This article appears in the March issue of 400 Life Magazine
Between her stand-up comedy career, web series and being a regular guest on other shows, Amy Lyle is used to public speaking and being in front of a crowd, but, according to her, a recent endeavor was unlike anything she’s ever done.
In January, TEDxBeaconStreet, an offshoot of TED Talks, posted Lyle’s presentation, “Finding the Funny in the Crummy,” where the comedian discusses connective humor — a phrase Lyle coined for jokes — even from things that might not have been funny at the time, that creates a relatable bond between the teller and the listener.
In her talk, Lyle gives an example of falling “all the way down” a flight of stairs while at work. Lyle said she remembered being humiliated at the moment until a woman who helped her asked, “But did you chip your teeth?”
“She had chipped her teeth in a great fall, and in that moment, we laughed,” Lyle told the audience, “but more importantly, we connected. By sharing her great fall, I felt better about mine. The healing power of humor is much stronger than we think.”
In a recent interview with 400 Life, Lyle spoke about what it was like writing and performing a TED Talk, which is a bit more academic than most comedy and what lessons she hoped viewers walked away with.
“It was just great,” she said. “The whole point was I wanted to spread this message of how can you learn to see the world through a lens of humor if you don’t. Naturally, I see the world that way, but other people don’t, so I went through the steps of that. It’s like looking for gratitude every day. It’s a muscle, and if you start looking for gratitude, you see gratitude.
“It’s the same for humor. If you start looking for humor every day, you see humor.”
In the presentation, Lyle cites two studies that look at the impacts of connective humor.
The first was a study that looked at one group of American POWs from the Vietnam War who, compared to other captives, came away with less PTSD or other issues, which the soldiers and researchers said was due to maintaining a sense of humor.
“Even though it was morbid and horrible, in that moment, that’s what they clung to, and it saved their sanity,” Lyle said.
Similarly, Lyle said there were several studies looking at humor for those who have fought breast cancer and a friend who is a breast cancer survivor was able to give Lyle her take on it.
“I love this quote. She said ‘being able to find the funny in the not-so-funny’ made her feel better, but it also made the people around her feel better because they didn’t know what to say to her because she had breast cancer,” Lyle said. “And, of course, breast cancer is not funny, but there was some funny things going on at that time. Like, for example, she said her dad asked her about her ‘autopsy’ on the day of her biopsy.”
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Lyle has written two books, “The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures,” a humorous memoir of her own failures, and “We’re All a Mess, It’s OK,” a collection of Lyle and others talking about their failures, and co-hosts ‘In the Burbs,’ an online talk show with Gina Ryals, featuring a variety of guests.
She said signing up to do a TED Talk was unlike anything she had tried before, but still included a good bit of failure.
“The first thing that you have to do is get an invitation, and coming from the girl who wrote ‘The book of Failures,’ it took me 100 applications,” she said. “I had to hire a company to help write the application. I’m a humor writer; it is very academic, it’s a lot of CEOs that run the TEDx organizations, and I needed my good intentions talk of seeing the world through the lens of humor to come across more academic.”
After applying to TEDxBeaconStreet, Lyle received an invitation, but like everything else in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic meant things had to be done a little differently since the talks could not be held in Boston as planned.
Luckily, Lyle was able to call on friends to help her prepare her material, help with production and even offer up The Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta as a venue.
“I think it would have been a different energy walking on the stage in Boston and having 200 people there,” she said. “I think it would be a different set up where they have a 100-foot screen set up for that, but it was still fun, and it was still amazing.”
Compared to a standup set, Lyle said giving a semi-serious presentation was a little more rigid with less room from improv and involved a lot of memorization, which she described as “scary.”
“Most of my standup is about my husband and my kids, so it really doesn’t matter what order it’s in, so if I forget a joke, I can throw it in later and nobody is the wiser,” Lyle said. “But preparing for a Ted Talk, it was some humor stories, but also some academic things that you wanted to make sure were perfect, then there was a how-to section, so it was organized into like a first act, second act, third act.
So far Lyle said she has had a pretty good response to the TED Talk, not only in terms of views but also from those who said they are taking on Lyle’s challenges in the video to find five funny things a day, sharing the humor from their own life writing down their worst moments and revisiting them in 30 days.
“A lot of my humor is from ‘I made this mistake’ or ‘I fell down in public’ or something humiliating,” she said. “What I found out is when you share something like that, people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re not going to believe what I did,’ and it instantly kind of bonds you to that person because you know they are authentic and real.”
Watch Lyle’s TED Talk: Youtube: Amy Lyle | Finding the Funny in the Crummy