I am a Sales Coach. On a daily basis I am engaged in the activity of either coaching a salesperson or training a salesperson in the art and science of selling the way sales are made today.  Recently while giving a class a professional salesperson asked me “what do you feel is the role of humor in the profession of sales?” It was a good question.  This “good question” prompted me to do some research. My research taught me that not only is humor and laughter important in sales they both are extremely important in life.  We NEED them both regularly like we need air, or water to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

On March 4th 1993 the late Jim Valvano gave one of the greatest 11 min speeches you will ever hear in your life. When Jim Valvano gave that speech he was dying of cancer and he knew he did not have much longer to live.  That speech included some funny stories but it also included Mr. Valvano’s philosophy on life, here is the exact quote.

“Now I’m fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life      and how’s your day, and nothing is changed for me. As Dick said, I’m a very emotional and passionate man. I can’t help it. That’s being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how      do you get through life or each day, it’s the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do      this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you      laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have      something special.”

Mr. Valvano listed as the number one thing to do to have a happy life on a daily basis is to laugh. So to that end I present to you…

“The Five things that make us laugh”

In no particular order the five things that make us laugh are…

1.    Puns

2.    Silliness

3.    Surprise

4.    Insults

5.    And Embarrassment

Let’s explore each.

A Pun is defined as; the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound, but different in meaning; a play on words.  Interestingly enough, the better the pun is usually, the louder the groan.  Ex:

  • I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger, and then it hit me.
  • I’m reading a book on anti-gravity, it’s impossible to put down.
  • Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
  • And classically “Take my wife…Please!” Henny Youngman (1906-1998)

Silliness is defined as; weak-minded or lacking good sense, stupid or foolish, absurd, ridiculous, or irrational.

  • Two men are having dinner together. One man says to the other “excuse me, but I couldn’t help but notice that you just wiped your face with a peace of lettuce?” the other man responds “Oh I’m so glad you told me, I thought this was a piece of cabbage, I can never tell the difference”
  • What did the snail say as it was riding on the back of a turtle?   Weeeeeeeee!

Surprise is defined as; to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness; to discover suddenly or unexpectedly.

Jokes or situations with Surprise endings tend to make us laugh.

  • Two men are out hunting when suddenly one man clutches at his heart and passes out, he doesn’t appear to be breathing so the friend frantically takes out his cell and calls 911.  In panicked bursts he attempts to tell the operator what happened.  The operator says calm down, first we have to make sure he’s dead. The operator hears a loud shotgun blast and the man comes back onto the phone and says “ok, now what?”

Insults are defined as; to treat or speak to with contemptuousness, affront. Offend or demean.

Insults make us laugh. The whole collection of yo mama is so…, you so fat…, your family is so…, all fit in this category. Interestingly, these jokes seem funniest when we are insulting ourselves.  Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004)

And finally Embarrassment tends to make us laugh.  Embarrassment is defined as; the state of being embarrassed.  Embarrass is defined as; to cause confusion and shame, to make uncomfortable.  The entire industries of “Americas Funniest Home Video’s” are built on this premise.

Now, although we are now armed with new information, I am not suggesting that we all go out and become “stand up comedians” in order to make sales.  What I am suggesting is that we “on purpose” “look for the funny” we look for our laughs on a daily basis and that we enjoy our work and our lives.

Brian K McNeill

CEO /Sales Coach

Very Personal Sales Coaching

919 345 4893



Bonus Tip:  How to remember and tell jokes.

Whenever I ask the question to a group “how many people here have difficulty remembering and telling jokes?” more than half of the audience will raise there hand.  Here is the trick; Do not even try to remember the joke.  Only remember the part that was funny and then build your story around that.  In the above mentioned joke about the hunters, they could have been any two set of people.  They could have been on a bike ride; they could have been a husband and wife sitting in there living rooms.  The punch line would still have been the same; “shotgun blast and Ok, now what”

© Nov, 2010