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Feeling Funny @ HMRC

“Feeling Funny” was a six week course in developing techniques of Stand Up comedy culminating in a performance for colleagues, friends and family.

One might even call it the Muppet Show. My own resemblance to Fozzy Bear, aside, there is a serious point to this.

The Comedy Trust offered HMRC this course at the International Men’s Day. As men don’t like to express their feelings, for cultural reasons, this works in a similar way to the way boys learn to read better using stories about action and adventure. We even had a comedienne, to prove that this wasn’t just men that could benefit from this approach. The central strategy was to use comedy to illustrate the funny side of one’s attitude, argument or position, or to show that an unhelpful obsessive view that was unhelpful to one’s mental health could be loosened, and eventually removed. Following from this we learned how focusing on coping strategies can help on a day by day basis to avoid conflicts that lead to anxiety and paralysis of decision making, and to bring out the fact that that everyone has some issues, however small, and that many people could each have the same issue.

Having now had the full experience of the Feeling Funny Program, and the time to reflect upon it, I should describe what I gained from it.

My original motivation was two-fold.

A) I was attracted by the idea of learning stand up techniques, so I could be better with my musical performances and in any public speaking I did for whatever reasons.

B) The mental health aspect and coping strategies interested me because I was still feeling angry with my son concerning the financial consequences for me of dealing with the consequences of his anxiety and depression.

I admit that a degree of training in being funny, and potentially having a really good laugh, albeit in my own time, appealed to me. Although that is not to say that there is not an enormous amount of humour in our day to day work.

Sharing your feelings at work (especially if you have stresses from outside work), is absolutely necessary and healthy. It seems to come easier to women than us men. My hope and my fear is that I might become more like my comedy heroes, Tony Hancock and Frankie Howard, (Oh No Missus)!

Although the mental health aspect was only emphasised explicitly at first, it came out in the nature of the comedy and in the material implicitly, in the choices of material made and the attitudes lampooned. However, the real pleasure was the joy of performing to a supportive group, appreciating each other’s efforts, and the opportunity to collaborate and constructively criticise, something we only experience comparatively rarely in the day job.

All the material was essentially autobiographical, and once I started to know more about the individuals involved, and the difficulties they overcome daily in getting through their lives, the humour was all the more joyful. I learned that I wasn’t funny spontaneously, but I crafted a good script, but that others could be brilliant “off the cuff”. For me it became more about getting my own material out the way to be able to delight in the other performances as time went on. If nothing else it was a massive dose of dopamine every Wednesday afternoon.

In the end, I couldn’t make the final performance to which, friends, family and colleagues were invited, not because of the good reason that I was working away, but because I was enjoying myself elsewhere.



We all know the feeling of sleeping past your alarm unfortunately this little guy didn't get the memo!


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