Funny Girl

TV icon Jerry Seinfeld described comedy this way: "There are four levels of comedy: Make your friends laugh, make strangers laugh, get paid to make strangers laugh, and make people talk like you because it's so much fun."

Other than getting paid for it, author and psychiatrist Joel Schwartz, M.D., couldn't agree more. And his latest book, Noses Are Red: How to Nurture Your Child's Sense of Humor, is offered as a way out of the doldrums, and into a world of humor that will help build your and your child's self-esteem.

Says Schwartz, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Abington Memorial Hospital, "I am waging a campaign to stamp out ADHD (Adult Deficient Humor Disorder). My book is an attempt at preventing this problem."

As a certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst — as well as associate director, and head of child and adolescent services at Northwestern Institute — Schwartz says he can attest to the fact that humor can help everyone socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally. And although his other books — eight so far — are for young adolescents ages 10 to 14, including Upchuck Summer, which sold more than 150,000 copies in paperback, this latest one is meant for the whole family.

"A study done in England attempted to find out whether humor is genetic or whether it's learned," explains Schwartz. "After a study of twins they concluded that you're not born with either a good or bad sense of humor. I do think that you can try and give people a funny perspective on life, and that could prove a very beneficial way for them to look at things, especially in child development when having a sense of humor can teach children to flourish both at home and at school."

Schwartz says his sense of humor was fostered in his own home: "My grandmother had a great sense of humor, as did my father. On the other hand, my mother was the East Coast distributor for guilt. She had her own 800 number. She used to take long pauses when speaking, and then sigh a lot. But they were all creative in one way or another, so I got the creative gift of being able to write and look at things in a funny way."

However, he adds, he put away most of those gifts in order to follow his mother's wishes to become a doctor "like a good Jewish boy. My mother said, 'As long as you go to college and medical school and become a doctor, you can do whatever you want.' "

Having It Both Ways
But now, Schwartz is determined to do exactly what he wants, and interestingly enough, that's combining both career paths. And he decided to write this book because in doing research about helping kids learn to laugh, he says he found lots of good information that was not, however, written in a way that proved good for parents.

Says Schwartz: "So I thought I'd do things a little differently, add some great illustrations and explain child development in a way that was easy to learn, and hit the highlights of just how it would all interface with humor."

The result? The little, 46-page paperback, Noses Are Red, divided into several chapters including how to engender humor in children at various stages of life, answers to important questions, the role of family, and more — much written tongue-in-cheek, but leaving the reader with sound advice.

In the chapter on family, for instance, Schwartz writes: "The first and most important learning venue in a child's life takes place within the family. The child is always watching, experiencing, imitating and identifying with his or her parents and siblings. If humor is one of your priorities, it will be a priority in your child's life."

Schwartz also challenges parents by asking how they would like to give their children a gift they can use for the rest of their lives? It's a gift that's inexpensive (in fact, it's free) — a gift that will help them socially, intellectually and enhance their physical and emotional health, a gift that will bond your family together, and one that parents can use themselves? u

For more information, e-mail: [email protected]


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