• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57am

Judy Carter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 February, 2009, 12:00am

DRESSING DOWN I'm a very informal person. So when I came to Hong Kong and was a guest at the Grand Hyatt hotel I felt a little underdressed. I asked if I could wear my tracksuit at the dinner table. They said that was OK but not my slippers.

I was a little concerned how my humour would be received here because of the cultural differences. What is considered shameful in Asian culture is often considered funny in America, where comics make fun of how they're fat and ugly [for example]. I tried some of my jokes out on a flight attendant on the plane over here. She was puzzled by about 50 per cent of it and kept covering her mouth when she laughed at the rest. She told me that laughing out loud was rude. I was determined to find subjects that made people burst out laughing but to use material that had universal appeal. Technology is something that's frustrating for everybody and it doesn't hurt anybody's feelings. Acronyms are another shared subject, especially in business.

But I can find humour in anything. The economy is funny. I did a lot of shopping here; I'm helping Hong Kong's economy through the crisis.

GOOD TIMING I hold comedy workshops [in which] I teach stand-up comics. Some of them have appeared on TV - on the Jay Leno and David Letterman [United States talk] shows. Being funny is like being good at music or art. You can learn technique but it's best if you have a natural ability.

When it comes to public speaking, I can teach people to be funny for a few minutes. I did that for a television programme. I worked with a shy woman who had a special-needs child and wanted to speak to health care professionals about her experiences. I love coaching people and helping them to find their story and make it more entertaining.

Humour can also be used to diffuse a difficult situation. I tell couples who argue that they should always try to see the funny side and then they'll remember why they love each other. When you're having a blazing row, just say to your spouse, 'What's that - a waistline or the equator?' That's my advice. Yes, I'm single.

IT HELPS TO TALK If somebody had told me when I was younger that I was going to be a public speaker, I would have thought they were crazy. I had a speech impediment - quite a bad lisp - and I was self-conscious but I was determined to overcome it. Pretty much all my successes have been based on my failures.

I guess I was the class clown. I used humour as a coping mechanism when I was young. My dad was an alcoholic, so was one of my sisters. The other was a paraplegic. And my grandma was a manic depressive. Everybody in my family died young. But, you know, I think the funniest people are those who overcome adversity. People who have a wonderful life and a happy childhood are just not funny. It's pretty boring being happy.

ADDICTED TO LAUGHS Humour is my drug of choice. It's a lot healthier than drinking or gambling, although I enjoy poker, too. I'm really annoying because I pretend I don't know what I'm doing, then I clean up. Hah!

I was a magician before I was a comedian. Learning tricks was a kind of therapy for my speech impediment. I was also going through my feminist phase and enjoyed sawing men in half. One day my props didn't arrive so I had to improvise. That's when I realised that I could be a comedian.

SERIOUSLY FUNNY It's a great life. I get to travel the world, stay in great places and I'm only on stage for 20 minutes.

Actually, I do a lot of research for my corporate talks because they're tailor-made. I learn about the company and talk to the employees as well as the bosses. The comedy is observational. I have a helicopter view of life and I can process information quite quickly. There's a lot about business that's funny because it's about people. You should take your job seriously but not yourself.

The world has become humour impaired. We must remember to laugh, especially when bad things happen. You have two choices: either get stressed and drink or you can laugh ... and drink.

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