New Jersey pols are not making people laugh hard enough.
At the annual New Jersey State League of Municipal Governments convention there are seminars on the wonky aspects of government — strategic planning, new traffic safety tools and best practices in infrastructure. But elected officials also presented an event on humor.
Panelists said a good one-liner or self-deprecating comment can ease tensions during heated meetings, neutralize political foes and make officials appear more approachable.
The seminar even got a few laughs out of the participants. In the bit that got the loudest laugh, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick looked over the crowd and said he saw the head of the Hoboken Parking Authority.
“I can’t imagine what he does,” Bramnick said. “Because there’s no parking in Hoboken.”
Bramnick, who was joined on the panel by Flemington council member and standup comic Joey Novick and Democratic strategist Joshua Henne, said humor can help bridge partisan divides and ease negotiations.
The session, titled “The Power of LOL: Using Humor to Solve Municipal Issues,” also focused on the dos and don’ts of using humor in government.
Novick advised local officials to listen twice as hard as they speak, a lesson he learned from his father. Henne said said government officials should take a page from Chris Christie’s playbook and be self-deprecating.
“The first person you should be making fun of in your humor is yourself,” Novick agreed. “If you can make fun of yourself you can control the room.”
But Bramnick, who in the 1990s was entered in the “Funniest Lawyer in New York” contest, warned that humor doesn’t always work.“If you’re not funny, don’t try to be,” he said.