Lafayette Hill Journal
Medicine man from Lafayette Hill takes a funny look at life's foibles
Laughter: it's still the best medicine.
HE FINDS HUMOR IN THE STRANGEST PLACES: CAREER WORRIES, RELATIONSHIP WOES, CHRONIC STRESS..
AND. PROVES THAT'S IT'S ALWAYS BETTER TO KEEP YOUR FUNNY SIDE UP.
By: May Mariner
"Stress is something you wish you didn't have," says Joel Weintraub. "But get together with friends and you kill yourself trying to prove that you have more of it. One guy says, "I've got an ulcer,' and the other replies, 'Mine's bleeding."
Same with older folks and their health problems. I walked into the lobby of a senior citizens' home and saw a guy talking to his friend. One guy was complaining about his arthritis, the other one was talking about his heart disease. Then I see one guy just sitting there. He says, I'd like to develop a bunion so I can have a half-decent conversation.'"
Weintraub's thesis: As much as we gripe about our problems, we are also very fond of them. And boy, do we love to flaunt them - as if health problems, financial job woes or relationship troubles were badges of importance. (Just look at The Jerry Springer Showfor an example of the latter.)
But go ahead and worry. The sheer lack of fun in modern human experience, along with the toll it can take on the human body, have enabled Weintraub to build an unusual career. The
Lafayette Hill physiologist may be one of the few working standup comics who blends medicine and philosophy along with his one-liners.
Weintraub has a master's degree in exercise physiology and an undergraduate degree in health education from Temple University. But he also has a delivery that rivals Jerry Seinfeld's, and onstage manner that recalls angst-ridden comedian Richard Lewis. The difference with Weintraub: he's out to defuse that chronic stress. He's got a seemingly endless supply of gags that illustrate his points about the importance of keeping your funny side up. And that separates him from the rest of the health and healing industry.
"In the health and fitness business, (practitioners) become bible thumpers," Weintraub observes. "People don't want to hear it. But make a joke, and people will not only remember it, they'll repeat it."
Same with discussing relationships. "Usually men and women are in denial about their relationship problems, and spend a lot of time saying it's the other person's fault, "says Weintraub. "If they intellectualize, they'll disagree with you. But they're laughing, they can say, 'Yah, you're right there.'"
Weintraub's unorthodox career actually began during childhood. As a kid Weintraub studied martial arts as a way to fend off the bigger kids. Like many comics, he soon learned that being funny could accomplish the same objective.
In college, he officially combined the two disparate disciplines. "First I was working in cardiac rehab and running fitness centers, all the while doing standup comedy," he says. "Then I found out that a degree in Physiology in those years was like having a degree in unemployment." He decided to graft his comedy career to his health career. These days the 42-year old Weintraub takes his show on the road at least three times a week, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, schools. corporations, synagogues, and churches. He speaks on health and fitness, stress management, nutrition, exercise and sports medicine. He even takes substance abuse and mines it for its comic potential - a great departure from the norm, and certainly a relief for people weary of professional preaching.
Weintraub calls his series "humor for the health of it." His audiences call it entertaining," "dynamic," and most importantly, "very funny."
Stages of Growth
On the home front, Weintraub "came close to getting married a few times," but never took the plunge. "I'd end up talking to a few friends who were divorced," and apparently that would be the deal breaker. But "I'd always end up with five more minutes of material," Weintraub laughs. "It got to the point where women became apprehensive about ending up in my shows."
The "humor Pharmacist" also finds inspiration in his audience. Fearlessly improvisational, Weintraub welcomes open dialogue with the people out front. He even credits them with helping shape his act. "We're writing as we go along," he says of the collaboration. "And some of the greatest lines come out when you're on the spot."
Weintraub calls eastern philosophy, specifically zen, a guide for those who would be less harried. Rigid strength is not necessarily a virtue, he says. People should allow themselves to lay down some of their self-imposed burden. "An oak tree will break," he says, citing the Buddhist axiom. "A willow will bend."
Weintraub is now expanding his repertoire of programs to include motivational seminars. "I'll talk about the social, the physical, the financial and career. People should adjust those four issues, then add the spiritual by going to the church or prayer hall of their choice.
"It's important to develop physically, emotionally, financially, and occupationally. Be passionate about your life's endeavor."
For years, the life enhancing properties of hearty laughter have been affirmed by health gurus like Norman Cousins and Andrew Weil. Laughter is alleged to actually prolong life, standing an old saying on its head. Far better to say, He who laughs best, laughs last. Joel Weintraub wants to insure that people get the message while they can still enjoy it.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Health and Science
Laughter Is the Medicine for Body and Soul
There is nothing in life as precious as laughter. Laughing is a close cousin of crying. It's a tool of catharsis, an involuntary spasm of deep emotion. Tragedy is often the wellspring of laughter and laughter helps us cope with the inexplicable and uncontrollable. Laughter, says Mel Brooks, is "our defense against the universe".
My personal philosophy is that 90 percent of life is absurd and the remaining 10 percent is nonsense. There are two ways to respond to this knowledge. You can seek solace with a drink in hand or you can laugh. I prefer the latter. It's more enjoyable, better for you body and mind and as we all know, he who laughs ... lasts.
This is the message that Joel Weintraub is peddling. Weintraub is by training a physiologist, health educator and neuroscience researcher. Actually, he's a teacher who realizes that the most effective way to instruct and enlighten is to amuse and entertain. Rather than preach at people about health, fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, leadership and management, child development, behavior and brain development, Alzheimer's disease and memory techniques,as well as money management and money and the brain, he tries to make them laugh. His shtick is stand-up comedy. His operating principle is that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. "All I want to do is make people laugh," says Weintraub, "so they'll take what I have to say seriously.
Last week I worked out with my girlfriend. I suggested she wear loose clothing. She told me, "If I had any loose clothing, I wouldn't need to work out."
Weintraub grew up in Philadelphia and went to Northeast High, where he ran track and swam. He majored in health education at Temple University, where he also earned a master's in physiology. As a teenager, he was small and puny. He made amends by lifting weights and practicing martial arts. He also discovered the advantages of humor and began doing stand-up comedy. "Growing up small, it gave me an edge," he says. You'd have to be mighty mean to pick on a shrimp who makes you laugh.
Physiology and exercise physiology, Weintraub soon discovered, was a synonym for unemployment. "My instructor kept telling us salaries in the field were high, but when I began looking for a job, it was the only occupation not listed in the Help Wanted section.
So Weintraub made an important decision: to eat. Pursuant to that ambition, he dreamed up the idea of combining vocation and avocation by sharing what he knows about the care and maintenance of the body through the medium of humor.
His aim is to keep folks "laughing while learning, and learning while laughing. "Humor and laughter are truth," says Weintraub. "When someone laughs at a joke, basically they are saying, "Yeah, you're right. I may not want to admit it, but you are right". "When done correctly, humor is a socially acceptable form of criticism and laughing is the ultimate form of acceptance."
Atlantic City Press
Senior citizens learn how humor helps health
by Joyce Vanaman
VINELAND — The senior citizens went on a fitness walk on the outdoor track at the Center for Health and Fitness on Thursday, and they did country line dancing on the tennis court, and they laughed and laughed.
When Joel Weintraub asked what their hobbies were, some said playing pinochle, bingo and poker "I can tell I’m in New Jersey: everything is gambling.’ he said.
Weintraub's comedy-lecture, Humor for the Health of It" touched on stress management, nutrition, exercise and fitness, hobbies and recreation - all with humor.
The more than 100 seniors who participated In the activities at the Center for health and Fitness joined an estimated 100,000 seniors participating in National Senior Health and Fitness Day, said Erin Romani, sponsor of the Wellness Center at South Jersey Hospital-Bridgeton.
Weintrauh, who has a masters degree in exercise physioIogist and an undergraduate degree in health education from Temple University, has lectured to corporations. Government agencies and other organizations. He also has performed as a stand-up Comedian at numerous clubs on the East Coast
Using Jim Smith, 69, of Bridgeton, as his partner, Weintraub tossed him one plastic cup, which he said became boring; then two cups, which required some skill in going back and forth; then three cups, which imposed too much stress.
"There are external stressors like traffic and storms, which you can't control," Weintraub said. "There are internal stressors that are more self-imposed - like turning a bonfire into a towering inferno. If you're in a traffic jam, think of it as a time for solitude," he advised.
People can make themselves miserable through the perception of stress. Weintraub pointed out.
"Smiling helps," he emphasized. "If you're smiling, it's almost impossible to be miserable. You can't be miserable when you do something you enjoy. get a hobby."
A strong advocate of excercise, Weintraub encouraged Al Cohen, 80, of Bridgeton to do hand strength exercises with him. "That's the first time I've done anything for a couple of years," said Cohen, who is recovering from an illness. His wife, Jean, said she exercises regularly.
And both of them laughed heartily at Weintraub's jokes. "Humor is so contagious," Weintraub said.
Laughter and sex are similar, according to Weintraub, adding, "laughter you can do over and over and over again."
"When you use humor in life, you can think better," Weintraub said.
Mary Ellen Green of Cedarville, a special care nurse at Newcomb Medical Center and an area story teller, said she attended the program even though she's not a senior citizen because "it's been a stressful week and I came to get a god laugh. he's a good speaker and I feel better."
Grace Loyle, 71, of Vineland, "wore," her sense of humor. Her T-shirt read: "At my age, I've seen it all; I've heard it all; I've done it all; I just can't remember it all."
"I thought the speaker was excellent," said Loyle. "I liked his relaxed delivery and outlook and his positive approach."