Brian Colbert interviews Paul on The Humourology Podcast
– And that’s what Humourology is, it’s taking that information from a psychological level from a comedy level, from a musical level even and pulling them together and going how can that improve everyday life and everyday business to make people happier and the workplace more productive. Welcome to the Humourology Podcast with me Paul Boross and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast is Brian Colbert.
– Sorry Paul, Paul, Paul, stop right there. Your guest on this episode is Paul Boross. The tables have being turned a little bit. This is about you, you know too many people, you’ve been interviewing too many people saying what this Humourology stuff is about. So we want to know now what’s your version of it? We’ve heard their version, what’s your version? So what is humourology, what’s it all about?
– Oh, well, Humourology is, I like to call it the art and science of using humour and comedy in commerce. Really it’s about how to show leaders, how to show business people or how to drive success into their business, through what I would call the scientific application of humour, which is and I know you’ll have a problem with the word scientific.
– For sure, I don’t believe in science.
– The world is flat Paul, we know that. And by the way, just before you answer that question, how can a person who’s not funny do a book on a seminar on Humourology?
– Well, you know what you, you can fool all of the people all of the time, I went to the Trump school of just actually look confident, tell people that you know what you’re talking about and they’ll all line up and go with you.
– Very good, so listen though, about Humourology, tell us like, what is it? What’s the target of it? What’s your job? And what what are you doing with this stuff? And how is it going to affect businesses bottom line?
– Well, the bottom line is that when people connect, I mean if people are laughing and they are relaxed, they’re it’s a marker that the group is in a good place. And every business wants their employees the people they work, whether it’s a board level or shop floor level to be in a good place, so do it.
– I don’t agree with that at all. I’ve worked for businesses that are complete assholes, let’s be honest like. Basically they didn’t care about how I feel. They wanted to turn me upside down and empty the money out of my pocket or the energy out of my soul.
– Yeah, and the point I would make there is you’re not working for them anymore, are you?
– That’s very true, absolutely so.
– And you are one of the smartest people I know in business. So how did they screw up their business by not keeping you? And that’s the whole point… is that actually you need to keep the best people in your businesses and how you do that is by bonding those people, by making them feel valued and Hmourology does that.
– You’re selling gold in handcuffs. You are selling this philosophy basically that says if you keep people smiling, happy, engaged, connected and efficient, then you can own them. Is that basically what Humourology is about?
– Yeah, I want people souls basically…
– So you’re starting a cult here, this is a cult, correct?
– Of course, the Humourology cult’s huge, yeah. I mean why do you think–
– Not everybody gets to be happy in the cult, so that’s what you’re saying
– Oh, absolutely. Yeah, and well, I mean, and so happy that they will reach into their pockets and give me all their money.
– I like that approach. I think I’ll buy the book straight away. You have to be sold, I go to the seminar I’m already on. I don’t care whether it’s good if you’ve figured it out. Tell us really though, so what are you trying to do? Like what’s the end product of this? What are you doing for business? I’m a businessman, so why should I employ you? Why should I read your book? Why should I attend your seminar?
– Well, because it’s very practical. It doesn’t just talk about the concept of how funny equals money. It actually talks about how the little things that you engender into the office culture can actually impact on the whole of the bottom line. It’s about understanding that by closing the communication gap using humor, leaders and followers connect more and fundamentally that changes the way everybody works. And if you want people to work better having a ‘laughter attitude’ or a Humourology attitude will impact on every level. People want to stay in the business. People want to do better for you. People will go the extra mile.
– Will people take you seriously, Paul, that’s the question. Now I know the answer to the question of fairness. Would people take you seriously?
– I like the Charlie Brooker quote which is, “Every laugh is a minute in an escape hatch from the darkness surrounds us.” And actually will they actually go with that? Will they understand and take it seriously? You have to understand that if you are serious all the time that has consequences. That has consequences on the way people feel, the way, even if you look at it on a simple HR level of days off. Why do people have days off? Well, if you look at the statistics now stress is one of the biggest things for people–
– I don’t think so, Paul. In Ireland, that doesn’t work. The reason we take days off is because of hangovers. It’s not for stress like, It’s the stress maybe of the hangover possibly. But the reason we really take time off is because you had a great night the night before and that applies to everybody in Ireland, there’s no one in Ireland that doesn’t apply to it. It’s that something we hold with pride. I don’t like to stereotype around that but it’s every person in Ireland is like that. And most people in England, because most of the people in England have actually been from Ireland somewhere along the process as well. And then what you could do with the Germans too, Germans do data at quite a lot as well. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s not very scientific Paul.
– You make a good point and I stand corrected.
– Well, I drink a good point! So, but really Paul, when you’re talking about this stuff, you’re not saying, be funny all the time. That’s not what you’re not saying. You’re not saying you have to be funny all the time. You don’t have to put on a red nose and be laughing and clapping all the way to the bank type of thing.
– No, it’s about finding your funny bones. So when you can, so you can use them appropriately when it’s necessary. And by the way, I think it’s necessary much more often than people think. I think by, it’s finding that balance between gravity and levity. Is the important, of course business is important and it’s important to take it seriously, but actually the more seriously you take the business, the more humour you should be able to add into it because it will increase productivity. There was a really interesting study and I know that you love scientific studies that relaxation brought about by laughter opens the mind to creative thinking. And in business we need to think creatively. One business did a scientific test or I don’t know if that’s science or pseudoscience but it doesn’t really matter, they did a test whereby they showed people, Robin Williams videos. And before that they’d got them to solve tricky logic puzzles. And after they showed them the videos their capacity improved by 20% to solve those puzzles–
– That’s probably because there were stupid in the first place though Paul. Do you know what I mean like? If they weren’t doing the correct thing we follow the platonic process. Plato, we believe that if you drink enough wine that’s where good ideas come from. So obviously you’re not doing it property.
– Okay, we’ve gone back to the drinking. You think everything can be solved by a pint?
– I’m with Tommy Tiernan the Irish comedian who said that when God made the Irish people, he didn’t finish the process, he forgot to put into five pints of Guinness. And we’ve been working to do that ever since.
– I love Tommy.
– Yeah, he’s a good guy. So, but here’s the deal. Let’s say I’m a serious businessman and I do get it. I’ve seen you go in, by the way, you know, if we look at your background, you have a psychological background too, you’ve got a music background, you’ve got a comedy background. You’re pulling a lot of disciplines into this. Is that right? You’re putting a lot of stuff on the table for this one.
– Yeah, I think I’m drawing on all those backgrounds. I mean, my background in, as you know and maybe our listeners don’t know my background is in comedy and music–
– And I know what’s your background, I didn’t say it’s your competence. I’ve recognised it’s your background.
– Yeah, well… thanks! Yeah, no, but–
– I’m here to build your self esteem–
– No well, yeah, that’s crushed. No, but it is actually about drawing on those things because if you’ve spent years playing the Comedy Store that some of that rubs off, I mean, I’ve worked with all the, well, pretty much all the top comedians here and in America, especially of their time. And you’re sitting in dressing rooms with them, you’re watching them again and again, you’re on tour with them again and again. And really, because of…
– Can we just go back to the dressing room part Paul? Is there something you’re not telling us?
– Yes, but there’s lots I’m not telling you because I’ll be sued, but no it’s understanding that the psychological aspect of the way I look at things, draws on those things and goes, what were those people doing that was different and better? And how, and that’s what Humourology is, is taking that information from a psychological level from a comedy level, from a musical level even, and pulling them together and going how can that improve everyday life and everyday business to make people happier and the workplace more productive?
– So are you saying, it’s, is this internal operations focused or is it customer focused or is the full company focused? Where’s your target and all of this?
– It’s full company, because I think that Humourology and humour generally is about every aspect of connecting. And you as a psychologist will know that really everything we do is about connection. Now, some people are going to say, well, no I can live my life behind a computer screen and that’s it. But you are still having to send an email to somebody to connect, or do a virtual meeting.
– Paul I’m an introvert. So the reason I do what I do is not because I like people, I just do that because I’m afraid of people and I want to stay in the cave and make money. So what’s your game? That’s mine, like what’s your approach?
– Well, yeah, well, I would be the opposite. I actually, too, in order to feel alive I have to meet people. And maybe that’s why I’m so driven to sort of give people that ability as well.
– So you’re saying is needy?
– I am very needy. Humour is – when you think about it, and by the way you are exemplifying what we’re talking about because you say you’re an introvert, but actually you know you’re constantly in front of audiences, you’re constantly executive coaching people in huge businesses. So you know that this stuff is really important. So even introverts need to be able to flick the switch and be able to turn on their Humourology capacity.
– Well, what I do and maybe this is the same as your technique, what I do is when I look out into an audience, I visualise them turning upside down and the money falling out of their pocket. Is that the correct way to do this?
– Yes is the answer. No, it’s, to be honest, visualising your audience as lovely people is one of the things you know, you and I have talked about before, but it’s visualising your audience as lovely is probably the most… I’ll tell you a story, I had, I was talking to an audience in Germany and somebody put their hand up when I said I always walk into a room assuming everybody is lovely. And a German man puts his hand up and goes “This is not true.” And I went, “Sorry, it’s a concept in your head.” And he went, “No, but it’s not true, not everybody is lovely, 10% of people are horrible.” And I went, “Sir, it’s a concept. “It’s about your attitude and how it affects your state.” And he went, “No, no, no.” So we have a discussion from the stage. And finally, after about five minutes, he turns around to me and he goes, “Okay, I go with you most of the way.” And I went, “Most of the way?” And he went, “Well, yes. “Now what I walk into a room and presume “that 99% of people are lovely.” And I went, “That means that when you’ve got a room “full of 100 people, your unconscious mind “will be going, where’s the bastard?!”
– Absolutely, I did that all the time, Paul. I think it’s very safe. So basically I always make sure that I faced the direction of the door.
– Well, and make sure that they’ve started the car!
– There’s a clear pathway, exactly.
– So, what you’re saying there is that there is an attitude that you do bring and there is I’ve seen you in action. And I do know you’re playful, I do know that you’re… you’ve got that sort of charming thing going on. You could have Irish heritage because you’ve got that… ‘the gift of the gab’. Yeah, so, and the thing about it is that you go in in a playful way and a light way, is that what you’re, you know, you keep talking about connection. It’s not what you’re going after? Is that what Humourology is all about?
– Yeah, Humourology is to bring back the playfulness that we all had as children, really because I think what happens is when we get into the serious business of business, we lose that ability to play. And we are all still have that child-like attitude, somewhere buried in us. And some people bury it deeper than others. What I’m trying to do–
– There was a time when I was in business in terms of working for someone else, I remember one stage I said, I know what I’m doing. I’m working my way into an early heart attack. That was because I was too serious. And that was the moment that I changed, that I said, hold on this seriousness can actually affect your… not just your mental health, but your physical health. So are you, ’cause you know, the science, basically. And I know sometimes science hits me accidentally and I do know the science of humour can actually flood the body with endorphins and means you’d be healthier anyway, correct?
– Yes, ’cause when you–
– So really if you think about “The Pitch Doctor” and I know you’ve written lots of books and stuff at around the pitch, certainly this could be messy, it’s ‘the funny doctor’.
– Yeah, yeah, I’m not sure I like the ambiguity of that.
– You know what I’m doing! 😉
– I do know what you’re doing. No, but actually I thought what you were saying when you create stress hormones in your body it really reduces your resilience immeasurably. So actually what you’re doing with Humourology is counteracting those stress hormones.
– So you’re saying funny equals profit because the bottom line is if a person is less stressed their capacity to be more productive is massively increased, their immune system’s healthier, the whole lot where they… so they’re feeling good and they’re more connected to their work. That means money. That’s simple, simple terms. Just looking at it from pure sort of really financial terms. That means money.
– Well, absolutely. And I think that’s what people have to start to recognise. And that that’s my mission if you like is to get companies to recognise the only way you’re going to get a company to open their doors is when they understand that it affects the bottom line. You know, as I said, you know putting a punchline back into your bottom line is the purpose.
– And the good thing that you’re saying is that you don’t have to be funny. And you’re a living example of that. You don’t have to be funny to make money, yeah?
– Exactly, that’s what I want on the poster to be honest with you, is yeah.
– Well the thing that comes across Paul all the time is I know I can do this with you. And you’re a good friend that I can literally take the mick out of you all the time and you have that attitude. That’s what you have though, is that a part of Humourology that you can be that playful that your ego is not that big, that you can just take the hit on the chin and have fun with it?
– Yeah and I think that that’s one of the big, well thank you for the compliment, but it’s one of the biggest things, I think you have to be able to laugh at yourself. There was a really interesting bit in James Comey the former FBI Director’s book that he said he’d never seen President Trump laugh and for Comey, laughter in the leader is a signal of openness and a willingness to show vulnerability if you like. And the mark of a great leader is the combination of things that seem contradictory really, enough confidence to be humble. And that’s really what we’re talking about–
– I think humility is overrated Paul, you know what you want to knock that on the head straight away, if you know what I mean.
– It’s hard to be humble when he was great as us to be honest with you.
– Well, that’s what I’m saying. Like, so really what you’re saying you’re dumbing this down out of your awesomeness to help the common man to feel better about themselves. Is this what you’re saying? Is this is what Humourology is really about?
– Yes, basically, no, no really what I make it is and actually, there is a point there in dumbing it down because actually I’m simplifying what’s going on so that people are not frightened of the process. And so, even though I know you were doing a gag, actually what I’m doing, is I’m simplifying the process and going, this is actually accessible. There isn’t that… you know, there are steps you can take to make yourself more employable, to make yourself more pleasant, to make yourself a better leader, to make yourself connect on every level. And these are what Humourology is. Now of course they’re built from psychology and they’re built from comedy, but it’s, nobody’s put them together to date. And that’s really what I want to do.
– And that includes you. So really, once this book comes out basically I’ll be able to produce the correct book about it. Is that what you’re saying?
– Yeah, I’ll need somebody clever to to actually make sense of it to be honest.
– That’s me out straight away! I didn’t think you had to be smart to do it, yeah. So who’s the funniest person you’ve ever met.
– In business, there’s a couple of people that come to mind but in business I’m a big fan of, and I worked with Alex Mahon who’s the CEO and she’s of Channel 4. And she is really, really smart because she didn’t, I always call it two brains, she’s really smart. And she had that ability to be analytical and funny and I really admire that. And the other person, ’cause I know it’s my show. I can answer twice if I like. But I actually, I met John Lydon who, for people who don’t know John Lydon he was Johnny Rotten in The Sex Pistols. And I was lucky enough to be flying back from Los Angeles first class and we were sat next to each other and became sort of very close in 11 hours. And he was so smart and so funny. And I just, and he was really good at business and he was a businessman because he brought all The Sex Pistols business back and got it all back, took it to court, sued Malcolm McLaren who tried to rip them off. And he was a really, but he didn’t have to pretend that he was like, he was just genuinely hilarious.
– And he even took like,… you know, even The Sex Pistols, ’cause he saw that as a joke too a lot of the way through as well. He often talks about that which is pretty impressive. What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever watched?
– I have to say, as a musician I will always go back to Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap. And with friends of mine who are musicians people like Mark Bedford, who we had recently on the Humourology Podcast for Madness, we can spend a whole lunchtime just sort of like doing quotes from, you know and there’s always a quotes that will, ‘It’s a very fine line between clever and stupid’, it’s those kinds of quotes–
– And you’re walking it every single day. Exactly! Sometimes you fall on to the serious bit, sometimes… but most times, so I like a good book that makes me laugh. Now I’ve read “The Pitch Doctor.” I find that hilarious, like, you know someone would actually produce a book like that, yeah. It makes me laugh out loud. What’s your laugh out loud book?
– “The Happiness Habit.”
– I thought it might be.
– Because I couldn’t believe the gall of the man to write it–
– A man from the Bog and the Midlands writing a book about happy. What are you got to be happy about? I come from a land of misery, okay basically. So, you know, because I’m Irish, we don’t, we know as you know, basically we don’t really inform our faces whether we’re happy or sad, that’s the keep everybody away from it, yeah? So here’s a question for you. Like, would you consider yourself a funny person? Would you say that?
– I think I know how to do funny which is different from being a funny person. I don’t think most, I get it is actually I think I get funny. I know where the funny lies. I can find the funny.
– And can you teach it? Can you teach it to someone else? Can you show me basically how to do funny? How to be funny?
– I can teach you how to be funnier. Can I teach you the underpinning thing? Because I think that most people and when I talk to friends of mine like Paul Merton, the comedian, we sincerely believe that actually you hear funny from a very young age and you get it and you can improve on it. Can I improve on it in anyone? Yes–
– Well, I would say for you, yes, you can. I give you a few tips after this, like yeah. We’re all fair, how to be funnier. And you can put them in the book. How about that?
– Yeah, I’ll take anything I can get.
– Exactly, I understand. So let me ask you a question like, would you rather be considered clever or funny?
– I think I’d rather be considered funny–
– Because you can’t be considered clever?!–
– Well, no, yeah, that’s, well, I actually don’t, because I know so many people who I think know more than me, I don’t ever consider myself clever, clever. I always think, I suppose that’s part of my makeup is I want to learn from everybody else. So I think I have areas of expertise but I don’t know if that’s clever. And also I have the kind of mind that’s really good in a quiz that will remember, my wife looks at me and goes, “How do you know that?” And I go, “I have no idea. “I just know that, that stuff sticks.” The £500,000 pound question in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and I just go, “Oh yeah, I know that.”
– Well, it’s obvious then that you’re not clever because if you know the answer to those questions why haven’t you done Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
– Well I think it’s probably I knew the answer to one question.
– All right, you wouldn’t have had to solve some of these books and seminars and stuff like that, do you know what I’m saying. So, but for a businessman listening to this person, that person is trying to build their business. And let’s say they do have a soul and a heart and they want to help their teams grow and the organisation grow. What will they get from either reading your book or attending your seminar? What’s the end goal? What’s the outcome? What’s their takeaway? Their key takeaway?
– Key takeaway is that anyone can get better at this. It is about a lightness of touch. It is about an attitude. And it is about actually changing the state of others. Because if you can change your state through the Humourology rules, if you like, you can influence with integrity and persuade others to come along with you. So it’s finding it’s that lightness in laughter and turning gravity into levity.
– One of the things that people will say when they’re listening to this I expect is that that’s great for you, Paul, you’re very natural, you’re very good at what you do. I know personally, I’ve seen you walk into a room and literally everyone in the room will know you by the end of it. Now there might be avoiding you but they will know, No, in truth they’ll all know you and they’ll all like you. So you are a master your craft. There’s no question about that, okay? And you don’t just arrive in with simple skills. Your skills do have a depth to them as well. So now that would, if I’m on the other end of that I might be saying, okay, well, that’s how good you are. How can I get to there? I’m a serious person, I don’t have that playfulness. How can you help me to get to there?
– I can do very simple things, I can show you, because I’ve spent years modelling people who do this very, very well. And what I’m really doing is I’m unpacking the rules of how to do it. And the rules are not to set your expectations to a level that aren’t easily achievable. The rules are just to go for the easy way in which is finding ways in to get rapport with people. You don’t have to be doing gag after gag after gag. And in fact people who do that are sometimes very, very irritating. Real humour comes from connection. What I’m doing is I’m taking humour to the next level by understanding that humour is all about, have you connected first? Have you got sufficient rapport? Are you listening to somebody? And if you’re listening, you can get a laugh. That’s basically it. And so what the Humourology steps are is taking you to that state.
– Brilliant, so listen, you’ve met the Queen. You have met members of Royalty. You’ve met Bill Clinton. You’ve travelled across the ocean with Richard Branson. Basically you’ve met all these people, okay? So this we could keep going on and we could name drop forever. ‘Cause it’s so many people you’ve met. Do you approach them any differently?
– No, no, I really don’t. The last time I remember being awed, really awed, I mean, Bill Clinton was interesting, because I was a huge fan of his oratory. And so when I met him, but actually I’ve taught myself never to be awed. The last time I was awed I met George Best because as a child I was obsessed with him as a footballer. And I went into a childlike state when I was around him.
– That’s your permanent state, Paul, that’s your permanent state.
– Well it is a permanent state and actually I’m quite proud that I’m keeping my childlike state because then you can find the funny, if you’ve got the childish attitude to it, that’s teasing, that’s playing all the time you can find the funny and also you can work with people better. I’m actually, when you say, I want to retain that, you know, who wants to grow up? You have to, in order to find the funny, to be humorous to connect with people, why would you want to grow up? You want to connect to other people on that level that you connected to as a child, which was teasing, playing.
– Well, Paul what you’re doing, what you’re demonstrating basically that your life is a legacy to the connections you’ve met, to the people that you’ve met and what you’re saying is you’ve just kept it light, you kept it bright, you kept it playful, you’re having fun and if you can do it in your world you’re saying, well anyone can do it or at least they can do part of it. And that’s what you’re offering here.
– Absolutely, I really do believe anyone can do it.
– Brilliant, well, it’s been a pleasure, Paul, as always. Good to talk to you. I know this is going to continue to be successful, well done.
– Thank you, Brain and thank you for taking the time, for a top psychologist to actually unpack Humourology means a lot to me and you know that you mean a lot to me and thank you for taking the time, I really appreciate it.
– [Paul] The Humourology Podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks, music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky Production.