What’s So Funny?

“Schitt’s Creek,” “Derry Girls,” and “I Mom So Hard,” for starters. Given all that 2020 was and believing that a good guffaw is the best form of therapy, we asked community leaders what makes them laugh. Here’s what they told us.

Don Coffin
President and CEO, Bankers Trust

I love to laugh at silly things. The movie “Caddy Shack” comes to mind, or other mindless movies that many people don’t find funny. … I even find laughter in my own general clumsiness, which often happens in front of groups. For example, on a virtual call I spoke for more than three minutes while on mute, thinking that everyone waving was just cheering me on. That was fun. More recently, I spilled an entire pot of coffee during an in-person, socially distanced board meeting. I think the president of the board was more flabbergasted than me! I believe it’s good to find humor in these small moments.

Kristi Knous
President, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

I’m obsessed with the ladies from “I Mom SO Hard” (#imomsohard). I watch some of their antics on YouTube over and over again, especially the swimsuit, facial hair and Spanx episodes. (Check them out if you haven’t.) They are so real and vulnerable. I join them in laughing so hard snot flies and tears flow. What a great escape!

Teree Caldwell-Johnson
CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood

Getting caught having my own private dance party in my car. I tend to groove out when I’m driving. When caught I can do nothing other than laugh and take solace enjoying my “me-time moments!”

Marty Martin
President, Drake University

“Derry Girls” on Netflix and watching our dog’s daily battle to keep squirrels out of our yard—one benefit of working from home most days.

Roxanne Conlin

I have a weakness for old sitcoms—even the “The Beverly Hillbillies”—[plus] “Designing Women,” “Murphy Brown” and virtually anything from the ’60s and ’70s. My Animal Rescule Leage foster kittens always make me laugh, and I joke about needing some kitten time every couple of hours. My husband makes me laugh every day and has for 56 years.

Jay Byers
President and CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

I find Chuck Klosterman books to be very amusing. Recent TV series that crack my wife and me up include “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Cobra Kai.” Watching “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” with my daughter always makes us laugh. I also am a big fan of “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Richard Deming, M.D.
Medical director of MercyOne Cancer Center and founder of Above and Beyond Cancer

I recently assembled a group of cancer patients together to share poetry around a campfire. Some of the poems we shared were deep and meaningful (Mary Oliver, Rumi, Rilke). However, the poems of Shel Silverstein from his 1974 collection, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” got all of us laughing out loud. One of my favorites is “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out.” Laughter is definitely good medicine.

Mike Draper
Founder and owner, Raygun

For some reason, I never got around to watching any “Parks and Recreation,” so always just pretended to get the “Treat yo self” and “Pawnee vs. Eagleton” references here at the store. However, having entirely missed all 126 episodes has turned out to be a blessing during the pandemic because it has filled up over a month of my wife’s and my evenings. The show is absolutely perfect, and perfect to watch this year.

Emily Abbas
Senior vice president, chief consumer banking and marketing officer, Bankers Trust

Things that make me laugh almost always come from the totally unexpected. I wish I could create those situations—wouldn’t that be great? I’ve found the next best thing is choosing to have a happy and positive frame of mind. It takes just 16 seconds, no joke, and I learned it from a minister who called it the “16-Second Smile.” It feels like a ridiculously long time to smile for no reason—and always boosts my mood. Try it! The best part is it is contagious. When someone sees you smiling, their brain will compel them to smile back and, given karma, perhaps set the stage for an unexpected, good laugh.

Tar Macias
Founder, Hola America

“Schitt’s Creek.” Not only does it make you laugh, it makes you cry, and it makes you think.

Renee Hardman
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa

My puppy Faith, a Yorkie and Shih Tzu mix. I laugh at how she plays with her toys, fusses around with a little rug, and almost unmakes my bed to get it just the way she wants. And when I come home, she always wipes away the stress from my day.

Elisabeth Buck
President, United Way of Central Iowa

There are obvious things like playing with my granddaughter or enjoying a favorite show—I love “Schitt’s Creek”!—but also the little moments that are so strange for us all now, [like] when someone forgets to unmute themselves and we all laugh because we’ve been there, or sharing our feelings about what we can’t wait to do when the world gets back to normal.

Tiffany Tauscheck
Chief operating officer, Greater Des Moines Partnership

I can always count on “The Office” to make me laugh. Some of my other favorites for a chuckle include “Schitt’s Creek,” old-school “SNL” episodes, and TV news bloopers. And, after more than 15 years together, my husband’s dry sense of humor can still make me laugh so hard I cry.

Chris Kramer
Director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

I love laughing with friends and family, especially my three kids. They can do impressions on cue [and] have some amazing dance moves. Actually, I love watching anybody dance. It fills me with so much joy. Oh, and, of course, “Parks and Recreation.”

Frank Cownie
Mayor of Des Moines

My granddaughter, Natalie, who speaks eloquently in the third person: “Grandpa, Natalie likes cupcakes!” My partner, Tina, when she dryly (off-the-record) muses on the highs and lows of public service. And, the movie “Wedding Crashers.”

Angela Walker Franklin
President and CEO, Des Moines University

My husband, Thaddeus, and I find great joy and laughter when we have time with our 4-year-old granddaughter, Harper. At this age, every day includes the magic of discovery and make believe. One moment she is a teacher or doctor, the next a princess in a magical land, and everything in between. Her convictions and statements are often hilarious and refreshing. Then there is … sliding down carpeted stairways to see who can get to the bottom first. Laughter abounds in her presence.

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