Seven Ways To Use Humor – and Why You Should

“If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right.” ~Prof. Greg Scott

“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” ~Charlie Chaplin

As you may have guessed, here at Small Deeds Done, February is all about taking stock of where we are and what we need to sustain ourselves. Last week we talked about the elusive “self-care” concept.

Today we’re going to talk about something you can incorporate into your regular, everyday life that will make you more joyful and effective. (And you don’t need yoga pants to do it.)


I’m not kidding.

We are understandably deadly serious about what’s going on in our country. But humor is a powerful tool for self-care, and a fantastic weapon in its own right. So hear me out.

Humor Can Be a Shield … and a Sword

There are bunches of studies proving the power of humor as a “shield” against negative life events.

Humor is an “active” – rather than “avoidant” – coping mechanism. Avoidant methods, as the name implies, are things you do to “avoid” rather than confront the stress you’re facing. They’re not particularly helpful in managing the stress – they really just delay things a bit.

That’s why you might find that just “taking a break” doesn’t make you less stressed out, and can actually make it harder to re-engage.

But Charlie Chaplin might have been on to something when he said that “to truly laugh, you must take your pain and play with it.” There’s real scientific proof that making fun of dark situations – using “dark humor” – really does help folks cope with the dark places in life.

In one study, for example, people with higher “coping humor” “showed little or no increase in negative mood [even] when their number of negative life events increased.” The folks with lower levels of coping humor didn’t handle it so well.

Another study showed that end-stage renal disease patients with a greater sense of humor had a 31% higher survival rate. So maybe it’s actually a laugh – not an apple – a day that keeps the doctor away!

Studies also show that humor alleviates tension and attracts social support – a double benefit of sorts, because not only does humor help you manage the situation at hand, it means you’re more likely to cultivate your social network. (It’s easier to make friends with someone who laughs a lot, right?) And people who have – or who actively seek – a strong social network are more likely to overcome the obstacles in life.

And – most inspirationally – a strong social support system and humor helped hundreds of US soldiers held as POWs during the Vietnam War not only survive their captivity – but to rebel in ways no other POW group had ever done.

The POWs themselves believed their ability to keep their sense of humor gave them power. Why? Because it gave them control. Even when they had no say in their physical situation, they had full control over their reaction and perspective – and humor played a huge role in that.

So humor can be a shield against the terrible-awful of life.

It can be a sword, too.

As it turns out, “[a]uthoritarianism is directly incompatible with collective joy; it demands fear, obedience, hierarchy and an obsession with security and preparation for war.” We all know that laughing at The Donald infuriates him – and perhaps this sheds light on why.

Having fun is even more fun when it’s subversive, isn’t it?

And humor is darn effective at drawing attention to serious subjects … in a way that feels approachable.

Case in point: what gets YOUR attention – a petition to your congress critter (either online or on a clipboard) or having people sign the diaper on a life-sized baby Donald? Which do you remember more: a letter asking your newly elected Democrat to stay strong … or  a tissue box imploring her not to “blow” it?

I’ve made my case.

Knitting uteri, glitter bombing (OMG glitter gets into every nook and cranny and is impossible to remove… Moms, am I right?), proposing legislation declaring that life begins at ejaculation, the hilarious signs we’ve all seen at marches across the country – these are all ways activists have used humor to draw attention to important issues and to have a good giggle in the meantime.

So use humor early and often – as a shield against being overwhelmed, and as a sword to make your point in a way that’s approachable and memorable.

How? Well – beyond posting tongue-in-cheek comments on your favorite GOP legislator’s page, let your imagination run wild with the ways you can have fun while making your point.

Here are SEVEN ideas you can riff off of:
  • If you’re a business owner, consider creating your version of a “covfefe” party: A D.C. bar offered free drinks anytime Trump tweeted during Comey’s testimony. Another bar operated under a pseudonym “Unpresidented” January 17-21, and served cocktails with Russian Standard vodka. What could you do?
  • Take a play from the Center for American Progress’s playbook and encourage your fellow resisters to raid their medicine cabinets for used pill bottles. Write messages about the importance of saving health care in each one, and deliver them to your Senator.
  • Heading to a protest? Ask someone to bring a guitar! I’ve always wanted to serenade my Senator, and maybe we can make that a thing. (Here’s a good list of songs about health to get your playlist started.) See if you can Weird Al some favorite songs!
  • Looking to raise funds? Organize a concert – featuring local bands, activists, or even some politicians in your area!
  • Set up an open mic night for local comedians! Let them know that you’d love their set to cover politics…
  • Single and ready to mingle? Start getting your single activists friends together for a night together doing something – related to activism or not.
  • Start your own Drinking Liberally group (alcohol, coffee, tea, water – pick your poison!); when you’re all together you can Resistbot a common message, call your legislators, or just hang out.
  • Have contests to encourage action among your friends (like bingo!)


You can get a downloadable, printable version of Resister Bingo by CLICKING HERE.

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. The broader point is clear: humor is a powerful tool to help you survive this administration with your sanity.

But whether you’re at a party or all by yourself, try to find and create reasons to laugh about the terrible-awfuls that we face each day.

And don’t feel like you need to apologize for laughing, or that you’re not “doing it right” if you’re not scowling with clenched teeth and fists.

Because you’re not making light of our situation.

You’re taking control of it.

Now – let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Be excited, but be prepared

So, it seems that the conference committee that had been charged with finding a compromise on border security and keeping the government open has found common ground. Huzzah! That’s cause for celebration!

But we’re not officially out of the woods yet.

Almost immediately, Trump’s right-wing commentator puppet-masters started calling the compromise a failure. We all saw how this went last time. Trump could cater to his ultra-right base and veto this compromise bill, while declaring an national emergency that (he believes) would free up funding for construction of a wall.

Declaring a national emergency would be met with legal challenges immediately, but it would still be a huge overreach of executive power. If he goes that route, it’s important that we respond swiftly and loudly.

So it’s time to be cautiously optimistic – while being prepared. You can sign up now to help organize or host a protest or march against any declaration of emergency from the Tweeter-in-Chief by filling out this online form for MoveOn:

You can also call your MOCs and tell them you’re happy there’s a compromise, and that you want them to stick to their guns!

Wednesday: Sign up to host a town hall over President’s Day!

Have you been wanting your MOC to have a town hall? President’s Day is around the corner, and would be a great opportunity to meet with your congress critter.

Didn’t know that next week Congress is here at home? They are! (And psst! If you’re always wondering when Congress is in session, you’re in luck. The Busy Woman’s 2019 planner makes that super easy to see, and it has kicky inspiring quotes to boot!  CLICK HERE for yours.)

Why not sign up to host or cohost a town hall! Head over here to throw your hat in that ring.

Thursday: Keep Up the Momentum!

Last week Congress held its first hearings on the impact of gun violence in America in nearly a decade.

It’s clear that the Democratic House recognizes the importance of this issue. But it’s up to us to keep the pressure on. We can do that in a few ways.

First, check the calendar for Moms Demand events in your area. Moms Demand is bipartisan and dedicated to common sense gun reform. It’s a great group, with motivated and dedicated volunteers. CLICK HERE to enter your city or zip code for an event near you.

While you’re at it, call your MOC to tell them to co-sponsor HR8 – bipartisan legislation that requires background checks for all gun sales. Requiring background checks for people purchasing deadly weapons is just … common sense. A clear majority of Americans support background checks, so HR8 reflects the wishes of the country. CLICK HERE to see if your MOC is already a sponsor! If they are, call them to say thanks. (I called my Senator’s office last week to compliment him on something he had recently done; his staffer was audibly surprised to hear something positive. So spread some sunshine … if they deserve it!)

And if they’re not, ask their staff why they aren’t considering what their constituents want. (In fact, it might be high time to start directly pointing out their hypocrisy. If a background check isn’t required for all gun sales, that makes it significantly easier for an undocumented immigrant to purchase a firearm.)

Friday: Keep Kids in Mind

Hat tip to Rogan’s List for this information and reminder that even though it’s out of the news, the family separation crisis is NOT over:

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has long had the responsibility for overseeing the care and safety of unaccompanied minor children who somehow arrive in this country without parents.  In a hearing last week, held by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Jonathan White, an ORR employee revealed that when he questioned family separation, he was told it was not happening.  The rise in the number of children coming into care made him question that answer.  “I do not believe separation of children from their parents is in the best interest of the child,” White added. “Neither I nor any career person in ORR would have ever recommended such a policy proposal.”  We’ve reached a crisis level of children separated from parents.  Let’s tell our MoCs that we want them to continue working on bringing this out into the open and reuniting families and letting ORR do their regular jobs which already help so many children.

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S: Yes! Some of you have asked if I write for a living, and the answer is “I sure do!” Visit to learn more.

P.P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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