Shortly after I met my friend Chris Utterback, I found myself having an especially challenging day. I decided to give her a call and when she answered the phone I didn’t say hello. “Make me laugh,” I demanded.

“Just a minute,” she said. “I have to get my joke folder.” Joke folder?

When she got back to the phone she explained that she kept a file folder of cartoons and stories that she found funny. She promptly began reading me her favorites and before long we were giggling like second graders.

By the time I hung up the phone, the world was looking considerably brighter again.

Ever since, I’ve kept my own Make Me Laugh folders, along with other emergency supplies for moments when I need a dose of hilarity.

If you’d like to expand the amount of laughter in your life, here are some ideas that can help.

* Memorize this quote. Ernest Hemingway said, “The seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who can laugh in life the seeds are covered with better soil and a higher grade of manure.”

* Take a laughter class. If your local adult ed program has such a class, sign up at once. If you can’t find such a class, get a set of CDs or tapes from your favorite comedian and play them in the car. I’m especially fond of Prairie Home Companion’s Pretty Good Joke Show CDs.

* Meet my friend Karyn Ruth. The most hilarious trip I ever took was the London adventure I shared with Karyn Ruth White. We both recall it as a week of nonstop laughter. I always look forward to seeing her on my trips to Denver, where she lives, and know that our phone chats will be filled with noisy laughter.

If she’s not available to accompany you on a trip, order her Kiss My Botox CD, her Laughing in the Face of Stress DVD or her book Your Seventh Sense that will help you polish your own funny bone. They’re all available at

* Read something funny. There aren’t a lot of authors that make me laugh out loud, but one who does is Bill Bryson. His travel books are especially hilarious. I’m especially fond of Neither Here Nor There, although any of his books is bound to produce a giggle or guffaw.

You don’t have to be a Minnesotan to find the Pretty Good Joke Book from Prairie Home Companion pretty darn funny.

* Meet Annette Goodheart. The first laughter therapist I ever heard of was Dr. Goodheart whose adult ed classes in her hometown of Santa Barbara had long waiting lists.

Dr. Goodheart calls laughter ‘Portable Therapy’ and points out that its benefits include: strengthens your immune system, helps you think more clearly, replenishes creativity, releases emotional pain, and it’s free.

See for yourself at and

* Join a Laughing Club. The movement started by The Laughing Clubs of India is spreading throughout the world. You may have a local branch or you might want to start one yourself.

The concept is simple: get a group together and laugh for half an hour first thing in the morning. They claim all sorts of amazing cures among their members.

Or let John Cleese show you the benefits of Laughter Yoga on this video.

Don’t ever forget that laughter is a medicine that doesn’t require a prescription. Dose frequently. It’s good for you and equally good for your business.


“The seeds of what we will do are in all of us,” observed Ernest Hemingway, “but it always seemed to me that in those who can laugh in life the seeds are covered with better soil and a higher grade of manure.” Since I believe that you can’t have too much laughter, I was delighted to learn that it’s time for Prairie Home Companion’s annual joke show.

In most parts of the country, PHC runs on Saturday evening and, sometimes, again on late Sunday morning. One of my favorite audiobooks on a solitary road trip is PHC’s Pretty Good Jokes, a compilation of past shows. Some of them are corny, some clever, a few are risqué. It’s all good fun. 

Although I’ve never been to the Q Kindness Cafe in St. Paul, MN, I have followed the story of how Lisa Cotter Metwaly and her husband turned this struggling enterprise around by making kindness their operating policy. When Lisa sent out  this story to her fans, I knew I wanted to pass it along. It’s a brilliant example of making the ordinary into something extraordinary.

After I helped my archaeologist sister plan her sabbatical, I became wildly envious. Why do only academics get time away? Why had we abandoned the ancient notion of taking regular sabbaticals throughout our lifetimes? I couldn’t find any books for people like me: nonacademic, self-employed, in need of time away. Then I began meeting people who had taken sabbaticals. Every last one of them said, “It was the best thing I ever did.” I was sold, but not sure how to handle the logistics. 

You can read the rest of my thoughts on Time Away With a  Purpose by visiting Inspiration Station.

To paraphrase a quote from Lady Holland, “Ideas, like babies, grow larger with nursing.” Alice Barry and I are launching a movement to rescue and nurture neglected ideas. We figure such an undertaking begins by sharing what we know about nurturing ideas. We’ve set aside two days in May and we’re heading to Dodge City, KS to the ultimate ideafest. We’re calling it Follow Through Camp and it’s designed to stimulate and encourage creative thinking and problem solving. Love to have you along. It is going to be serious fun.

I’ve never met JoEllen Berryman, but after getting this message from her, I’d love to meet her. Her story is a study in flexibility and taking responsibility for staying inspired.

I am a freelance photo stylist.  I do the setups they shoot for ads and catalog, beds, drapes, curtains.  You have seen my work with Martha Stewart and Bed Bath and Beyond.  This last year has been my hardest.  Budget cuts and rate cuts and lost gigs. I am now looking for other means of income.  This has led me to look into all kinds of things.  Dog walking….which is really fun and babysitting which I love as well.  Not afraid to do things that are new so now 

I am  studying Internet marketing….that has been scary and challenging.  I actually was looking for a way to get traffic to my web site that shows my work to people in the industry.  Now I see that the ideas are endless.

I really dig what you are doing.  I joined a Gospel choir at Middle Collegiate Church here in NYC.  I hadn’t sung in over 30 years.  I moved here as a song and dance actress and got sidetracked.  Singing with this choir has saved me from going into despair and fear.  It is impossible to stay down when you are singing.  The choir is open….everyone is welcome.  You are right on the money when you encourage people to try things they normally wouldn’t do.  It feeds every aspect of my life.  When I see the joy in the faces of the crowds we sing for, it is so rewarding.  It is the ultimate high.  It has also given me oppor tunities I never would have dreamed possible.  We sang back up for Debby Harry of  Blondie.  When I was dancing to her music in the clubs I never dreamed I would be on stage with her at the ripe old age of 58.  Life truly is an amazing adventure if you leave yourself open.

I also do volunteer work.  Nothing gets you off the pity pot faster than helping someone else. Went to New Orleans to help gut homes and went back the following year to help paint etc.  Those experiences were priceless.  Better than any luxury vacation I have been on.

I just wanted to cheer you on.  What you are sharing with the world are such important lessons.  Everyone is so caught up in doom and gloom and your stuff made me smile.  Let us remember that 96% of the USA still have jobs and 98% are paying their mortgages on time.  We are looking at the wrong end of the statistics.  Hope needs to be projected as people frozen in fear is a bigger problem than the lost jobs.  Fear stops you from moving forward.  We all need to keep moving and take ACTION.  Baby steps will do just fine.

If you are ever in New York look me up.  It would be a joy to meet such a positive spirit. The Collegiate Churches could sure use a seminar by you.  

Joyous, happy and free,

JoEllen Berryman