Everyone knows the old proverb “laughter is the best medicine”, but there’s a lot more power to humour than its medicinal qualities. Tickling people’s funny bones is also a great way to capture and maintain their attention.
This is something that a lot of charities are starting to do and here are six of the best examples of how they are using humour to get their message across.
British Heart Foundation - Vinnie Jones
When British Heart Foundation wanted to promote CPR they found a perfect match in ex-footballer, part-time comedic actor and full-time hard-man Vinnie Jones. The technique which uses short and fast chest compresses with no mouth-to-mouth was succinctly summed up by Jones’ “hands only CPR, no kissing.”
The genius of the video is in its casting, there are few people who could carry off the ferocious assertiveness while showing the ease of the procedure as well as Jones does. His detailed yet humorous explanation of the CPR procedure combined with his overtly masculine delivery is enough to turn any bloke down the pub into a potential lifesaver.
While this is a great example of how to use comedy to appeal to a certain audience it does also demonstrate the subjectivity of comedy and its possible divisive effects as not everyone was impressed by Jones’ ultra-macho spiel.
Amnesty - Edinburgh festival
Edinburgh Festival Fringe festival is one of the largest arts and comedy events in the world. Held every August in the Scottish capital the Fringe festival attracts performers from every continent and has become a stage for new and interesting comedians and acts to find fame.
For the past fifteen years Amnesty UK has been using the event to raise awareness and promote human rights issues. In 2012, they held a variety of events including two comedy shows, a comedians vs. critics football match and a series of audio podcasts featuring the likes of Mark Watson, Fred MacAulay and Susan Calman. They have also handed out the Amnesty Freedom of Expression award for the past nine years to the production which best raises awareness of human rights. Their constant attendance at the festival has made them one of the most well know there.
CollegeHumor - Malarious
To raise funds to help fight Malaria, Malaria No More teamed up with CollegeHumor – a popular American comedy website – and over 30 celebrities to create a series of web videos in which the celebrities act funny, silly and, on occasion, downright ridiculous.
College Humor’s expertise with web-video shows as all of the videos are perfectly suited to the internet, short in length but full of jokes. A trailer for the videos is freely available to watch, showing just a taste of the celebrities’ antics, but to get access to all 24 of the videos a one-off donation of $1 or above is required. So far the videos have raised enough money to save almost 8,000 lives.
The Oatmeal - Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum
We’ve talked about The Oatmeal and its fundraising exploits before, when the site took on FunnyJunk. Following his success raising money for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, the site’s owner Matthew Inman decided to help out the legacy of cult internet hero Nikola Tesla. Known mainly for his contributions to the creation of the alternating current, Tesla was an important but underappreciated figure in creating the technology we take for granted today.
When Inman found out that Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory was to be torn down he turned to the internet. Asking for donations from the fans of his popular and hilarious webcomic Inman has, as of writing, raised one and a quarter million dollars, enough to ensure that the lab will stay standing.
Cure Kids - Flight of the Concords
In 2012 Cure Kids teamed up with New Zealand’s self proclaimed “fourth most popular guitar based digi-bongo acapella rap funk comedy folk duo” Flight of the Concords to raise money for sick kids.
The musical twosome set about creating a charity song with a twist. Instead of coming up with lyrics from scratch they decided to enlist the help of some kids. They asked children what they thought was the best way to raise money, which was met with some wonderfully insightful responses. And thus, Feel Inside (and stuff like that) was written. The hilarious song, along with the interviews with the kids was featured on New Zealand’s version of Red Nose day and ended up a success, topping the New Zealand music charts.
Comic Relief - Red Nose Day
It’d be impossible to talk about comedy and charity without mentioning Red Nose Day. This monolithic biennial event is one of the most concerted and effective at using comedy to raise money. Since its inception in 1988 it has raised over £650,000 million, with £108 million being raised at its most recent event in 2011 alone.
Comic Relief shows the true power of comedy, it manages to unite the country around a common cause to create a shared emotion. The contrast between the levity of the show and the seriousness of the issues at hand is also used masterfully – amplifying the hilarious highs and the heart-rendering lows – to create a real emotional pull that makes people genuinely care about the issues at hand.
These are just a few of the great ways charities are using comedy to get people’s attention. If you have any other examples then leave a message in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org