Emotional Self Defense in Business and in Life

One Saturday night in 1992, I was performing at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. The place was sold out, standing room only.   I was backstage talking to a fellow comedian, also named Steve.  We were discussing what a trip it was to make people laugh and, better yet, get paid for it. 

We agreed that the power of laughter has many medicinal purposes.  I suggested that since we were responsible for making people laugh, perhaps we shouldn’t be called comedians.  Maybe we should be known as “Humor Healing Technicians.”

           The conversation took on a more serious tone when Steve told me that he was HIV positive.  Now you need to understand that this was in 1992 and the HIV virus was a much bigger threat than it is today.  I asked how he was dealing with it.  His response was, “Watch me.”

“What?” I asked.

           “I’m going on before you,” he said.  “Watch my set.”

           I went to the back of the room and stood next to some of the other comedians.  .Steve was introduced and launched into his routine — “Hi, I’m Steve and I’m HIV Positive.  Don’t be concerned.  A friend of mine was diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C.  The good news is that we’re going to form a duo and call ourselves “Sick and Tired!”  He spent the next twenty minutes on the HIV virus, but from that opening moment he had the entire audience in the palm of his hand.

Steve’s Humor Being was glowing that night.  His comic timing was spot on, equaled only by the powerful message that was interwoven in and around the laughter.  He even found humor in the many side effects that occurred from all the different medication he was taking.  There were over five hundred people in that room and Steve had them laughing their butts off.  More importantly, he made them realize how healing laughter can be and how precious life truly is.  I remember saying to one of the comedians, “This guy is making people laugh about one of the biggest challenges to face this planet!”

Later that evening our conversation continued.  I told Steve that I admired his courage and found his routine to be absolutely mind blowing.  He smiled and said, “Thank you, but do you want to hear the best news of all?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“My white blood cell count has gone up phenomenally ever since I chose to deal with this challenge with humor.”  I stood there with my mouth open, searching for the proper words.  Finally, all I could think to say way, “That’s incredible.”

Later on in his career, Steve starred in his own HBO special entitled “HIV” and developed quite a following.  His humor and the message behind it inspired people who were HIV positive to embrace their challenge, rather than run from it.

I want to reiterate an important point. We all know that there is nothing funny about the HIV virus.  Steve was not laughing at his challenge.  Nor was he hiding behind the laughter.  Steve very simply used his sense of humor as a tool to laugh off the fear of the challenge. 

This in turn created a shift in his awareness.  This higher state of awareness enabled Steve to confront his challenge directly.  When confronting his fear he gradually began to understand where it was coming from and why it was controlling his life.  Understanding then led to compassion, and compassion led to the ultimate, unconditional love for himself and for life. 


Humor is a choice we all have on how to view and deal with the life’s challenges. 

Even a little levity can help change your perception of a particular problem. Humor is your natural defense mechanism. 

           It’s a prescription from your humor being to cure the emotional chaos that attacks you from day to day.  To deny yourself the right to find the humor in the midst of all the chaos is like denying yourself treatment that can cure an illness.  So, for crying out loud, do yourself a favor and laugh.

If you have any comments, or if you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to share with me.

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