Where’s the Ha? By Susanna Spies

How many times have you sat in the back of class with your head down praying to God that your teacher wouldn’t call on you? Or you were asked to sing and yet the only time you were comfortable really belting it out was to Beyonce with all the windows rolled up in your mom’s car while she was inside getting groceries?

I get it.

Throughout my teenage years, there was nothing more awkward than getting up in front of the class and having to read a book report, going to gym class the day of Physical Fitness Tests and getting timed running around the track, or being tested for endurance while sustaining a chin up hold.

With. All. Eyes. On. Me.

This was terrifying. Not just because my arms were much like Olive Oil and not exactly buff. I just didn’t know if I had the strength. Physical or otherwise.

It was overwhelming to wonder “How the heck was I going to run track against Sheila Tompkins, or hold a sustained chin up after the local Olga Korbut?”(Olympic gymnast in case I’m now dating myself and you don’t know who that is). Or “How could I possibly read aloud my report on “The Catcher and the Rye” if Milena Robinson started up her bullying by calling me Susanna the Scum?” Holden Caulfield wouldn’t oblige. Neither would I.

And so, anything that had all eyes on me became paralyzing. The voice I constantly heard was “Angie Anxiety” which came from yours truly. And while my shyness was mostly kept behind a trap door, my expression was looking for ways to get out.

You see, to the outsider, I seemed like an extrovert. Sang in a choir, had friends, tried to play sports (was never that great, but I tried). But it wasn’t until I was in my own room and created characters in front of my stuffed animals, or good pals, that I felt most alive, safe, free, and strong.

This ultimately became a treasurable tool that I grew to use for the rest of my teen days, all the way up to my not-so-teen years. You see, It didn’t matter if my triceps couldn’t hold me above a bar for “x” amount of time. It was the strength of my own voice, to share my experiences and reach through the one way everyone always gravitated towards, the way that kept me strong… laughter. 

I began to learn how to transform something terrifying, dreaded, and disliked, into great experiences to remember. By voicing it and giving it permission.

To laugh. With me. For me.

Laughter opens up your own trap door. It is a connection with others.

Think about it.

Do you recall a time that made you laugh till you almost fell off your chair? Holding your belly with happy tears rolling down your face? Or how about a time you laughed and tried to keep it in, but it was about to burst out of you?

1. Do you remember who you were with?

2. Do you remember where you were? The smells, sounds, details?

Chances are likely that you are smiling even thinking about it. Memories associated with laughter constitute a fondness, a positivity, a trust, a bond.

A unifier.

Good news is that there is humor all around us. Our experiences, whether positive or negative, are a great basis for building platforms for connecting to others. Our experiences are gifts, whether bad or good, and allow us to tap in to our own perceptions and opinions to give an authentic voice towards achieving positive outcomes.

Constructively.

Humor is universal. No matter what language, age, ethnicity, background, we all share experience. We all can learn and shape experiences from our past toward personal gain and obstacles overcome. No two people can ever see things exactly the same way. We all have value within how we each perceive life through our own lenses. By taking certain moments and tapping in to our own perspectives, we can learn ways to see the world and share through the lens of light, positivity, and laughter.

Never to make fun, or laugh AT. But share WITHFROM our own experiences.

Below are 3 Steps for Finding Humor in your Life

It all starts with point of view.

1.) Look

Everyday there are clues to broaden our perceptions. Perceptions are one of the key components towards shaping your point of view. Even in the most challenging of days, shifting perspective can guide how to “see” experiences with humor. There are gems in the details. Describing something always has comedic potential when there are descriptors. For example, “Eating your favorite breakfast “ vs. “I am stuffed from having my favorite captain crunch cereal, with a side of toast, only now I have to soak my mouth from all the cereal that destroyed my mouth eating in 1.4 seconds.” Cereal is a general. “Captain Crunch” is a specific and chances are likely you may find a common denominator through that descriptor, and a bridge towards someone else that may relate to that experience.

Watch for things that may trigger an emotional response: a dog in a yard, a baby on the subway, people interacting at the grocery store. By observing, we can find ways to tap into our own experiences, memories, views, and beliefs creating a bridge toward understanding from our own perspective and point of view. That can be a great foundation for developing our own voice to encompass humor.

So now lets try it.

Activity:

Focus on one thing you observed over the week. Pay attention to your point of view. Did it trigger an emotional response, i.e., scary, sad, touching, beautiful, disgusting. Write a few sentences about what you saw. Get specific, and think about how you can relate it to what you saw. By developing point of view through observation, we learn how to identify with, and find our own experiences, into shared ones. Shared experiences create bridges. And humor is often a result of shared experiences with respected points of view.

2.) Listen

Pay attention to your surroundings, a song, a bird, an announcement on the radio. What we hear around us are signals leading to the humor bridges of gold.

So now lets try it.

Activity:

Focus on what you hear around you for one minute. Hone in on one thing. For example, a car, song, people talking, garbage trucks, birds. Pay attention to how it may have affected you, listen for the specifics. Was there something familiar, new, annoying, or happy? Now, write down a list of 3 words to describe what you heard. If you “listen” to your surroundings, you may tune in to some great opportunities for humorous horizons. Take those 3 words, and develop your own story around it. Something new, something you may have experienced, something to draw others in. Listening can be one of the best proponents in “hearing” humor.

3.) Feel

In your surroundings, study an object you use in your everyday life. Take a look at your toothbrush, your cereal box, your cell phone. Study it , feel the shape, the weight. Explorations of everyday objects can bring a whole new meaning and create humor .

So now lets try it.

Activity:

Write an ad about the object you use daily. How do you relate to it? What happens if you dont use it? Would your day be affected differently? Now build some creativity around it. If it could have a name, what would it be and why? Developing your own perception and imagination builds an opportunity to create humorous horizons. I mean, if we dread flossing our teeth, it may become a whole new ballgame if we hear how “Flora Floss” may become the better part of the day than ever anticipated. Our own perceptions on even our daily routines can be a great platform into a world of developing humor and new angles of experience.

About the Author: Susanna Spies is a seasoned educator and Founder and President of Comedy Playground, LLC, showcasing at The Hollywood Improv. With a performance background, Spies has worked within mediums of television and film, and has performed stand up comedy on stages throughout the nation. Known for her many “faces” In 2013, she debuted over 30 characters in her one-woman show “The Dryer” and was featured on Nuvo TV’s Stand & Deliver, E-One Entertainment’s Uncontrolled Comedy, and The Youtube sensation “Carol” of “Carol & Claire in The Angela Hoover web series, as well as dozens of national commercials, and Independent Feature Films.

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Spies’ performance background enabled the ability to recognize and develop tools to help overcome obstacles; shyness, fear of public speaking, and a curriculum commonly understood by all. As an educator, Susanna was Drama lead instructor at the Pilgrim School, where she implemented this curriculum, which grew to reach over 24 schools regionally, nationwide within The Dalton School and Teak Fellowship of New York, and internationally into The American School in London, and Seeds of Peace International Camp. Throughout Susanna’s trainings, she focuses on the principal of life’s commonalities, encouraging point of view development. Rather than techniques on “how to be funny”, she implements tools on how to build trust, cohesion, connectivity, and achievement through humor. This has encouraged members of all ages, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds to build, bond, within this one universal platform.

Additionally, Spies has lead speaking engagements as a featured guest for UCLA’s Young Writers retreat, and as keynote speaker for the Southern California Association of Activity Professionals, and Featured Presenter for World Muse Conference in Bend, Oregon. She created and has implanted the Finding Your Voice through Stand Up series at The American Musical Dramatic Academy, and has implemented Corporate Humor Connectivity Programs as The Humor Activist (HA) into: Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, The Gap, Southern California Edison, FastPay, Bicycle Artists, Sony, Cisco Webex, Monaco Realty and Mt. Tam Community Education District.

As a community activist, Spies has raised thousands of dollars and awareness to help support: Cancer Awareness Club, Children Affected by AIDS, and was Executive Director of Laughlinks from 2004-2009 providing programs for at risk youth. She currently facilitates and is Program Director of The Eamon Cannon Comedy Project, where it has been implemented into Inner-City Arts on skid row in Los Angeles since 2008, which has grown to reach youth of Santa Monica YWCA, and Hearts of Los Angeles (HOLA). For two years consecutively, Comedy Playground has received the “Best of LA” for Innovative Comedy Programs, and Spies was profiled by Variety magazine as one of the nation’s top ten instructors in the Educational Impact Report. Her Senior Stand Up program (SSU) was profiled on “Have A Hart Day” with youtube sensations Hannah and Mamrie Hart, featuring some of Comedy Playground youth volunteers providing programs for retirement communities.

Spies graduated from The University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991 with a BA in English. She additionally attended: The Jean Shelton School in San Francisco, Bill Esper Conservatory of New York, and The Groundlings in Los Angeles. She is completing her book: “Give it Up” a collection of personal and student anecdotes on humor and how to’s which she hopes to complete this year.

For information on Comedy Playground’s youth, adult and elders programs please visit:

http://www.comedyplayground.com

For Corporate Trainings:

http://www.thehumoractivist.com

For The Eamon Cannon Comedy Project (ECCP)

non-profit 501c-3 project of Social Goods:

http://www.theeamoncannoncomedyproject.org

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