Sara Blakely – Spanx for the Laughs

Sara Blakely – Spanx for the Laughs

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

 It was voted one of the top podcasts of 2021 by CTV. You can listen to this episode on the podcast too!

Did you know that the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, actually did stand-up comedy for two years when she was just starting out?

Even now, this incredibly successful American business woman and philanthropist believes that stand-up comedy is so important for customer relations that she makes all of her employees take a stand-up class!

She also encourages her employees to take debating and speaking classes. 

Blakely says that nothing helps you think faster on your stocking-less feet than stand-up comedy.

I agree! Once you’ve gone a couple rounds with hecklers in the peanut gallery at the comedy clubs, you can probably sell anything.

Remember when salespeople used to sell encyclopedias door -to -door? Maybe I’m dating myself with this reference. Hello, is this on??

But get this, Sara Blakely actually sold fax machines door-to-door!

How challenging would that be but that’ exactly how this young Floridian entrepreneur started out in her twenties. 

In fact, in the late 1990’s, Blakely did so well selling fax machines that by the age of 25, she graduated to the position of national sales trainer.

Blakely said she hated wearing pantyhose as she was walking all day in Florida’s hot climate.

She also hated the appearance of a seamed foot while wearing open- toed shoes. (You mean that’s not a style? I better stop doing that.) But she did like the way the control top eliminated panty lines and held all the junk in. So, once when she was invited to a private party, she cut the feet out of her pantyhose when she was getting ready. The pantyhose initially rolled up but, through trial and error with a lot of pantyhose, she developed a prototype that she could wear under her slacks. Tada!  The rest is history.

Those first ‘footless’ pantyhose eventually walked Blakely into Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2012’. In 2014, she was listed as one the top 100 most influential women in the world by Forbes magazine. 

Blakley’s creation Spanx – ‘America’s intimate apparel company with pants and leggings’-was recently valued at 1.2 billion dollars after being purchased by the investment group Blackstone. Blackstone acquired a major stake while retaining Blakely as Executive Chairwoman.

In turn, Blakely celebrated the milestone by giving each of her 750 employees (mostly women) $10,000 dollars cash and two first class plane tickets to any destination in the world.

Now that is a true Boss Lady!

Not only is Blakely funny, brilliant and determined, but she has a heart of gold.

Blakely has always believed in empowering women.

In 2006, she launched The Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. She got a little bit of assistance from her mentor Richard Branson. Blakely had once appeared on Branson’s reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Branson wrote Blakely a cheque for $750,000 to start the foundation.  How much do you love these two entrepreneurs?

The foundation has also funded all sorts of scholarships for young women around the globe. Blakely also donated 1 million dollars to Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls in Africa.

In 2013, Blakely was the first female billionaire to join Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s The Giving Pledge, a group that billionaires commit to, to give away half of their wealth to charity.

And that’s not all. Remember those iconic leather pants that Olivia Newton-John’s character, Sandy, wore at the end of Grease with John Travolta?

Guess who bought them at an auction for over $162,000? Sara Blakely!

The money went towards Olivia Newton-John’s cancer treatment centre in Melbourne Australia.

In appreciation, Newton-John later sang at Blakely’s wedding.

Recently, during the height of the pandemic,  Blakely donated 5 million dollars to support female – run small businesses particularly hard hit by COVID.

 Sara Blakely: funny, generous, a visionary and an apparel powerhouse. To think it all started off with a little bit of stand-up comedy!

Until next time folks, laugh long and prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

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Wayne Gretzky -What Hockey and Humour Have in Common

Wayne Gretzky -What Hockey and Humour Have in Common

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

This past year, I signed up for the online learning course Masterclass.

Aaron Sorkin, Shondra Rhimes, Steve Martin, RuPaul, James Patterson, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Malcolm Gladwell, Wolfgang Puck, Jon-Kabat Zin and Chris Hadfield were just some of the presenters who filled my head with hundreds of hours of information, ideas and inspiration.

Then there was Wayne Gretzky.

I knew Wayne was The Great One. Please, I’m Canadian.

Hockey is part of our heritage.

I was surprised by Wayne’s presentation because yes, he did speak about hockey but his takeaways could apply to anybody. Even a comedian!

Wayne talked about the power of routine, practice, anticipation, goal setting, having a mentor, having various outside interests and hobbies, keeping your head in the game and perhaps, most importantly, the power of play. Creativity. The importance of not getting locked into structure and a system too early. The need for young players (and comedians) to just play, have fun and have the freedom to discover their own unique skill set.

It was so obvious throughout Wayne’s Masterclass how much of an influence Walter, his dad, had over him.

Walter was a decent hockey player when he was younger, and Wayne’s mother was athletic. Wayne and his brothers and sister all played sports.

Wayne said that his dad built a hockey rink every year in the backyard of their Brantford, Ontario home. The neighbors wanted to know why Walter’s backyard was so green every summer. I guess they thought he was using a secret pesticide or formula. Wayne said it was probably from all the ice that melted in the spring!

Wayne said he loved skating on that ice every winter, from sunup to sundown and well into the dark. His passion and discipline helped him develop the skills that made him stand out in the sport at a very early age.

He worked on his accuracy by firing hockey pucks at a picnic table lying on its side with circled targets. Wayne said he sharpened his shot as a kid quickly because he hated walking in the snow and getting his feet wet while retrieving the pucks from the neighbor’s lawn.

Wayne’s skills developed quickly so he always ended up playing with older kids.

Walter told him that because he was smaller than his older rivals, Wayne would have to

to use his brain and skate with his ‘head up’ to anticipate the play, as well as to avoid injury.

This is where Walter came up with a unique exercise for Wayne.

As Wayne watched Hockey Night in Canada, Walter made him get a piece of paper and draw a rectangle. That rectangle represented the rink that Wayne was watching on TV. Walter told Wayne to watch where the puck was going and draw it on the paper without looking down. Afterwards, when Wayne looked down at the paper, he was able to see the patterns that the puck made during the game. He saw the areas that the puck travelled to most of the time. This later helped him develop a way to capitalize on those areas and helped him to score and set up many goals in the future.

Wayne is famous for the quote, “I skate to where to puck is going to be. Not where it has been.”

He followed the puck, not the players. He learned to anticipate the next play. Those hours and hours in front of the TV set following the path of the puck gave Wayne new ideas for scoring.

The thing that hockey and humour have in common.

Wayne says he is not a psychologist but so many times he sees coaches putting kids into a hockey ‘system’ too quickly. In his opinion, there is too much emphasis on structure and not enough emphasis on play.  He says this approach doesn’t allow young players to learn or think for themselves and thus develop their own style and creativity.

Comedy is similar. I see so many young comedians wanting to replicate somebody else’s writing style, cadence or physical mannerisms. In the worst cases, they actually steal another comedian’s material and do their jokes on stage! Of course, this is a major industry taboo.

I always say to my students: watch, study, and always write but, most of all, don’t forget to HAVE FUN. Play. Discover who you are on stage. Take the time to develop your own point of view.

This is comedy, after all. Don’t be so serious!

No matter who we are or where we come from, when we step out of our comfort zones and allow ourselves to have fun, we have a greater chance of discovering something new and wonderful.

You might not be the next Great One but you might be pretty good –The Pretty Good One! At the very least, you won’t know until you try.

As Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

Until next time, play, have fun and don’t forget to laugh long and prosper.

 

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

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Creativity, Comedy and Keeping Your Job from the Robots

Creativity, Comedy and Keeping Your Job from the Robots

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

 

The robots are coming. The robots are coming.

Everyone is aware that artificial intelligence is playing a bigger part in our lives every day.

Whether it’s predicting your next online purchase, Nest regulating your home thermostat or opening your phone with face ID, AI is here to stay! 

In fact, how do you know that I’M not a robot?

You don’t, do you?

The initial numbers are staggering in terms of the number of jobs that could be replaced by AI

According to studies at Oxford University and the World Economic Forum, up to 50 percent of human jobs could be lost to artificial intelligence over the next 15 years. 

So how do you protect YOUR job?

Well, that’s where clowns like me come in.

Oh sure, everybody laughed at the classroom clown -no really, I killed every recess – but there is something to be said about the ‘fun’ and the ‘funny’ and the role that they play in our creativity and overall intelligence. In fact, as we lose our sense of play and creativity over the years, we lose our capacity to be genius and perhaps, even more successful. 

We lose our ability to be genius.

In the 1960’s and ‘70’s, an American psychologist by the name of George Land tested the creativity of 1600 children. He discovered that 98 percent of five-year-olds displayed genius levels of creativity. When he retested those same children five years later, only one third of the children displayed genius levels of creativity. By the time the children were fifteen years-old, that percentage had dropped to twelve percent. 

Here’s the good news. We can get our creativity back!

We can stimulate our creativity by learning to play an instrument, taking a drawing class or hey, (shameless plug) by learning how to write stand-up comedy with Judy Croon and her #1 bestseller Stand Up in Ten Steps!

Humour is a terrific tool to keep your content, customers and creativity in a world where the average attention span is now only eight seconds! According to researchers at Microsoft, since the mobile internet was introduced, the average attention span has dropped from twelve to eight seconds. We need all of our creative tools on board!

What humans do best. 

The other good news is that AI is really good at doing routine tasks and pursuing specific goals that we program it to do. However, humans excel at making connections and forming new ideas from previously learned material whether those ideas are related or not. This is known as divergent thinking.

Penicillin, x-rays, electricity, radioactivity and America were all accidentally discovered by people who were looking for something else!  Luckily, they were all able to circle back and find the connection. 

In 1901, French physicist Henri Becquerel left a piece of radium in his vest pocket. When he noticed that he had been burnt by it, he made the connection between radioactivity and medicine. He took the first steps toward developing radiotherapy which is still being used to treat cancer. 

In 1492, Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered America when he left Spain looking for a direct route between Europe and Asia. 

The point is that yes, AI is here to stay. We can benefit from all of its fantastic capabilities, but it’s the wonderful combination of creative humans with AI that makes our future look that much brighter and hopefully, a little funnier too. 

Until next time, laugh long and prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

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Playing to the Back of the Room

Playing to the Back of the Room

As comedians, we sometimes play to the ‘back of the room’. You’re on the road with two other comedians and you’ve heard each other’s sets three or four times already, so you start yelling out ‘requests’ from the back of the room during a late Saturday night show. Obviously, nothing to throw your friend off, but maybe a request or tag (additional joke) to an already established bit.  Even though comedians usually know their material inside out, it’s kind of fun to hear a fellow comedian laugh or say something out loud about one of your punchlines. It’s considered a compliment coming from one of your colleagues whose writing you respect.

Comedians feed off of good spontaneity vs. bad spontaneity (i.e. a heckler who needs to be thrown out).  A little spontaneity every now and then is good for the soul. That’s why I became intrigued when I heard this story about Martin Luther King Jr.

Apparently, Dr. King had a favorite opening act on his speaking tours- the renowned gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson. Mahalia could inspire a crowd like no one else before she brought Dr. King on stage. While she performed, Dr. King would sometimes shout out a request for a song that he knew Mahalia would sing. Likewise, Mahalia felt equally as comfortable calling out a word or phrase that would inspire Dr. King to talk about a particular topic. Even though they both knew their material, there was that extra boost of inspiration to play to ‘the back of the room’.

One such moment happened on August 28, 1963 at the historic march on Washington.

Dr. King was supposed to give a speech about freedom, in front of an audience of 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He had worked on it all night.

He had his notes on the podium. However, during one of his pauses, his ‘opening act’ felt comfortable enough to prompt her friend to talk about a theme (or, as comics say, a bit) she knew that she had heard him talk about before. Mahalia whispered, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”

As old film footage shows, Dr. King put his prepared notes aside and then delivered one of the most iconic speeches of all time. Of course, Dr. King was prepared, but perhaps a little message from a respected colleague gave him the challenge and inspiration to be spontaneous and to play to the back of the room. As a result, Dr. King delivered his famous words that ultimately helped bring to action the Civil Rights Movement.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed — we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Quotes taken from Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech.

Until next time folks, take care of each other, love,

judy-sig-laugh-long-prosper

 

 

TAKING YOUR MIND FOR A WALK

TAKING YOUR MIND FOR A WALK

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

As many studies have shown throughout time, exercise is not only good for our bodies but it’s also good for our brains. 

‘Big Brains’ throughout history have known the benefits of exercise. 

Scientist and Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie loved to cycle. She spent her honeymoon with her husband cycling and touring through France. 

During his imprisonment on Robben Island for 27 years, Nelson Mandela kept up his physical and mental strength by maintaining the daily fitness of a boxer. Even after being released in 1988, he kept up with a daily routine of 100 push-ups, 200 sit-ups and running on the spot for 45 minutes. Mandela said, “I worked better and thought more clearly when I was in good physical condition.” 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg loves to walk. He says he walks not only to exercise but he also uses it as an opportunity to discuss business with potential recruits and fellow entrepreneurs. 

I’m not a big fan of cycling, sit-ups or push-ups but I can certainly walk. In fact, I’ve walked over an hour every day for the past 20 years. 

Between 20-70 percent of Americans do not exercise at all, so walking would seem like a natural way to ease into movement.  Why do so many of us overlook walking as a form of exercise? Is it because it’s easy?  I’ve got to admit, that’s why I started walking. 

Over and over, studies have proven that there is a link between healthy physical activity and healthy mental activity, mindfulness and well-being. This is especially the case if you are taking a nature walk versus walking in the gym or the mall. 

A Stanford study scanned the brains of two groups of walkers following 90-minute walks. The group that took a nature walk had far fewer negative thoughts and feelings over the group who walked beside a busy route.

A regular walking routine can not only help you lose weight but also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and assist in the fight against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

A recent Harvard medical study showed that by walking 22 minutes a day twice a week, you can lower your risk of heart disease by 30 percent! The study also stated that walking is probably the best form of exercise to combat heart disease and other health issues.  On top of it, you don’t even have to walk 22 minutes in a row. You can walk 11 minutes in the morning and 11 minutes at night. How easy is that?

Walking can improve your cognitive skills, including memory

According to a report from Journal Neurology, walking can increase your grey matter. Research at the University of Virginia indicates that walking can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Walking is weight bearing so it also helps to increase your bone density.

Walking strengthens bones, joints and muscles. Leg and abdominal muscles also get a workout. If you are swinging your arms or using walking sticks, you can also give your arms and chest a good workout, too.

Walking can help you sleep

According to a study done by the Arthritis Foundation, women between the ages of 50-75 who walked one hour in the morning slept better at night that those who did not walk. 

Walking can improve your relationships. 

A participant who said that his marriage was on the brink of divorce noted that things changed for the better when his wife started to accompany him on walks. 

They started to communicate in a way that they had never done before.

Are you a nosy neighbor? Recent crime statistics have shown that neighborhoods that have ‘walkers’ tend to have less criminal activity as a result. 

Whatever your reason for walking, I highly recommend it. Personally, it may have started out of vanity but in the process, it also saved my sanity!

On that note, please folks, I’m begging you – laugh long and prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

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Laughing Your Way To Better Health

Laughing Your Way To Better Health

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

I never thought I was an athletic person. I hated exercising. I figured, what’s the purpose of working out? To increase your heart rate? Personally, I find driving the wrong way against rush hour traffic really works up a sweat. JUST kidding. Hey, I’m here all week, try the veal.

 

No, I really do hate working out. I’m not a gym rat. However, I do like to walk. I like to take my brain for a walk about an hour every day. There is a Latin quote- often attributed to St. Augustine- that translated means “It is solved by walking.” It is used to refer to a problem that is solved by a practical experiment. I believe that when I start thinking too much, walking is the practical experiment that gets me out of my head. I feel healthier, more productive and creative when I return from a walk.

 

However, I realize that not everybody might have the time or be physically able to walk once a day for an hour. So, I started to research some lazy ways to work out. I was happy to stumble upon the psychological and physical benefits of laughter.

 

In 1969, William Fry, a leading Stanford University researcher in the psychology of laughter, discovered that laughing 200 times could burn as many calories as rowing for ten minutes.

Apparently, when we laugh, we work our six packs! Yay!

 

Dr. Helen Pilcher, a comedian with a PhD in biology, notes that uncontrollable laughter burns 120 calories per hour – the same as if we were walking. Geez, why am I even walking??

 

 

MORE HOLISTIC HAHA

 

Laughter creates happy chemistry in our bodies. Our immune, respiratory and circulatory systems all reap the rewards. Researchers at the University of Maryland found that when participants laughed over and over during a funny experiment, their circulation improved by 22 percent.

 

Laughter also increases our aerobic activity. While laughing, we take in more oxygen to our body and brain. Afterwards, we feel mentally and physically invigorated.

 

Professor Duncan Geddes, a consultant in respiratory medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, says that laughter stimulates the body’s defense mechanism, decreases pain and improves recovery times. Laughter releases chemicals in our brain cells called endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain killers.

 

Geddes observed that laughter helps fight diseases like allergies, arthritis, asthma, backache, bronchitis, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, hypertension and migraines.

Research at Oxford University also showed that laughter in participants improved tolerance to pain and lowered blood pressure.

 

The effects of laughter are phenomenal. Researchers at Loma Linda University in California performed a groundbreaking experiment using laughter. They took a group of participants and divided the group in two. They showed funny videos to one group and tourist videos to the other. The researchers then took samples of immune cells from each group and mixed them with cancer cells to see how each sample attacked the disease. The immune cells from the laughing group were more successful at fighting the disease than the immune cells from the group that wasn’t laughing!

 

Of course, skeptics are going to say, “Hey Jude, are you recommending laughter instead of lunges? Good try funny lady.”

Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland Medical Center might agree with you.

Dr. Miller doesn’t recommend laughing instead of exercising but he does recommend that you try to laugh every day.

That, I wholeheartedly agree with! As Peter Ustinov once said, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

On that note, please folks, I’m begging you – laugh long and prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

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