The Skill of Humor: Andrew Tarvin at TEDxTAMU (Transcript)

Because it took me going to the state of Florida to realize that the rapper Flo Rida got his name from his home state of Florida, and he put a space in it. That blew my mind!

We could say, ”If this is true, what else could be true?” We could say, “I think there should be a Hispanic factory in Dover that goes by De La Ware.” Or like, “There could be a female internet detective in Biloxi who goes by Misses IP, PI.”

And if this is true, what else is true? If we can use ”Yes, and” to create humor, we can also use ”Yes, and” as a way to connect with other people. We can think of that stereotypical small talk conversation where people are like, ”Ah, how about this weather?”

You say, “Yes, and if you were not at this event right now, how would you be out enjoying the weather?”

And we can turn an awkward conversation into something more meaningful where you learn about the person. ”With beautiful weather, I go outside, or I go hiking or swimming.” If you’re me, you stay inside, because you’re very pale. I like to use SPF building; it’s the best protection.

We learn about people through ”Yes, and.” We can also use a yes-and mindset to have more fun, because the reality is that the average person works 90,000 hours in their lifetime. Ninety thousand hours! That’s the entire length, the entire discography of Netflix. That is a lot of time.

And we can say, ”Yes, I’m going to work 90,000 hours, and I might as well enjoy it.” Between my junior and senior year of high school, I worked in a factory, and I will tell you what was not a very exciting job. And at the time, I thought that I might, in the future, want to become an international hip-hop superstar.

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So, to pass the time, I would think of rhymes in my head, then I’d write them down in a notebook a little bit later. And I recently found one of those notebooks and discovered why I never became a hip-hop superstar.

Because one of the rhymes was, “Hydrogen plus hydrogen plus oxygen too, bonded together with covalent glue. What do you get, just a thing called water, yeah, it’s teaming up and it’s only getting hotter.”

It’s the reason why I never became a hip-hop superstar. But it still helped me to pass the time to create humor, to create fun.

And finally from sketch, we can learn about the importance of commitment to performance. Because the characters from Saturday Night Live, Key & Peele, Monty Python, they’re so enjoyable, because the actors are committed to the performance. And they’re confident in their presentation, because it’s like dating, right?

People tell you that they want to date someone who is confident. A couple years ago, I was with some friends at a bar, and I saw this beautiful girl at the bar.

”You should go talk to her.”

”I can’t do that.”

”Why not?”

”I don’t have ‘game.”’

”You don’t need ‘game,’ you just need confidence.”

But they don’t tell you that they want that confidence in certain areas. Because no woman wants a man who’s confident in math. That’s what I’ve got.

So I was like, ”All right. I’m going to try a math pickup line.” So I went up to the girl and I was like, ”Hey, girl. Are you a vertical asymptote? Because your beauty has no limits.”

She was like, ”What did you just say?”

So I tried again, and I was like, ”Hey, girl. Are you opposite over hypotenuse? Because you’re making me want to sin.”

She was like, ”I think you should probably leave.”

So I left, right?

But then a few hours later, I was like, “Oh, what I should’ve said was, ‘Hey girl, you’re way above average, don’t be mean.”’

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Has that ever happened to you, where you thought of something like four hours after the event? That’s actually a good thing, it’s called staircase wit. The idea of ”this moment happens here,” and then you think of this idea in the staircase. That’s a good sign, because that means you have comedic instinct.

And through practice and repetition, you can shorten the time it takes to have that a-ha moment from being four hours later to only three hours later, to only two to ten minutes to, then, happening in the moment.

Because a reflection on the past leads to action in the future. And so we become more comfortable, more confident using humor, the more that we actually do it. It’s like Amy Cuddy says: ”Fake it until you become it.”

I know there’s a couple of people that are like, ”All right, Justin Timberlake eyes. What if I’m not funny?”

The truth is if you have ever made someone laugh, even if it’s because you tripped up the steps while going up the steps, you would still use humor.

But even if you’re not ready to try creating humor, you can still benefit from humor by being a shepherd of humor. You can share quotations out, you can share a TED talk that you enjoyed, or you can use images in your presentations.

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