If you are a friend of New Perspectives, you have probably spent some time polishing your humor skills. You’re aware of how powerful humor can be for your health and happiness and anticipate a time where you can flex your funny bone. Luckily, the world embraces and encourages (or at least accepts) this kind of behavior for at least one day a year: April Fools’ Day. Although the exact origins are impossible to trace, April Fools’ Day is thought to be a fine French product – from 1582. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced with January 1st as the new “new year, “ moving the festivities from April 1st. Those who refused to acknowledge the change were labeled “April Fools.” Those saddled with the arduous task of telling everyone of the changes in a virtually non-communicative time were teased about their “fool errands.” The French adopted a tradition of pinning dead fish to their friends (paper fish in French schools today), the Scottish favored jokes about the buttocks (the basic origin for the modern “Kick Me” sign) and the Portuguese threw flour at each other to celebrate the coming of Lent.
April Fools’ Day has always been associated with pranks, which can be a riskier source of humor. Remember to consider your audience and your stage so no one (including the doer) gets hurt. Improvisational comedians are taught to “play to the top of your intelligence,” simply translated as no cheap shots. Challenge yourself to do the same, with the help of some reminders from everyday life.
A Tip from the Office: Humor is relative. What you find fall-down funny may anger your boss or offend a co-worker. A good rule of thumb for April Fools’ Day (and for life) is to avoid the “ism’s.” Take a tip from your company’s anti-harassment policy. Anything related to race, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity is off limits. You’re smarter than that.
A Tip from the Classroom: Think like a third grader. Nobody likes a bully so don’t be one. Remember the wise words of whoever told you “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Make sure your jokes and pranks are inclusive (“laughing with” not “laughing at”.) Inside jokes are self defeating – the more the merrier!
A Tip from the Dining Room: Nothing can kill a conversation like one sarcastic comment. This is not surprising when you remember sarcasm comes from the Greek “sarcasmos,” literally translated as “to tear flesh.” Ouch! Keep your jokes and pranks light and joyful so they can be enjoyed by all.
April Fools’ Day has always been a celebration of ingenuity. It’s a cat and mouse game of the gleeful and the gullible – which, if played just right, has hilarious results. What you choose to do it up to you. If you’re running on empty, we recommend gleaning inspiration from wikipedia’s vast list of famous (and infamous April Fools’ pranks). It can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_fools#Well-known_pranks.
And if worse comes to worst, just throw flour on someone. You can blame it on the Portuguese!
© 2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:
Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, health professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above.) If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.