Humor, Seriously by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas (Book Review)

Since I also wrote my review of Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution while pulling an all-nighter, it is only appropriate that I write my review of a book about humor to be as dry as a Bollywood dance number without the music.

As fate would have it, back in 2013, I crossed paths with Professor Jennifer Aaker while studying in her class at an executive program for CTOs at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. She taught us about the effectiveness of storytelling in business, which turned out to be so powerful I used the skills to successfully haggle with seasoned street vendors in Old Delhi.

Those days, in my role as CTO of The New York Times, I dual reported to Jill Abramson, the editor-in-chief and to Marc Frons, the corporate CIO. I found myself ping-ponging between the newsroom and the business side, making me feel like a tech-savvy Forrest Gump. But hey, at least I honed my storytelling skills along the way! Growing up in a family that practically breathed literature and journalism, I developed a deep appreciation for the fine art of weaving tales. Sure, data and logic are the bread and butter of communication, but storytelling is the secret sauce that makes them palatable. Studies show that our brains are hardwired for stories. Our neurons are attracted to stories like a dance enthusiast to a bhangra beat.

On reading “Humor, Seriously” by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, I felt the book is so amusing and insightful that it could even make a stoic philosopher like me crack a smile. The authors skillfully demonstrate how injecting humor into our professional and personal lives can be the catalyst for success and well-being.

The book is structured around H.U.M.O.R: Harnessing, Understanding, Mastering, Observing, and Releasing humor. Each section is peppered with wit and wisdom, making you feel like you’re attending the Big Fat Indian Wedding of humor and neuroscience – a vibrant, colorful, and unforgettable experience.

As I delved into the chapters, I found myself laughing out loud, my mood instantly brightened by the authors’ razor-sharp wit and relatable anecdotes. Aaker and Bagdonas have a unique ability to make humor feel as accessible as your favorite podcast or sitcom, all while maintaining an air of sophistication. They demonstrate that humor is not reserved for late-night talk show hosts, but is a skill accessible to all – even those like me with the comedic timing of a dial-up modem.

One key takeaway from “Humor, Seriously” is that genuine humor should flow organically from our unique personalities and experiences. Forcing humor is like playing Bollywood tunes at a Vipassana meditation retreat.

The authors also share the benefits of humor in creating a positive work environment, explaining how shared laughter can foster a sense of camaraderie, much like a team-building exercise over a steaming pot of biryani. By incorporating humor into the workplace, employees are more likely to feel engaged, valued, and motivated to tackle challenges head-on.

“Humor, Seriously” is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their communication skills, build stronger relationships, and infuse their lives with a dash of wit and charm. Aaker and Bagdonas have brilliantly blended humor and intelligence to create a book that is equal parts enjoyable and valuable. So, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “Humor, Seriously” – you’ll be laughing your way to a better life in no time. Seriously.





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