Comedy Is Serious Business

Humor can be most effective when it surprises you — when it comes from an unexpected source or during an otherwise serious occasion. (If you’ve ever gotten the giggles during, say, a funeral, you know what I mean.)

This weekend I was scanning the site of a local charity, looking for donation guidelines. I’m in the process of de-cluttering and was wondering what kind of things they need. They offered that information, plus an illustrated list of items they no longer accept — bedding, barbecues, tube TVs.

For clothing I knew they preferred it in bags and boxes, so when I got to the bottom of the list and saw this …

… I had to laugh.

Sure, it’s kind of an old joke. But in this context it was funny. It works because it provides a little comic relief in the midst of a proverbial laundry list. And it shows that the organization is not so uptight.

Finally, it’s a sign that they’re tuned in to their audience.┬áThe charity, the Howard Brown Health Center, serves the LGBT community, and Faye Dunaway’s classic turn as Joan Crawford is high on the list of the community’s revered icons — right up there with Judy Garland and Liz Taylor.

I thought it was a nice touch. Whether it was a spontaneous, inspired decision by a web programmer or is reflective of the organization’s overall culture, I don’t know, but I wish more organizations would loosen up and not be afraid to use a little humor.

Some companies feel the work they do is far too serious to be joking around. But the Howard Brown Health Center obviously deals every day with issues of life and death. It just goes to show that no matter how serious our work may be, it doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves too seriously.