Comedy is courage



That was the call!


I was watching the ongoing Cricket World Cup in the company of friends. For the weekend matches, we would gather not just for the collective fun but also for the sharing of lived experiences that would connect with current incidents.


As we heard “Out” from the mouth of TV commentator, one of the friends started a narration.


“Once we were going very low on the sales achievements and suddenly, our Sales Head called all of us to the Head Office for a reality check. We were in for trouble. The meeting room witnessed a group of eight Sales Managers sitting and listening to the ever-serious no-nonsense boss. The boss was heatedly scolding everyone. Knowing the nature of the boss, none of the old warriors – including me – was opening his mouth. However, Hari, the new entrant in the team, was trying to say something but there was no pause in the Sales Head’s discourse. We were anticipating that havoc would descend soon as a result of Hari’s strange behaviour.  


The rebukes and reprimands went on without a punctuation till a moment when Hari got impatient and suddenly, raised his hand (just as we did in school), stood up and shouted, “I am wanting to say something for the last five minutes but you are not listening. I cannot withstand the pressure any more. I….”


He was interrupted abruptly by the boss, who shouted at the peak of his voice, looked at Hari and pointed towards the door, “OUT”.


Hari moved out of the room in a flash leaving a trembling calm behind. The room was filled with a spooky stillness.”


So was the lounge where we were watching the match. My friend had created an anxiety amongst us as well, as we saw the new batsman, who was a natural stroke-player, enter the crease in a difficult situation.


My friend continued,


“After a few minutes, Hari walked in with a smile on his face. There was complete silence – everyone watched with a sense of fear. Hari, however, bore a confident smile on his face, looked at the baffled boss and said, “I was telling you that I could not withstand the pressure. But you did not allow me to complete the sentence. I was talking of the pressure in my bladder. Aah! I am feeling much better now. You may please continue sir.”


The smile on Hari’s unnerved face was infectious. His courage spread exponentially and occupied place on all faces in the room. A few giggled, others chuckled and one or two of us even laughed aloud like the famous Gabbar Singh of Sholay”


As our friend paused for a moment, we wondered what would be the next reaction of the boss, for whom work had become a solemn chore. I recalled that a Gallup’s study had found that we laughed less on workdays than we did on weekends. This was despite the fact that researches establish numerous benefits of humour at work. In an HBR article Leading with humour, Alison Beard quotes research from Wharton, MIT, and London Business School to convey that every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a lot of business benefits.


Hari had demonstrated the ability to find some wit in a hitherto tense event. He had shown that humour could turn any occasion into a mini vacation. He had converted an enraged atmosphere into a more smiling setting!


However, comedy needs courage. Roberto Benigni, the Italian filmmaker, deftly created a situation laughing through the pain while experiencing the Nazi holocaust in Life is Beautiful; Charlie Chaplin had proved this when he comically depicted the dreadful history in The Great Dictator. This chivalry is apparently receding in our daily lives. The Haris are declining in numbers. It is not without reason that positive psychology, laughter wellness and psychological capital are emerging as new areas of study and experiments. Is this the time for people to exhibit bravery and shift from managing human resources to managing humour resources?


While I was pondering, my friend resumed,


“Suddenly, the boss got into a serious tone again and said, “Out”.


Everyone moved out only to see, after two minutes, that the boss followed, came out of the meeting room and announced that they would take a break as he had ordered some delicious food for everyone. There was a rare smile on his face, which left everyone in a dilemma, as he hugged Hari and laughed his heart out with them rather than at them!”


As the new batsman took strike, the commentator said, “He should not feel the pressure and enjoy the game.”


The fellow commentator opined, “Yes, the team can win only if he plays his natural game and bats fearlessly.”


Whose gallantry was he hinting at – the batsman’s, Hari’s, your or mine?


Drowned in dilemma!


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