During the holidays - and I'm talking from Thanksgiving through the New Year - people try to figure out what makes them happy and how they can be happier.
In my experience, the thing that makes me the happiest is giving back and being kind, and I believe this could work for everybody. There is no better time to start than the holiday season.
For the past 35 years the Laugh Factory has provided a free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for those in need. We also offer free High Holiday services and a summer comedy camp for underprivileged kids. But perhaps the most important lesson I have learned doing these charitable events each year, is that nothing makes me happier than giving. That's it in a nutshell. Maybe that's even selfish in a weird way -- doing something good for other people has brought me and the Laugh Factory comedians and employees, more fulfillment and happiness than we could ever have imagined. It's the opposite of what one might expect: it's not take and enjoy, it's give and be happy.
I feel very lucky that I can do this each year and be surrounded by so many great comedians and employees. Without these people, I wouldn't be able to do it. Laugh Factory supplies the meals, the employees enrich the atmosphere, and the comedians provide the crowds with a good healthy chuckle for their soul. Each year I see thousands of people arrive hungry, cold, and stressed, and they leave full, encouraged, and with a smile on their face. They leave with renewed strength, recharged and ready to confront the difficult world. It is also quite a thrill for me to see comedians who are struggling, just starting out, or new in town, coming to the Thanksgiving dinner for a hot meal, and then, a few years later, volunteering to dish out some food after making it on TV, film or stage.
A few years ago, John Rogers, from the Associated Press, wrote an article about one of our Holidays. People read his article and it motivated them to action. I remember a few cars and vans drove around, picking up underprivileged people from the streets and dropping them off at the club for a hot meal and some comedy for their soul. Afterwards, the same people picked them up to take them home, and many of them mentioned to me, how it surprised them to see how little it took to lift these people's spirits, and put a smile on their face. That gave me so much joy, to see all of us as a team, trying to do our part in helping people in need.
And as great as it is to see so many people volunteering and helping out however they can, it also reminds us that there is still so much more we need to do and so many more people who can help and who need help. By now we should all know that our government is here for the rich and powerful Wall Street people, and they forgot about the ordinary street people. I think more people would help if they only knew how much fulfillment and happiness is generated by helping others. It's what is called a win/win.
I think everybody could do something. I understand that some people can do more than others, but everybody can give or share something. We can all find something to give, and someone to help. And - I guarantee this - when you do give, you will feel happy.
Our efforts are not only to feed the body but to feed the soul. This year we held the first annual Laugh Factory's Funniest Person in the World Competition. Comedians from 20 different countries competed to make people laugh. This event highlighted just how healing, powerful, and unifying laughter can be. During the competition we saw smiles and laughter break down the barriers that divide so many of us. People from all over the world, from different cultures and religions, put their differences aside and made people laugh. Next year we will have 40 countries participating, and we can spread that much more laughter around the world. The other day, I was watching the United Nations. I wanted to see the people who represented the 195 countries of the UN. Not one of the representatives from 195 countries smiled at each other. They all looked like they were all constipated and suffering to look at each other. Sometimes the simplest thing like smiling at someone or making people laugh is one of the best things you can give to somebody. After 35 years in comedy, I can assure you this makes a huge difference. So let's make 2015 the year we try and spread laughter and smiles around the world. There is no better time to start than the holiday season.