• Alex Gulland

I DIAGNOSIS - A MILD CASE OF ‘MAKE ‘EM LAUGH, MAKE ‘EM LAUGH’

When I was younger, I worked in the award-winning advertising agency Howell, Henry, Chaldecott, Lury & Partners.


Amongst other high-profile campaigns, they were also responsible for the original advertising for Orange Tango.


For those of you too young to remember, this iconic advertisement it involved a fat, orange, coloured man slapping another man drinking Orange Tango round the face.

Please see the evidence opposite


Trust me, it was ground-breaking stuff at the time, even though fat orange men were not and perhaps still aren't an everyday occurrence!


The face-slapping advert was long before the Pandora's box, which is Social Networking, was introduced to the world. Yes it really was that long ago!


As I found the agency world quite intimidating and the use of comedy seemed to be a failsafe ploy in advertising, as demonstrated by some of the most mould breaking campaigns , such as Tango, I used to try and hide behind my sense of humour.


So I became known as being 'quite funny'.


I hid behind being 'quite funny' for several years and it served me well, as I became a Partner of the agency mentioned above.


I think I felt I had to try and be light-hearted and laugh-a-minute; otherwise, people would see the real me! If the veil had been removed, I felt the outcome could be potentially terrifying.

Don't get me wrong I didn't walk around the agency doing fey impersonations of 'Coco The Clown' using a 'honk, honk' horn, a squirty flower, and big shoes.


I did, however, collect one-liners, quirky jokes, and classics of observational humour. I would then strategically release these well-rehearsed gems into meetings, like Special Forces operatives, whose sole mission was to lighten any situation.


I remember one meeting regarding a particular well-known biscuit brand.

We spent the entire time in hysterics as we visualised ourselves shouting, in a broad Northern accent, 'GET OUT NOW, IT'S A CRUMBLING MARKET' at a poor unsuspecting client. You had to be there, to appreciate it!


Most of all, I would make fun of myself, although sometimes I would laugh at the misfortune of others.


Now looking back at that time, I can see that I put immense pressure on myself. Being funny properly meant that you had to have a balance of both darkness and light.


This often meant taking something awful and making it funny.

Which is something I never really got the hang of.


While at the agency, I was fortunate enough to be sent on a 'Presentation' training course. The woman who ran the course was inspiring and very highly regarded in her field.


On one particular day of the course, each of us was given the brief of making our audience (the fellow course attendees) laugh, and then we had to 'move' or more accurately, make them cry.


Of course, all of us being slightly competitive, gave it our all.


I launched my presentation making fun of a traditional wedding picture, featuring a bride and groom, which I had surreptitiously removed from the wall at the hotel reception.

It was a cheap and lazy thing to do, and I said things like:


'Looks like she knows her way around that bouquet'.

'He's punching above his weight.


My audience snorted in laughter as the poor unfortunate couple, who I had decided to deride, stared mutely at us from the picture.


This was the happiest day of their lives, and there I was happily ripping it to shreds.


Then it was my turn to make people cry.


So I told the audience about my brother's wedding in LA, where there was a fatal car accident on the way to the wedding location. I won't go into detail, but it's a harrowing tale that my brother handled brilliantly and with great dignity at the time.


The death of a good friend en route to your wedding, is something from which you can never recover. Especially as the accident had left the other two car passengers, with life-changing injuries.


I, on the other hand, used the experience to 'move' people during my' presentation training'.


For years afterward, I would have nightmares about the LA traffic accident and guilt for using it as leverage on the course.


However, it did make my colleagues cry - a little too much, actually!


Maybe I took the 'brief,' from the lady running the course, too literally!


PROGNOSIS


During my' quite funny' period, the most important thing to me was to entertain and to hell with the effect that it had, not just on other people, but more importantly, myself.


I had no clue as to what to do, with all the feelings swirling away inside me.


These days I realise that being real and recognising my emotions is more important than being funny, because if you don't pay attention to what's bubbling away inside of you, eventually you will blow your top.


My training to work in the field of Equine Facilitated Learning has helped me greatly in this area.



Working with horses is incredibly grounding.


I still laugh a lot, but I don't have to force my sense of humour on people, and it's not my primary goal each day to make people laugh.


It also doesn't matter to me if the people I am dealing with aren't splitting their sides every 5 minutes. In fact, if they were, then I would be worried.


Now I realise. all those years ago, I was hiding behind being 'quite funny' because I was scared of the real me.


Over the last ten years or so, we've worked together quite closely - the 'quite funny' side of me and the 'real me'.


The 'quite funny' girl' that I was is still there, but big sister 'real me', is there to help show her the way forward and enable her to process her emotions.


We are all a mixture of feelings and experiences, but what we were in the past need not define our destiny. Our previous experiences merely help to shape us and equip us to face the present and the future.

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