If you have two minutes and 37 seconds to kill before meeting with your boss, watch the below Louis C.K. video. Yes, because it’s funny, but also because busting your gut before an important event can help you be more successful.
Blogger and “Choose Yourself” author James Altucher says he likes to watch standup comedy before every meeting, date, dinner, media appearance, conversation, and public talk.
“I have a lot of inhibitions when I meet people,” he shares on Quora. “I’m scared and somewhat introverted. Standup comedians are the best public speakers in the world, and I think they are the most astute social commentators on the human condition.”
Not only that, Altucher reports that watching standup gives him a boost of energy, material to fold into his conversation, and a better sense of how to time his communication.
Heaps of psychological studies suggest that a positive mood — like that brought on by laughing at Louis — has all sorts of positive effects, including enhanced memory, improved judgment and decision making, and more willingness to take risks.
A 2010 study is a case in point. In the journal Psychological Science, a team led by University of Western Ontario psychologist Ruby Nadler primed participants with a range of videos:
- A “negative” video of a Chinese earthquake report
- A “neutral” video of the “Antiques Roadshow” television show
- And a “positive” video of a laughing baby
After watching any of the various videos, participants were then given a test where they had to classify novel stimuli. The result: The folks who laughed along with the baby outperformed their less-jolly peers.
“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking,” Nadler says.
The mechanism at work here is cognitive flexibility, or the ability to take new information and apply it to things you already know about.
Watching funny things — and thus learning to make funny jokes — trains the brain in nimble thinking. Take it from Wake Forest philosopher Adrian Bardon, who in “Comedy: A Geographic and Historical Guide” writes that:
“Humour is explained by human beings’ special conceptual abilities. The pursuit of humour represents a kind of play that contributes to conceptual flexibility. The feeling associated with this kind of play is amusement …
(Humour) actually helps sharpen our ability to respond to cognitively challenging situations. This would also explain why adults tend to demand more clever and subtle humour than children do: One needs humour of increasing subtlety and complexity in order to challenge one’s cognitive flexibility, and humour can only be funny when it does this.”
So watching a funny video can actually be the opposite of wasting time. Instead, it’s training you to be more cognitively flexible, so you can think on your feet when you’re talking with your boss, your date, or your audience.