Ever since I was little, my brother, David, has been a teacher. My mom thinks it’s one reason I did so well in school. He would come home each day and teach me everything he had learned in class (he’s 2 years older than me).

The problem is that sometimes he just made things up, and I always believed him. It took me a few years to learn that a North American Takeoff Bird is not a thing.

David went on to get his PhD in communication and become a lecturer at Texas A&M where he is teaching a new generation of students about things like public speaking, argumentation and debate, and this fall, the rhetoric of humor (something he kinda made up).

He’s also become well known for how he uses humor to engage his students and get them excited for traditionally dry subjects. David recently gave a talk on how to add humor in the classroom, which you can watch here:

How have you seen humor used in the classroom? Did you have any particularly funny teachers?

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super bowl tide ad

The undisputed winner of the Super Bowl Ad Game was Tide. Their ad(s) created conversation, sparked memes, and has been relentlessly referenced in the days since (including people commenting that, given the clean nature of the spacesuit, SpaceX’s launch of a Tesla was actually a Tide Ad).

But this newsletter isn’t to talk about how good the ad was, it’s to talk about WHY it was so good. Here are three big humor takeaways from P&G’s successful campaign. (And here’s a link if you want to watch it again to follow along.)

1) It lets us in on the joke right away.

It would have been very easy for Saatchi & Saatchi New York, the agency behind the ad, to do a full commercial and only reveal at the very end that it was Tide ad. Then we’d look at it and think, “Oh, how clever” (like at the end of Sixth Sense when you find out Bruce Willis was a Tide ad).

Instead, they tell us the joke in the first 15 seconds, and then we get to see it played out eight more times in the next 45 seconds (and in subsequent 15-second spots). Now instead of thinking, “How clever” we’re just enjoying the ride and laughing along the way.

2) It has one premise, multiple punchlines.

Building off the first point, by having a strong, clear premise, we immediately understand what’s going on. Then, rather than just moving on to something else, we see multiple punchlines on the same premise (called tags in comedy). This allows you to drastically increase your LPMs (laughs per minute, a real thing) in a short amount of time.

3) It combines multiple humor tools together.

In our programs, we train on 10 of the most popular “tools” comedians use to create humor. The ad employs six of them:

  1. Association. The entire ad is a series of associations: a laundry commercial mixed with commercials for: a car, beer, fragrance, whatever the farm is referencing, insurance, diamonds, soda, mattress, razor, fitness, smart device, and laundry.
  2. Observation. The ad doesn’t just reference cliche commercial formats, it uses heightened forms of them as commentary (everyone laughing in a beer commercial, whispering “whatever” for the fragrance riff).
  3. Visual. The ad heightens the humor with exaggerated visuals in each commercial parody, like Harbour’s hair in the fragrance section and the mechanic’s oily face and crisp white shirt in the insurance part.
  4. Audio. Harbour’s voice acting is spot on but so are the background sound effects and the slightly eery music at the end (is every ad a Tide ad?).
  5. Pattern. Perhaps the strongest element of the ad is the pattern that it creates: start a cliche commercial, end with, “nope it’s a Tide ad.” It’s so clear that turning into a meme (which is a form of pattern) became very easy.
  6. Incongruity. In addition to using pattern, the ad breaks patterns, particularly as the pace of the ads get quicker, “cold refreshing… Tide Ad.”

And that’s just the first 60-second spot, to say nothing about the subsequent ads that came after it. So yes, the Tide Ad has been getting a lot of praise, but all for good reason and is something we can all learn a little from.

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tedx-tamu-andrew-tarvin

I’m excited to announce that my second TEDx talk is now available online:

In the talk, given at TEDxTAMU, I talk about:

  • My grandma’s definition of WTF.
  • 30 benefits from learning how to use humor.
  • The skill of humor and why anyone can learn it.
  • Three steps to creating humor.
  • Why my grandmother is the funniest person I know.

According to one of the audience members, the talk is “funny and full of great ideas.” Check it out. And feel free to share it with coworkers and friends who you think are already funny (or could learn to be a little funnier).

To learn more about the skill of humor, check out:

  1. Share Your Point of View
  2. Explore and Heighten
  3. Practice, Perform, Repeat
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An intense day at the office caught on GoPro.

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This isn’t your standard dance video, more of an awesome story. From the YouTube description:

California Conservation Corps members Antwon McCoy and Leonard Patton aren’t just hard workers. They are also very good dancers who have taught their big nature nerd/mountain man boss (John Griffith) more than a few dance moves (song is Ay Ladies by Travis Porter). When they aren’t busting moves, all three do a lot of trail building, salmon habitat restoration, and tree planting in the CCC. John Griffith is also the author of a fast-paced, multicultural eco-fantasy novel for readers ten and up titled “Totem Magic: Going MAD.” (TotemMagic.com). John donates 100% of the proceeds of his book to wildlife care centers, and groups that promote ethnic/racial diversity within the conservation movement.

Check out more at TotemMagic.com.

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