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Publisher's Summary

Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today Best Seller

Anyone - even you! - can learn how to harness the power of humor in business (and life), based on the popular class at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

“The ultimate guide to using the magical power of funny as a tool for leadership and a force for good.” (Daniel H. Pink, number-one New York Times best-selling author of When and Drive)

There exists a mistaken belief in today’s corporate world: that we have to be serious all the time in order to be taken seriously. But the research tells a different story: that humor can be one of the most powerful tools we have for accomplishing serious things. Studies show that humor makes us appear more competent and confident, strengthens relationships, unlocks creativity, and boosts our resilience during difficult times. Plus, it fends off a permanent and unsightly frown known as “resting boss face".

Top executives are in on the secret: 98 percent prefer employees with a sense of humor, and 84 percent believe that these employees do better work. But even for those who intuitively understand humor’s power, few know how to wield it with intention. As a result, humor is vastly underleveraged in most workplaces today, impacting our performance, relationships, and health.

That’s why Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas teach the popular course Humor: Serious Business at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where they help some of the world’s most hard-driving, blazer-wearing business minds build levity into their organizations and lives.

In Humor, Seriously, they draw on findings by behavioral scientists, world-class comedians, and inspiring business leaders to reveal how humor works and - more important - how you can use more of it, better.

Aaker and Bagdonas unpack the theory and application of humor: what makes something funny and how to mine your life for material. They show how to use humor to make a strong first impression, deliver difficult feedback, persuade and motivate others, and foster cultures where levity and creativity can thrive - not to mention, how to keep it appropriate and recover if you cross a line.

President Dwight David Eisenhower once said, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” If Dwight David Eisenhower, the second least naturally funny president ever (after Franklin Pierce), thought humor was necessary to win wars, build highways, and warn against the military-industrial complex, then you might consider learning it, too.

Seriously.

©2020 Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Fresh, profound, and consistently entertaining. I know the words ‘evidence-based’ don’t immediately connote riotous laughter, but Aaker and Bagdonas bring some irresistibly compelling science to the art and application of humor.” (Kelly Leonard, executive vice president of The Second City)

“Of all the known ways to ruin humor, the most common start with the words ‘research,’ ‘analyze,’ and ‘professor.’ The bad news is that this book features all of those words. Prominently. The good news is that against all odds, you’ll actually have fun reading it.” (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife)

“In this eye-opening, important and utterly enjoyable book, Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas use science to explain how humor at work (and in life) helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and burnout. Come for the humor, stay for the insights.” (Arianna Huffington, cofounder of The Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive Global) 

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What listeners say about Humor, Seriously

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Not worth your time or money

This text caught my attention in an airport so naturally I went to audible for portability...what a disappointment. You'd think this would help you in business, but the whole of the book can be summarized as: Humor makes us human and likeable. There is no further content of any use, just the authors sounding desperate to be published.

3 people found this helpful

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It gives me several good laughs, but that’s about it.

Personal opinion only. Half through the book, I noticed myself struggle to pay attention. I bought this book expecting practical advices on how to add humor into my day-to-day life, especially at work. Written by professors from a prestigious university, this book did not deliver what it seems to promise. Despite the reading performance was on spot most of the time, the content is simply written for an exclusive audience, not the general public. Here’s why:
- The first few chapters attempt to explain at length why humor is important and it really works if you play it right. It may seem to be a natural opening but the whole time I was listening, I was wondering does the author think the readers are completely ignorant about the importance of humor? If they bought the book, it’s because they already believe in the concept. You already have their buy-in. Repeating again and again how useful humor can be does not add true value to your readers.
- After the initial chapters, the writers seems to be very zoomed in the world of senior executives and CEOs. Most of the examples illustrated how adding humor to your leadership will make you a better leader. It might be valuable to people who already has the prestige in their environment to struck random humor in front of people they manage. After all, would you call out or really laugh at your CEO if he makes a bad joke? Of course not. Another example show cased an employee’s call back jokes with her manager. What struck me that the authors failed to acknowledge that of the manager and that employee already has a relationship to talk about her hair style comfortably, it lowers the bar of trying to be funny significantly. Context matters!
- Most (not all) theories these examples only apply in a vacuum, where the dynamic is already set up or the report is already built. You are naturally at the place to be funny because you have the psychological safety. Most people who work in a flat (aka not funny) environment, not Google, not Apple, not Slack, the breakthrough is building that psychological safety in a team, not thinking about what joke you can tell.
- Many of the conclusions and arguments and the joke attempts are quite forced. Maybe it’s because my lack of humor, which explains why I’m after this book. Just not inspired.

2 people found this helpful

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Worst way to understand humor

Keep talking about humor’s importance in the most boring way possible. Authors should go back to standard business topics and not waste readers time

2 people found this helpful

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A Serious Look at Humor

I very much enjoyed listening to this book. I made it through in less than two days because I didn't want to stop listening to what the authors had to say. That their words and ideas were backed by research is a real bonus.
I think there are many words of wisdom in this audiobook that benefited me and could benefit pretty much everyone else.

2 people found this helpful

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Regret the purchase

The major flaw of the book is its Weird/American psychology flavor, since it cites mainly research conducted on American undergraduate students and business employees living in an individualistic country. The main target seems to be the suffering Dilberts in worldwide companies following American management recipes. The fun tone added to narration did not work for me; I found it annoying. Many bland examples and little theory. I regret losing my time on this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Surprisingly Enlightening

This work was a bit of a surprise. While I had an inkling of the items they might cover, learned a lot about the topic and was able to relate it over my careers. The choice of the authors as narrators was brilliant as it was not like it was being read, but being told as a narrative type story. A real joy and I am so glad I got it.

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This book will entertain, engage, and educate you

I devoured Humor, Seriously, in nearly one sitting. (Okay I was recovering from an Appendectomy… So I couldn’t do much more than sit.) This book is fantastic.

Aaker and Bagdonas beautifully weave together solid research, actionable strategies, and clever illustrations to create this tapestry of humor’s value. It’s not simply “fun and games” but a compelling argument for mastering and applying humor in business.

They truly welcome you into their powerful partnership through their personal narration. Very well worth a listen.

JD Schramm, author Communicate with Mastery

1 person found this helpful

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Enlightening & Entertaining!

I love that the authors narrate with their own cheeky senses of humors! I learned a lot and laughed a lot! my only disappointment was the audio book finally... I was disappointed it was over. looking forward to see what they do next. Thank you Jennifer and Naomi!

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Funny AND I needed it

This book was entertaining to listen to, and it also helped me think through what I’m trying to accomplish. Very smart, loved it.

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A welcome injection of levity into every facet of life!

I think I’m starting to scare off my friends with my fervent and animated rants about how wonderful this book is…so I’ll direct my ranting to the good listeners of Audible, instead. This book has everything: research, storytelling, historical anecdotes, interviews with some of my favorite funny people, clear & energetic narration, and oh the footnotes! I feel seen, heard, touched, caressed, inspired, and so validated. I came into the book as someone who was inclined to seek/make moments of silliness and levity but was frequently self-conscious that I could be perceived as “unprofessional” for doing so; now, I am coming away with an appreciation for how humor has tangible benefits for me & my colleagues, as well as a better understanding of both my personal humor style and my role in promoting a joyful culture in my office. I can’t wait to get this book for everyone on my Christmas list, pressure them into reading it, and then starting a book club which I will inevitably abandon once we’ve all read and discussed this book! “Humor, Seriously” is a home run :)