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About 13 years ago, I received a phone call from a pleasant and perky woman. She gave me her name and said she got my name from one of my professors at Buffalo State College. She said she was interested in the subject of humor. Her goal was to become a speaker on humor, as I am, and requested my help in accomplishing this. Thus began my odyssey with Mary.
Since I was fortunate to have a mentor/mentee relationship with a professor during the early ’90s, I was familiar with this concept and more than willing to share information with my delightful mentee.
Several weeks later, we met at a restaurant and exchanged general information and made arrangements to meet and explore ideas on how best to proceed. Despite the disparity in our ages (about 27 years), we were quite compatible.
My first suggestion to Mary was that she attend Toastmasters. This is an organization dedicated to assisting people who desire to speak to audiences and be at ease doing so. Mary began attending meetings on a regular basis. This turned out to be a very good start for her. My next suggestion was for Mary to start attending events where the subject was humor. Not only would she get a feel for the broad subject that it is, but also an appreciation of the laugh level of the audience and the appropriateness of the subject matter. I asked her to pay particular attention to what is known as gallows humor or dark humor (aka humor noire). This is a nasty type of humor that is usually insulting and should be avoided at all times.
She would then report back to me what she liked or didn’t like about the speaker’s presentation.
After attending Toastmasters meetings and various humor presentations, it was now time for the rubber to meet the road. I was scheduled to speak at a woman’s group, and I invited Mary to be my humor associate. It was her turn to be at the lectern and in front of a live audience. To accomplish this, I gave her 10 minutes of my one-hour presentation.
Considering this was her first time addressing an audience on her own, she did extremely well. She was a bit nervous at first, but she persevered and her 10 minutes flew by. From that time until the present, Mary has been with me at all of my speaking engagements. We provide each other with honest feedback and observations. It has been an arrangement that has worked out well for both of us.
Recently Mary was asked to be a speaker for a group of teachers. From what I hear, all went well and she had them smiling and laughing.
Mentoring relationships can and do work. However, it takes considerable effort on the part of both parties. At times, it needs to be reworked and tweaked so as to run smoothly. It takes a meeting of the minds, and a willingness to accept suggestions and critique comments. It also helps to have an understanding of each other’s humor and what tickles the funny bone.
As recently as May, Mary and I co-presented for a group of seniors in Springville. In anticipation of this, I rearranged most of my humor materials to fit the needs of my audience. Mary did likewise. We requested that the group be seated as close to us as possible, so that we could interact with each other. All went very well.
Establishing a mentoring relationship has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.