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Humor at Work: Better Results. More Fun.

How to be more productive, less stressed, and happier using humor in the workplace.
3.8 (20 ratings)
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1,076 students enrolled
Created by Andrew Tarvin
Last updated 1/2015
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  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • 1 Article
  • 4 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What Will I Learn?
Use humor in different situations.
Know when humor is and isn't appropriate.
Explain to bosses and coworkers the value of humor.
Make humor a routine and use it on a regular basis.
Tell funnier stories, give better presentations, and be more confident.
View Curriculum
  • No need to do anything, everything is covered in the course.
  • Although you should have an electronic device capable of displaying video and playing audio. (If you're reading this text, you're covered).
  • You could have a job, be looking for a job, or be in school.
  • You should probably drink some water. And sit up straight!

Learn how to reduce stress, improve morale, and enjoy your work more by using humor in the workplace.

Just because you have a job, it doesn't mean you have to hate it. In this course, you'll learn the ins and outs of how to use humor at work.

Using humor in the workplace can help you:

  • Relieve stress and increase overall workplace happiness.
  • Improve office morale and build trust among team members.
  • Deliver more effective presentations and influence people.
  • And make work more pleasant and fun.

Despite these powerful benefits, less than 1/3rd of people use humor at work regularly. Maybe you don't think you have the time or just don't have any ideas. Or maybe you've tried it before and it didn't go so well. Or you're afraid you won't be taken seriously or you'll say something inappropriate. Or maybe you're shy or introverted and don't feel like it's part of your natural personality.

This course will help you overcome those challenges and teach you everything you need to know about using humor at work.

Whether you already use humor and just want to be more intentional, your team has no humor and you just want to help people loosen up, or you've never tried humor at all, you'll learn the necessary skills to bring levity to the office. You'll learn:

  • How to use humor in different situations and how to "know" your audience.
  • How to confidently present your humor.
  • When humor is and isn't appropriate, what subjects are "off-limits," and how to avoid saying anything inappropriate.
  • How use humor effectively without being seen as a clown or a jester.
  • How to incorporate humor on a regular basis so that is has a positive impact on the culture at work.
  • How to teach other people about the benefit of humor so they can embrace it as productivity tool.

What This Course is Not

This course is all about using humor to be more effective at work. This course is:

  • NOT a course in stand up comedy. You will learn about basic joke structure, but the course will not cover things like how to create a set list, the business of stand-up, or how to get on the Tonight Show.
  • NOT a course in humor theory. We do touch on basic humor theory, but you will not learn that ins and outs of what makes us as humans laugh.
  • NOT a course in zombie apocalypse survival strategies, although I do mention it.
Who is the target audience?
  • This course is for people who want to enjoy their job more while doing it better.
  • It's designed for people who want to be taken seriously at work but still wanted to lighten the mood and have.
  • It will help people who are worried about what other people will think, don't have any ideas, or don't think they have time.
  • It's for outgoing and shy people alike (created by an introvert / INTJ).
  • It is not for people who like being bored at work, think laughing is stupid, or have taken a vow against smiling.
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 52 Lectures Collapse All 52 Lectures 02:18:48
Introduction + Why Humor Matters
3 Lectures 04:27

This lecture introduces the course and what you're going to learn, previews some of the fun you're going to have, and shows you how to get support along the way.


In this course, you're going to learn:

  • How to use humor in different situations and how to "know" your audience.
  • How to confidently present your humor so it lands, and how to do it without being seen as a clown or a jester.
  • When humor is and isn't appropriate, what subjects are "off-limits," and how to avoid saying anything inappropriate.
  • How to incorporate humor on a regular basis so that is has a positive impact on the culture at work.
  • How to teach other people about the benefit of humor so they can embrace it as productivity tool.
Preview 02:36

The goal of this course is to help you start using humor in the workplace right away. This "lecture" is really a handout that will open the magical doors of exercises you can do to follow along.


Prework: gets you thinking about the material to be covered in the upcoming section.
Homework: gives you a chance to practice using humor.

Prework, Assignments, and Exercises, Oh My
22 pages

Given the $1 trillion problem of disengaged employees, stressed out workers, and high turnover, what can we do? In this lecture you learn how humor could help change the way we feel about work.


People who use humor are more productive, less stressed, and happier.

There are 30 additional benefits humor provides, all backed by research, case studies, and real-world examples. To see them, check out the resources section.


30 Benefits of Humor

Preview 01:51
What Humor Means
5 Lectures 10:59

Humor means different things to different people. This lecture prepares you for the section and shares why it's so important to be clear in your message.


In this section, you'll learn what we mean by humor in the workplace.

Decks, Slides, and Confusion

Humor is more than comedy. This lecture will teach you what all is included when we talk about humor in the workplace and explain why you don't always need to be the creator of humor.


  • Humor is defined as a comic, absurd, or incongruous quality that causes amusement.
  • Humor That Works is defined as using humor that is effective, different, and fun.
  • There is a difference between sense of humor and skill at humor.
  • Sense of humor is knowing what is humorous and when it's appropriate.
  • Skill at humor means that being able to use humor can be learned
Preview 03:53

There are 4 styles of humor, each with strengths and weaknesses. This lecture teaches you about each style and shows which ones are appropriate for the office.


The 4 styles of humor are:

  • Affiliative
  • Self-Enhancing
  • Self-Defeating
  • Aggressive


To learn more about the four styles of humor, check out the humor styles wikipedia page.

ComedySportz, Vonnegut, Dangerfield, or the Daily Show?

Humor can make you more productive... but only if you use it appropriately. This lecture teaches you how to avoid inappropriate humor.


There are 3 reasons humor is inappropriate:

  1. Inappropriate Subject
  2. Inappropriate Target
  3. Inappropriate Time


To see examples of what happens when humor goes awry, check out these stories:

Extra! Extra! Using Humor Makes You More Productive

This lecture concludes what we mean by humor.


Humor isn’t about making work funny, it’s about making work fun. And you don’t always have to be the creator of humor, sometimes being the conduit is enough.

Making Work Fun
The Humor MAP
6 Lectures 13:28

Nothing can tell you what specific humor to use, but there are guidelines that can help out. This lecture builds the framework for this section on The Humor MAP.


The Humor MAP can help you create humor that is appropriate and effective.

GPS Mentorship

There are 3 important things to know before determining what humor to use. This lecture teaches what those 3 things are.


The 3 things are:

  1. Medium
  2. Audience
  3. Purpose
X Marks the Spot

The most important thing to know before using humor is the reason you want to use it in the first place. In this lecture you learn why.


There are 5 main reasons to use humor:

  1. To improve communication.
  2. To build relationships.
  3. To enhance problem solving.
  4. To increase productivity.
  5. To strengthen leadership.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Who receives your humor impacts the type you should use. This lecture tells you what you need to know about them.


When it comes to knowing your audience, it's important to know:

  • Who they are.
  • What they know.
  • What they expect.
  • What they need.
Hark! Who Goes There?

Where your humor is delivered changes how it should be executed. In this lecture you find out what you need to know.


Medium for humor can be:

  • Written
  • Oral
  • Writoral
How Now Brown Cow?

This lecture completes The Humor MAP.


By planning ahead and truly understanding your Medium, Audience, and Purpose, you’ll find humor that is effective and fun.

Mapping Out a Plan
Humor Devices
4 Lectures 06:43

Creative endeavors seem like works of creative genius, but often there's an underlying structure that helps the creative process. This lecture sets the stage for the structure of humor.


Structure helps you create humor. This section teaches you how.

Take It To The Chorus

There are a number of different structures that can help you use humor. This lecture introduces each one.


There are 3 categories of humor: Relatable, Surprise, and Sensory.
9 Humor Devices: Association, Observation, Storytelling, Incongruity, Pattern, Jokes, Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

Preview 02:02

Just because you have a framework, it doesn't mean success is guaranteed. This lecture shares the limitations of the humor devices.


The limitations of the humor devices include:

  1. There are no guarantees.
  2. Not all encompassing.
  3. Simple but not easy.

This lecture concludes the 9 Humor Devices.


That’s it for the introduction to the 9 humor devices. Over the next 3 lessons we’ll go into more detail for each device, explaining how to use each one in the workplace and giving you exercises for creating examples of your own.

Understanding Humor
Relatable Devices
5 Lectures 12:31

When we relate to humor, we feel a stronger connection with the humorist. This lecture introduces Relatable Devices.


Relatable humor hinges on the fact that we, surprise, relate to the humor in some way.

The Lightest Thing Around

The combination of two unique ideas is one of the easiest forms of humor. This lecture teaches you about Association.


Association is the connecting of two ideas together in a unique way. This includes metaphors, analogies, and mnemonics.

Association: Halo and Angel Hats

The intermediate form of Relatable Humor involves commenting on something other people are aware of. This lecture teaches you about Observation.


Observation is simply a reference to something that everyone is aware of. This includes pointing out something that just happened, recapping an event, or making a reference to something that was said previously.

Observation: What Just Happened?

Telling people a story is a great but challenging way to incorporate humor. This lectures teaches you about Storytelling.


Storytelling is about sharing a series of events with a beginning, middle, and end, including anecdotes, fables, and personal stories of your own.

Storytelling: Once Upon a Time…

This lecture wraps up Relatable Devices.


Relatable humor is more about making things fun than it is about making things funny. But because it's all about relating to another person, it's a great device to build relationships and improve communication.

Using Relatable Humor
Surprise Devices
5 Lectures 13:12

Often we laugh when we are surprised by something in a pleasant way. This lecture introduces Surprise Devices.


Sensory humor is humor experienced through one of the senses. It could be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.

Meetings, Meetings, and Meetings

The easiest form of Surprise humor is something unexpected. This lecture teaches you about Incongruity.


Incongruity is something unexpected among normal circumstances. This means things like using unique language, wearing interesting apparel, or giving nicknames to team members.

Incongruity: A Short Disquisition on Unconformity

The repetition of a concept or idea is the intermediate form of Surprise. This lecture teaches you about Pattern.


Pattern is simply the repetition of a phrase, concept, or idea. This includes PowerPoint themes, parallelism in language, and repetition of mantras.

Pattern: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

One of the hardest forms of humor is saying something with the express purpose of making them laugh. This lecture teaches you about Jokes.


Jokes are about creating a structured comment meant to evoke laughter. These are your one-liners, deliberate misdirection, and knock knock jokes.

Joke: A Lecture Walks Into a Bar

This lecture completes Surprise Devices.


Surprise humor can be a great way to get people to understand material and laugh, though it does include one of the hardest types of humor: jokes.

Using Surprise Humor
Sensory Devices
5 Lectures 12:08

People will forget what you say, but they won't forget how you make them feel. This lecture introduces Sensory Devices.


Sensory humor is humor experienced through one of the senses. It could be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.


Using an image or graph is an easy way to add humor to your work. This lecture teaches you about Visual Humor.


Visual humor is the representation of an idea through images. This could be a picture, cartoon, or a graph.

Visual: Worth a Thousand Words

The intermediate form of Sensor Humor is using music, sound, and noise. This lecture teaches you about Auditory Humor.


Auditory humor is the representation of an idea through sound. This isn’t necessarily just talking, but is music, sound effects, and ambient noise.

Auditory: Can You Hear Me Now?

Activities and exercises can be powerful but challenging to facilitate. This lecture teaches you about Kinesthetic Humor.


Kinesthetic humor is a structured activity involving targeted participants. This includes teambuilding activities, live demonstrations, and yes, even dreaded icebreakers.

Kinesthetic: I've Got a Feeling

This lecture summarizes Sensory Devices.


Sensory humor can be a great way to communicate ideas in an interesting way, and can certainly bring people closer together.

Using Sensory Humor
Humor Performance
5 Lectures 11:32

The success of humor comes down to its execution This lecture sets the stage for the focus on performance in this section.


50% of success comes down to the execution of your humor.

Haus Gabida Naba Say Tobo

Finding humor can seem challenging but is surprisingly easy. This lecture shows where you to find humor you can share.


There are great humor resources out there, including:


For creating your own humor, the greatest resources is you.

Finding Milkshakes

To create humor, you need inspiration. This lecture shares common sources of humor inspiration.


Three tips for writing humor:

  1. Keep a notebook.
  2. Write a lot.
  3. Make humor a habit.


For more examples of unscripted moments in movies, check out the 32 Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes.

A Funnier Version of The Notebook

If you want your humor to land, it has to be well-executed. This lecture teaches you what you need to know to perform well.


Three tips for performing humor:

  1. Commit.
  2. Be brief.
  3. Put the humor at the end.
git commit MakeConfident

This lecture concludes humor performance tips.


Regardless of the type of humor you use, how you execute it will play a large role in how it is received. The tips from this section should help you get started on implementing humor in a way that amuses your audience.

Performing Humor
Putting It All Together
5 Lectures 08:49

Cooking is more than just combining ingredients, and humor is more than just knowing the devices. This lecture sets up putting it all together.


In this section, we'll take all of the lessons you've learned so far and talk about how to use them to create humor in the workplace.

Combining Ingredients

Chances are you have a few lingering questions about humor. This lecture answers the most commonly asked questions.


You've got questions, I've got answers.

Frequenty Given Answers
1 page

Choosing the right humor can be a challenge. This lecture shares a few tips for making the choice.


The Humor Matrix helps you identify what type of humor to use depending on your situation and purpose.

"I Know Kung Fu"

Once you've decided on what humor to use, how do you if it will work? This lecture is the closet thing you'll get to a crystal ball to know for sure.


The Humor Checklist helps you confirm the key points of using humor to better ensure your humor will be a success.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

This lecture puts it all together.


Ta da!

Putting It All Together
The Final Lessons
3 Lectures 05:32

There's a difference between knowing and doing. This lecture sets up the final lessons of the this course.


Now that you have this knowledge to add humor, it's your responsibility to go out and use it.

Clark Kent: Buzzfeed Reporter

A recap of the entire course.


A recap of the entire course.

Preview 01:15

This lecture concludes the course and shares why it’s so important to use humor in the workplace.


You spend 33.6% of your adult awake life at work, why not choose humor?

Scary Math
1 More Section
About the Instructor
3.8 Average rating
20 Reviews
1,076 Students
1 Course
Humor Engineer

Andrew Tarvin is an international project manager turned humor engineer. He works with engineers and technical professionals who want to be more productive and less stressed. He has conducted hundreds of trainings for organizations such as Procter & Gamble, GE, and General Assembly on topics including humor in the workplace, effective communication, and agile leadership.

Andrew has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, TEDx, and FastCompany, is the author of the best-selling book 501 Ways to Use Humor at Work, and has written more than 400 articles receiving more than 2.1 million pageviews from 180 different countries.

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