fields sharing how humor can transform organizations, teams and lives. Here are some of my notes from the conference I attended last week.

From Laughter, Cancer and Chemorella (Katy Franco)

Katy is an actress, comedian and breast cancer survivor. Chemorella is a Cinderella story about beating cancer and seeing your dreams come true.

  • “A happy ending: all it means is hope.”

More: Chemorella

From Humor and Positive Psychology (Willibald Ruch)

Dr. Ruch is a professor of psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He shared how humor and positive psychology overlap.

  • Humor is one of the 24 VIA (Values-in-Actions) Inventory of strengths as defined by positive psychologists. It’s compatible with all of the virtues defined in VIA, but is categorized under “transcendence,” meaning it “adds meaning to life.”
  • Humor is an important predictor of life satisfaction. In fact it’s #7 among the 24 strengths (behind hope, zest, love, curiosity, gratitude, persistence and bravery).
  • Studies show that humor can be trained and it also leads to an increase in happiness in those who are trained in it. While informal training is great, formal training can lead to longer lasting effects on long-term life satisfaction.

More: Humour School (in German)

From Humor and Aging: It’s No Joke

Kathy has worked with older adults for more than 25 years and is currently president of Wiser Now, Inc.

  • There are 3 ways humor can help in aging: laughing (haha), curiosity / learning (aha) and play (aaahhh).
  • Isolation is the enemy of aging. Laughter and socializing with friends provides the same benefits to the brain as doing a crossword puzzle.

More: Wiser Now, Inc

From What’s Makes Things Funny? (Peter McGraw)

Dr. McGraw is a professor of business and psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is also the director of the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) and is currently traveling the world to define what makes things funny.

  • Peter’s definition of humor: a psychological response to a stimulus that includes at least one of these three: a cognitive response (logical evaluation that something is funny), emotional response (a positive feeling) or a behavioral response (laughter).
  • His current theory of what makes something funny — Benign Violation Theory: when someone recognizes something is wrong with their sense the way things are supposed to be, but also see how it can be acceptable or harmless.
  • Distance (from event) and violation are closely related to what’s funny. Distant tragedy is funnier than close tragedy; close mishaps are funnier than distant mishaps.

More: The Humor Code

From Using Humor Effectively

Dr. Franzini is a licensed psychologist in California and Florida and is the author of two books on humor.

  • You can never guarantee that people won’t be offended by humor; the best bet is to use humor in good spirit (aka positively).
  • Traits of political correctness: inclusiveness, social acceptability, non-offensiveness and universal equality.

More: Just Kidding: Using Humor Effectively

From Benefits of Laughter (Joyce Saltman)

Dr. Joyce Saltman is a professor at Southern Connecticut State University and is thought-leader in how humor can be used in education and learning.

  • When you laugh very hard: your pituitary glands are stimulated which releases various endorphins that increase pleasure and reduce pain.
  • A sense of humor allows you to take one step back from a problem and see it more clearly.
  • Make a list of 20 things you like to do. Commit to doing to half that list every day. That’s how you nurture yourself; it allows you to organize your time so that the next thing you do is always fun.

More: Keynote Bio

From 51 Ways to Engage All Learners

Adrianne is a master trainer with the Bob Pike Group and has been in the field of training for 15 years, specializing in presentation skills and public speaking.

  • The beginning and end of a training are the most important parts. Start with impact, end with impact.
  • The key to a successful beginning is BAR — Break Preoccupation, Allow Networking, Relevant to Content
  • The key to a successful closing is ACT — Action Planing, Celebration, Tie Things Together

More: Bob Pike Group

From Stand Up, Speak Up and Shut Up! (Chendil Kumar)

Chendil is a civil engineer by training and trainer by choice. He is the Chief Catalyst of CK Consultants and public speaker.

  • The #1 trait you need for humor to work is self-esteem. Not all instances of humor will work, so you have to be confident and be willing to continue.
  • You have to know your audience. Preparing a presentation without the audience in mind is like writing a love letter “To whom it may concern.”
  • To use humor, follow ABC: Accurate, Brief, Clear

From The Playful Brain (Kay Caskey & Laurie Young)

Kay and Laurie offer classes on Health and Humor and Humor and the Brain at Western Michigan University. Together they’ve delivered over 1,000 keynotes and presentations on a variety of topics.

  • Two simple tips for improving health: smile and stand up.
  • There are two mindsets: fixed and growth. Fixed = skills are innate; Growth = skills are learned. Growth is a better mindset for creating success.

More: Laughter Works

From Never Be the Same (Mark LeBlanc)

Mark is president of the company Small Business Success, author of 2 books and a past president of the National Speakers Association.

  • There are 3 ways to position yourself in the marketplace: by your titles, by your topics or by your concept.
  • What are the outcomes of your work? What do people gain from what you do with humor?
  • How many people will you have impacted with your work by this time next year?

From Escape Adulthood

Jason is a speaker, author and cartoon artist. He is also known as “The Champion of Childhood” for his work on helping individuals escape adulthood.

  • Life is like a movie. What’s your movie going to be?
  • The scenes are what you remember, they are the specifics that define us.
  • “If I really wanted to live a better story, then it might make sense for me to ____.”

More: Escape Adulthood

There were a ton of other great insights from the conference as well, but these were my biggest takeaways. To learn more about AATH, check out their website: Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor.


what is your humor persona?

Humor is a skill that can be learned. And when used correctly, it is a superpower that can be your greatest asset for building a happier, healthier and more productive life.  See for yourself...

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3 thoughts on “Humor Ideas from AATH”

  1. Hello Drew! Chairing the AATH conference was awesome but the downside was being so busy I did not have a chance to get to know you personally. Your summaries are are great! Wasn’t there an eclectic mix of topics and speakers? Thanks for being there!

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