Dr. Joel Goodman is serious about his mission to help people get more smileage out of work and life.
In 1977, Goodman founded the Humor Project in Saratoga Springs. It’s the first organization in the world to focus full time on the power of humor, he said.
The Humor Project sponsors workshops and boasts a speakers bureau with more than 100 speakers who can give talks on such topics as humor and health, laughter and learning and humor in parenting. It has a bookshop that offers books, videos and props, and each year, it sponsors an international humor conference. This year’s edition is slated for June 20 to 22 at the Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George.
`The conference really is an oasis of sorts,` Goodman said. `It’s a way to literally and figuratively get away from it all.`
The conference isn’t meant just for standup comedians or other people who make a living being funny. Goodman said that in a typical year, 25 percent of the participants are from the business world. Another 25 percent are health care professionals and 25 percent are educators. The remaining 25 percent are a mix of occupations: clergy, writers, turf grass growers, undertakers. `You name it,` Goodman said.
The common bond participants share is that they want to get more `smileage` out of life, Goodman said, invoking one of his favorite catch phrases. The conference aims to do that by `helping people develop humor in life and on the job.`
To that end, the conference will offer more than 20 sessions. Topics include `Taking Serious Things Humorously and Humor Seriously,` `Dealing with Difficult People with Delight and Lightness: Get Glad Not Mad` and `Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Comedic Care Rx to Survive and Thrive.`
That last one speaks to a theme that Goodman is passionate about. For years, `laughter is the best medicine` was dismissed as just a cliche. But research has shown humor really can add years to your life.
`When we laugh, great things happen inside our body,` Goodman said. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and gives the immune system a natural boost.
`Humor is a wonderful way of dealing with stress,` Goodman said. `And whatever your walk in life is, we all have stress.`
That’s why so many conference participants from previous years have given the experience high marks, he said. `People laugh their heads off during the weekend. They can really recharge their batteries.`
The sessions aren’t the only way they can do that. On Friday night, Brett Leake will give the keynote address. Leake has muscular dystrophy but didn’t let that stand in the way of his dream of being a professional comedian. A 25-year veteran of the comedy circuit, he has been on `The Tonight Show` five times and has always been well-received when he’s spoken at the humor conference.
`Brett Leake is this amazing, inspiring human being,` Goldman said. `He’s the highest-rated keynote speaker we’ve ever had.` That’s no small feat considering previous keynote speakers include Bob Newhart, Steve Allen, Jay Leno and the Smothers Brothers.
Speaking of comedy legends, the conference will honor Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz with the Laughtime Achievement Award. Their daughter, Lucy Arnaz, will accept on their behalf and moderate a panel discussion, `Legacy of Laughter: A Playful, Powerful Panel.`
`We’re very excited that Lucy Arnaz is going to be with us,` Goodman said. `She’s an amazing talent in her own right.`
Registration for the conference is $425 before April 1. It’s $455 by May 1 and $485 thereafter. Rates are also available for pre-conference and conference registration as well as just pre-conference registration. Information is available at www.humorproject.com or by calling 587-8770.“