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Silly Me: The Beguiling Power Of Self-Mockery

November 15, 2011

Like many freelancers, I’m always looking for that next job. I check out job posts, and wind up visiting a lot of sites.

Recently, I had occasion to visit a design agency called Rusty George Creative. The
site made a wonderful impression on me, and it was due to the firm’s penchant for self-mockery. Every time I called up a member of the team, a random generator would spin the torsos and legs, mixing various costumes and poses. One of the oldest humor tricks in the book, but always funny. And the message was clear: We can laugh at ourselves. We’re relaxed, so you can be, too.

See for yourself: ย Three employees at Rusty George Creative from website which flips their heads, torsos, and legs so that their bodies are mixed up into thirds with different costumes and poses looking silly and funny
Three employees at Rusty George Creative from website which flips their heads, torsos, and legs so that their bodies are mixed up into thirds with different costumes and poses looking silly and funny

The site made me think a lot about humor, its enormous power to create both positive and negative impressions. Consider the About card for firm principal Rusty George himself.

I loved the idea that the most important thing about design is that it has to work. It’s a statement that inspires confidence, and I really believe it myself: bells and whistles are all for naught if one’s design fails to connect with people.

Then I read: Who he admires: Anyone who doesn’t shop at Walmart. I know that’s supposed to be funny, but it also sounds elitist. Humor can unite people, it can also divide them. Humor at someone else’s expense puts one on dangerous ground– especially in business. I think it was a mistake.

Rusty George himself from Rusty George Creative website About Page with funny mixed up head and body and short bio with derogatory remark about Walmart shoppers

By contrast, consider the About card for RG team member Alyssa below. It doesn’t just say she’s a Big Sister and a volunteer. It says she’s committed to achieving sainthood by being a Big Sister and volunteer. That made me roar with laughter, and created a wonderful impression. Good works are impressive, but they can sometimes be a little daunting. Good works and self-mockery are virtually irresistible. ย Employee about info from Rusty George Creative website with funny mixed up head and body and short bio saying she tries to be a saint by doing volunteer work

One of the funniest sections on the Rusty George site concerns bogus “Weird Holidays.” They came up with one called Hidden Talent Day, and it features RG team members demonstrating their hidden talents in a series of videos that mimic grainy old film clips. The videos display in a frame designed to look like an old-time movie theater.

It’s a fun feature that succeeds on two levels: the self-mockery is endearing and puts you at ease; it also showcases the talents of RG Creative when it comes to video production. Here are a couple of stills from the videos. OK, the fake “film streaks” should probably be behind the curtain, but hey, that’s quibbling.

From Rusty George Creative website showing funny videos celebrating fake holiday called Hidden Talent Day with guy being shot out of cannon like at a circus
From Rusty George Creative website showing funny videos celebrating fake holiday called Hidden Talent Day with gal showing off her ability to spin hula hoops

I’ll close with two photos that continue the self-mockery theme, but which also convey something vitally important: the sense that the people at RG Creative are a team. As in: We like each other, we pull together, and we bring that extra power to all our clients’ projects. Check out Halloween and Christmas at Rusty George Creative:ย Employees at Rusty George Creative all wearing funny costumes for Halloween
Employees at Rusty George Creative posing for Christmas card photo all wearing red pajamas or long underwear and opening gifts around a Christmas tree

What do you think? Is self-mockery an endearing trait? Does humor require careful thought? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. erlkeylala permalink
    November 15, 2011 7:40 PM

    i think it’s hilarious to be able to make fun of yourself in front of others.. it exudes an odd sense of humour and personally, i like it. i think it’s nice when people can laugh at themselves! however, i reckon humour does require some careful thought too coz a joke may just be a joke but it can be really offensive to some…


    • November 16, 2011 12:11 PM

      Well said! Laughing at oneself can sure come in handy, especially when you do foolish things– ask me, I know! : (

      Yes, and jokes can easily go astray, despite the best intentions. We must think before quip– or try to! I can tell you’re a good-humored person, Erl– thanks a lot for stopping by.


  2. November 15, 2011 8:08 PM

    Ah, humility: it leads to contentment and many friends! Self mockery is a bit dangerous though. After a while your friends might take you seriously…


    • November 16, 2011 12:30 PM

      Your comment was a revelation, sir. No wonder my friends all give me the same thing for Christmas: those Jester caps with the two halves that stick out with the little bells on the end. Clearly, one must practice moderation when it comes to self-mockery… : )

      Thanks for the tip, Scott, always good to see you here!


    • robpixaday permalink
      November 16, 2011 12:52 PM

      Hmmmm…….very true!


  3. robpixaday permalink
    November 16, 2011 12:51 PM

    Fantabulous! Hilarious stuff! I’d like to be part of that group, too.

    Yes, about the self-effacing, humble, etc. way to do these things. Self-mocking humor isn’t easy to do well but it can be very effective, for the reasons you gave. I know that I don’t like to spend time with folks who do most of their interpersonal outreach with one hand patting themselves on the back and the other holding that tooting-your-own-horn…uh…horn.

    It’s a decent defensive move, too, to show our foibles before they’re discovered. Then we have some control on things. Like when a campaign releases that naughty picture of the candidate before a news outlet discovers it and blabs nastiness 24/7? I think that’s called “getting in front of the story.” But I could be wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚

    But it can go sideways! Too much humility can sound pathetic. Snarkiness is off-putting (like the anti-Wal-Mart guy).

    LOVE this post!


    • November 16, 2011 2:54 PM

      A very astute analysis, Dr. King– and that’s no mock! I especially liked your point about self-mockery being a good defensive move with a view to “damage control.” I know I’ve read interviews with successful comedians who said they employed that very technique all thru high school– they were “getting in front of” ridicule from their classmates.

      Agreed: humility is not about putting a “Kick me!” sign on one’s back! And yes, snarky is the perfect word for humor that demeans others. Thank goodness you and I are perfect– thanks for your support!! : )


  4. November 19, 2011 1:47 AM

    Then I read: Who he admires: Anyone who doesnโ€™t shop at Walmart. I know thatโ€™s supposed to be funny, but it also sounds elitist. Humor can unite people, it can also divide them. Humor at someone elseโ€™s expense puts one on dangerous groundโ€“ especially in business. I think it was a mistake.
    I can’t agree more with those statements ๐Ÿ™‚

    Is self-mockery an endearing trait? It is.
    Does humor require careful thought? sometimes…it depends on the situation or some people ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the way the pictures are great and funny indeed!

    Have a good weekend, Mark ๐Ÿ™‚


    • November 19, 2011 11:52 AM

      Ah! When a post wins the approval of a good-humored person like yourself, I know I’m on solid ground! Thank you, Inge– wishing you the best here!


  5. November 20, 2011 3:37 PM

    I have finally been able to come on here properly. Your blog hasn’t been able to upload on my browser the last few days!

    This reminds me of an old card/paper game I played as a youngster where you change the bodies to something else. It was always amusing and this definitely reflects it. It’s great how one can feel comfortable to make fun of themselves, I’m sure we all do that once in a while. It also brings the point where design doesn’t have to be simple — it can be fun, imaginative and playful.

    But humour can certainly be a risk as some people have already mentioned. Some humour may be funny to a few, but others may address it the wrong way as I have seen on different medias. The only problem though is that saying some things may deter possible customers/clients, which is unfortunate.

    A definite great read, Mark =]


    • November 21, 2011 9:42 AM

      What?? Blog’s not getting along with Browser?? Sounds like two dogs having a fight… : )

      Yes, humor’s a tricky business, but I know you’ve got the knack– one look at your cheery gravatar tells me that!!

      Glad you were finally able to make the scene here in Blogsville, it’s always a pleasure having you stop by, Sabine– cheers!!


  6. December 20, 2011 7:53 PM

    Never trust a Walmart basher. He’s probably got a secret man-crush on Sam Walton. Just Sayin’…


    • December 21, 2011 8:18 AM

      Gee, I dunno if we wanna speculate too far in that direction. On the other hand, who’s better positioned to know than yourself?? : )

      Ha! Great quip, just what I’d expect from The Man Himself. Thanks for stopping by, I wish you and the RGC Team much happiness and success in 2012. Hope you’re all wearing your Christmas long johns! : )


  7. June 26, 2012 9:31 AM

    It is clever marketing, Mark. “Hey! It’s just us down-home folks like you.”

    There is a fine line to walk so that people can enjoy the self-deprecating humor and still see the “real” beyond the humorous facade. As a wanna-be class clown (many years ago), I speak from experience. ๐Ÿ˜†


    • June 26, 2012 4:31 PM

      A wannabee class clown?? Hm… I’m thinking you made it!! : )

      Boy, you’re so right, Judy. There’s a real danger in carrying self-deprecation too far. Cross that fine line, and people will write you off as someone who can’t be taken seriously. A good class clown knows when it’s time to practice restraint… : )

      Thanks so much for your comment and your good humor!


  8. June 17, 2016 5:15 PM

    Your sensitivity and insight is endearing….you are so interesting and open and warm and kind…and, you share the most interesting perspectives and experiences. As to your question, yes in the right context, self deprecation is very charming and does make the humble one approachable and appealing… the flip side–bitter, sarcasm, and self-loathing–makes me very uncomfortable, and, depending on who the person is, causes me to want to save them from themselves…a fruitless endeavour that, eventually, results in avoidance…I find it painful to see people put themselves down. Granted, we are not always fans of ourselves, but, if someone is perpetually pessimistic and down on his or herself, I tend to care from a distance :). Having said that, I am always happy to “see” you ๐Ÿ™‚


    • June 18, 2016 6:04 PM

      Ah, your words are very wise, dear Truly. One of life’s most painful experiences is knowing one can’t really help someone who clearly needs help. Your “I tend to care from a distance” sums the situation up concisely, and I think, rather poetically. We all have an obligation to protect our own mental health, and that can be a very hard lesson to learn. Not all problems have solutions, or, perhaps more accurately, solutions that we, personally, can effect.

      On a lighter note, I Tend To Care From A Distance sounds like a wonderful song title!– I feel certain something can be done with that!!

      On an even lighter note, your outrageous remarks about my sensitivity and warmth are a challenge to my native humility! I shall, however, face them bravely… ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Thank you, Most Benevolent Being!!

      Liked by 1 person

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