What Robin Williams and Joan Rivers Would Say in the Workplace

We need more humor at work. As I’ve read and listened recently to many hilarious jokes from the late great comedians Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, I’m convinced of this.

Consider these research-based insights:

  • “Laughter releases endorphins that are more powerful than morphine. These endorphins can lead to a sense of well-being and optimism.” (Mary Rau-Foster) Think of humor as a healthy, underused and inexpensive corporate performance-enhancing drug.
  • Laughter is a key part of fun, and “studies show that companies with fun and enjoyable work environments see a decrease in absenteeism, tardiness and turnover rates.” (Greg Alcorn)
  • Effective use of humor can … promote psychological and physical health, build trust and rapport, diffuse tension and conflict, improve others’ perceptions of you, open doors to more promotion, build connection and team relationships even among diverse people, foster creativity and innovation, and improve problem-solving and leadership skills. (For more details, see a great TED talk by humor engineer Andrew Tarven and read his brief article commenting on research results by Professors Robert Vartabedian and Larel Klinger Vartabedian.)

If Robin Williams (RW) and Joan Rivers (JR) were asked to bring their best to the corporate workplace, here’s what we might have heard:

On corporate politics and image management:

  • Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently – and for the same reasons. – RW (Man of the Year)
  • Politics: “Poli” a Latin word meaning “many” and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures.” – RW
  • I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware. – JR

On diversity and inclusion:

  • My first day as a woman, and I’m having hot flashes. – RW (Mrs. Doubtfire, after catching herself on fire.)
  • I live in California – 60% Hispanic with an Austrian Governor. Arnold Schwarzenagger: the little boy who had a dream and a bottle of anabolic steroids. – RW
  •  I thought lacrosse was what you find in la church. – RW
  • And some people say Jesus wasn’t Jewish. Of COURSE he was Jewish! Thirty years old, single, lives with his parents, come on! He works in his father’s business, his mom thought he was God’s gift. He’s Jewish! Give it up! – RW

Health and wellness:

  • They say the economy is essentially sound because people are considering buying things. That’s like saying fat people are healthy because they might exercise. – RW
  • When I was growing up, they used to say, ‘Robin, drugs can kill you.’ Now that I’m 58, my doctor’s telling me, ‘Robin, you need drugs to live.’ I realize now that my doctor is also my dealer. – RW
  • On the Vana White diet, you only eat what you can spell. – JR
  • The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it. – JR
  • I must admit I am nervous about getting Alzheimer’s. Once it hits, I might tell my best joke and never know it. – JR

Work-life balance:

  • I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. – JR
  • Till I was nine, my mother was still trying to get an abortion. That stuff sticks with you. – JR

On Take Your Kids to Work Day:

  • I think God made babies cute so we don’t eat them. – RW
  • The only time [my daughter] really cried is when I sat her down and told her that she was not adopted. – JR

Commuting to work:

  • Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves? – RW
  • And if we bury you [rear-end] up, I’ve got a place to park my bike. – RW (Patch Adams)

Corporate citizenship and social responsibility:

  • Bono was doing a concert in Scotland and began clapping his hands. He said, “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Scotland dies.” Someone from the back of the audience should have stood up and told him: “Then stop clapping your hands!” – RW

Workplace productivity:

  • I walked into my son’s room the other day, and he’s got four screens going at the same time. He’s watching a movie on one screen, playing a game on another, downloading something on this one, texting on that one. People say, “He’s got ADD.” I say, “He’s multitasking.” – RW

Relationship building and conflict management:

  • I’m sorry. If you were right, I’d agree with you. – RW
  • I try to be as nice to her as I possibly can, because one day I may need part of her liver. – JR

Let’s make Robin Williams and Joan Rivers proud while we make work more enjoyable and productive. Let’s bring more humor to work.

Joan_Rivers_3_Musto_Party_2010_Shankbone - wikipedia commonsThanks to the following for their compilations of zingers from Robin Williams and Joan Rivers: Gregory E. Miller and Robert Rorke, Funny comedian quotes and videos, Jessica Goodman, and Gillian Telling.

Image Credits

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he sometimes needs to remind himself and others not to take things too seriously. You can reach him at jbaker@people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.