Dr. Brad Nieder perfectly coined the phrase that best describes who he is… “The Healthy Humorist.” He’s a very funny MD and a clean comedian who blends healthcare humor with wellness advice in an uplifting message. Brad is a graduate of Stanford University, where he was the founding member of the improv comedy troupe, the SIMPS. Later, he was a medical student at University of Colorado School of Medicine, with a residency that followed at the Medical College of Virginia.
Brad is a co-author of the book Humor Me, has created comedy programs for the stage and video, and earned the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, speaking to hundreds of companies and organizations over the past 15+ years. Brad brings his hilarious comedy to the stage, while delivering tangible takeaways, medical facts, and research behind the old adage, that “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”
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Brad Nieder: The Healthy Humorist – The Hows And Why’s Laughter Helps Your Health
Joining us in this episode is Dr. Brad Nieder, who perfectly coined the phrase that describes who he is, the Healthy Humorist, a very funny MD and a clean comedian who blends healthcare humor with wellness advice and an uplifting message. He was a graduate of Stanford University, where he was the founding member of a comedy troupe, The Simps. Later, he was a medical student of the University of Colorado School of Medicine with a residency that followed at the Medical College of Virginia.
Brad is the co-author of the book, Humor Me and is a certified speaking professional who, for the past decade and a half, has spoken to hundreds of companies and associations, bringing hilarious comedy while delivering facts and research behind that old adage that laughter is the best medicine. Please join me with the very funny Dr. Brad Nieder. Dr. Brad Nieder, thank you for joining me on the show. How are you, sir?
I am great. How are you, Chris? Thanks for having me.
This is something I’ve been looking forward to. You are darn funny. We book you all the time and people always love you. It’s always a fun time had by all, so thanks for coming in.
Thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed the series.
Thank you very much. What I’m hearing from clients is they want to laugh. They want somebody fun. They want something uplifting. They want a message, too. You’re the perfect example of that. I’ve always loved that and I learned about you probably over a decade ago that you coined the phrase, The Healthy Humorous.
Thank you. I have to give credit to another friend of mine, a veteran speaker. You know, Scott, I believe. He was the one who was instrumental as I got into this world of the meetings industry and the speaking industry. He was instrumental from day one for me, a great friend and mentor. When I said, “I think there’s a market for somebody to do both health and humor,” and he said, “Absolutely.” He was the one who said, “You could call yourself the healthy humorous.”
He named it.
He came up with it and I thought, “It’s alliterative and it speaks to the health side of things, the humor side of things. It implies that the humor by itself is healthy. It’s clean. I like it.” I’m going to give Scott Friedman credit for that.
I booked him previously and the client loved him. He’s always a great speaker as well. That’s cool for him to give you that because I know that’s so easy. People hear what your name is and they already know what you’re doing right away.
I think they get it right away. Yes, they do.
What is it that you found over these many years of doing this? I think probably over a thousand speeches you’ve given, what have you found that people are asking you the most for or the reason why you’re there is something you hear so much, so many people want you for the same reasons? What is it that you’re hearing?
It’s exactly what we said. Over the years, people have liked that combination of health and humor, that old adage that laughter is the best medicine. Whether it’s a healthcare industry, audience or, truthfully, any audience, that old adage applies. It’s universal. I’ve been fortunate that the topic and that message are timeless. Folks want both the levity and the clean humor. They also want wellness advice and good, sound medical information. That combination has always served me well, especially now as we’re living through a pandemic.
There’s so much misinformation and disinformation out there in terms of medical information and wellness information. To have a physician who can speak to what’s true and what is good valid wellness advice and to have somebody who can provide that levity when people are now more than ever anxious, depressed and lonely and isolated. To be able to give some levity and some laughter has certainly been in demand.
Also, somebody who’s funny because I know you’re funny. I know nobody’s looking for Patch Adams to come in there but I know that they’re looking for somebody who’s also going to uplift the crowd themself with their own funniness.
Exactly. That’s it. That clean humor, that humor that’s comes from the health and wellness world. We hear so much about the healthcare industry and its frustrations. To be able to shed some light on the funnier aspects of the industry, of going to the doctor, of the drug ads we see on TV and so forth. People enjoy seeing the lighter side of health.
You’re a real doctor. We should tell people you’re not a practicing doc anymore, but you were a general practitioner back in the day. Correct?
Yes, I am an actual physician. I haven’t practiced in many years. I don’t reveal that usually until the very end of the program because I have some jokes about it. I saw a patient, etc. In the end, I come clean and I tell them, “The truth is, I’m not seeing patients anymore.” My patients are now my audiences. That’s how I’m treating people with good laughs.
What is the research? There’s got to be some eye-opening facts that we don’t know of. Had there been studies done? Patch Adams is famous for doing his studies but there’s got to be a lot of other studies that talk about laughter and how it’s healing. Also, how even in the corporate environment that can be necessary.
Have you ever booked Patch Adams? He’s still around from what I understand.
I did. At the very beginning of my career, I did.
Certainly, the Robin Williams movie gave him a boost to his career and put him in the spotlight again. I think he’s still around. He’s got his Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia. He was a pioneer in using humor and laughter to get people back on track and get their health back on track. It was a great movie, but you are right. There are studies. This has been studied. We’re in my Totally Telehealth Studio. That’s what I call it. This is my office. I’ve got some books.
When I started looking at the studies on humor, laughter and health, I realized that this guy beat me to it, Dr. Roizen. He and his buddy, Dr. Oz. Everybody knows Dr. Oz. He’s America’s doctor. For better or for worse, it’s Dr. Oz. These guys, many years ago, came up with this concept of real age. Not your chronological age or your biological age. Your real age is based on what you do for a living, on where you live, on how much you smoke and so forth. They went through seemingly every study that had ever been done in the history of health.
They must have had every intern on the east coast, every medical student going through the studies for them because they then put an aging effect on all these different health behaviors. The upshot of it was based on all the studies on laughter is that people who laughed a lot can feel up to eight years younger and consequently live up to eight years longer. That’s the bottom line. I always give people that when I’m doing programs. You can add years to your life if you’re laughing a lot. We then dive a little deeper. How does laughter do it?
Pain management, there’ve been studies on hospitalized patients who laughed regularly. They had a higher tolerance to pain, a higher pain threshold. Here’s another book. Norman Cousins’ Anatomy of an Illness. He wrote this book probably several years ago about laughing himself back to health from a serious illness. He said a good belly laugh kept him pain-free for a couple of hours. Now, we’ve got actual studies to support his anecdotal evidence that people don’t need as much morphine and Percocet.
We’ve got an opioid addiction crisis in this country and maybe laughter is part of the solution. You get people laughing when they’re in their hospital beds and they don’t need as much of the morphine drip. Pain management, stress management and stress hormone levels are reduced every time we laugh. The immune system gets a boost every time we laugh. That’s been studied out at Loma Linda University. IGA and T-cell activity, we’ve all learned about that the past year and a half.
The cells of the body that protect us from all those bad things, viruses, bacteria and the Kardashian family. A number of health benefits and as you mentioned, also in the workplace, the sociologists and the psychologists have studied. There’s a reason why a number of successful companies, from Southwest Airlines to Zappos to DaVita have all embraced humor, fun and laughter in the workplace. They know it makes their employees more productive. It helps with communication. It helps build team unity and comradery. A number of studies across the board are showing the benefits of humor and laughter.
My question is, what if there’s nobody funny around? What if you can’t find funny? You got to write a book about how to find funny because if you’re not funny, do you have to go turn on a funny movie? How do you produce a belly laugh? How do you create laughter in an environment where you’re we’re up against it in a hospital room or in a toxic work environment or in a stressful work environment? How do you manufacture a laugh?
It’s like the boring accounting firm down the hall from your office there. You’ve seen those guys. How are they going to be busting a gut laughing during the day? You mentioned a toxic culture. It starts with that culture. Again, the companies that embrace some humor and some fun that allow for it, so that folks aren’t afraid of laughing on the job, of being a little silly on the job.
It has to be encouraged and promoted. Another speaker friend of mine, I remember Bill Stainton. He was asked the question once. Can you teach funny? Can you teach people how to be funny? His answer was, “You can teach them how to be funnier.” Folks, whatever their baseline is, you can learn to tell a joke. For folks who aren’t naturally funny, maybe that’s it. You get a joke and learn to tell a joke.
We’re living in a time of politically correct crisis here. Everybody is suspended. It’s hard to take that risk in these environments, to be funny because are you going to offend somebody? Are you going to look bad? Are people going to have another thought of you because you went there or you’re silly? How do you get away with it these days? It’s harder than ever but it’s more needed than ever.
You’re right and there’s a reason why comics aren’t going to college campuses anymore and the cancel culture. You can’t get away with saying anything. There’s still clean humor that does not have to be at anybody’s expense. It does not have to be ridiculing anybody.Humor, by itself, is healthy. Click To Tweet
Give us an example.
We’ve all had a real education in hand-washing these days. What are you supposed to sing when you wash your hands?
Happy birthday, twice.
You’re right because then, you know you have done a good job. You’ve gotten rid of all the germs. I am a germaphobe, though, so I always sing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. That’s what I sing, two times as you said, twice. “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee. The lake, it is said.” It’s ten minutes long, Chris. It is odd in public restrooms, but I am always very clean.
The guys in the stalls have their lighters going for me. It is great. That’s a joke. That’s got a lot of mileage out of during the pandemic. Everybody’s had an education in hand-washing and I even go further with that one. There are more taglines to it but at whose expense? Nobody. Gordon Lightfoot, maybe. He’s the singer of the song. I could use American Pie, Hotel California. Who is offended by that joke? Nobody.
Do I remember this correctly, you have a poem that you wrote that’s about healthy humor?
Yes, I wrote a poem that has been very well received and popular over the years. It is a lot of good wellness advice. As I said, folks are always looking for good, sound wellness advice. It is a lot of wellness advice packaged into a sing-song, children’s story poem that people have enjoyed over the years.
Where can we go online to find that?
It’s a great question.
Are you going to do it for us now?
I can give you a snippet of it now.
I don’t want to put you on the spot. I hope it’s not a ten-minute-long poem.
No, I’ll give you a snippet. I’ll give you the nutrition snippet of the wellness poem. It’s inspired by all the books I read to my kids over the years. Here’s the nutrition pledge portion of my wellness advice poem. It says, “I will not eat a lot of sweets. I will not overeat red meats. I’ll keep my portions smaller in size. I’ll limit salt and all things fried. I will not drink a lot of booze instead, plain water I will choose. I’ll keep my fats the good kind like in soy and nuts and beans, olive oil, fish like salmon, tuna and sardines.”
“Fruits, veggies, fiber and whole grains are key. I’ll get my daily calcium, my aspirin, C and D. I’ll get my antioxidants. I’ll eat my lycopene. I’ll eat omega-3s and flavonoids. Now what that means is I will choose the darker colors for my meals and snacks like spinach green and berries blue and tea, both green and black. I’ll choose tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, red wine and I’ll win for purely social reasons. I will never drink white Zin.” There you go. That is everything that you need to know about nutrition.
You’ve got to make that into a clip. I’m always writing on Instagram and here and there. Everybody’s like, “Here’s the list of the foods you have to eat, clickbait,” and all that. That puts it all together in one nice shot. I don’t know if I can memorize that, but that’s good.
Thank you. As I said, people have enjoyed that. Is it the funniest thing I do? In fact, Scott Friedman years ago was great with giving me the Healthy Humorous moniker, but when he heard the poem the first time. He was like, “It’s clever, but it’s not so funny. I think you should lose the poem.” He was quite wrong about that. Over many years, the poem has been one of the most well-received items I’ve done. I teach Scott about that.
I’m definitely going to tell him he has to read this because he’s talked about it. Now, there’s something you’ve done which is pretty cool also, which is the unhealthy eating adventure in South America. What’s that?
You’ve done your homework. People said to me over the years when I started traveling and got into this business, the speaking industry. They say, “You’re going to burn out on the travel at some point,” Many years in, I have not burned out. I love it. It’s been hard during the pandemic to not be on the road. I enjoy seeing new places. I enjoy seeing old friends in places and I enjoy sampling the foods and all the different areas of our great country.
That’s not healthy because you’re talking about barbeque, pizza and steak.
No, but I’m allowed a little splurge. Even the doctor can tell folks, “You can splurge from time to time.” I’ve tried the great ice cream all around the country. I’ve done barbecue in Texas, in Memphis, Kansas City and the Carolinas. I do the cheesesteaks in Philly.
I have a trivia question for you. You started out with ice cream. Where did Ben and Jerry’s start?
Ben and Jerry’s started in Vermont. I have twice visited their factory. Have you been there?
No, I only have heard the stories.
It started in Vermont. They’ve got their factory there and they have what I thought was pretty funny. They have a graveyard for their flavors that didn’t make it and there are headstones with a little poetic verse for each flavor that they introduced that didn’t take.
Not everything’s successful that they do, even though it seems like it. I’m sure you’ve been to Hershey, which my kids found out about. My twins, we were reading a book on America. Every night, they want to learn about a couple of the states. In the Pennsylvania one, Hershey is there. Then there were three little chocolate chips. I didn’t even recognize that they were chocolate chips because it was poorly drawn and they were big. My son was like, “What are the three chocolate chips doing in Pennsylvania?” I said, “That’s in Hershey.” I know a lot of events are in Hershey. There’s a cool convention center there and I’ve had so many speakers speak there, have you?
I’ve been there a number of times. It’s a cool town. There’s a great old hotel there and the street lights look like Hershey’s kisses. They’ve got this massive merchandise shop and I went in. You can buy all the chocolate and the kisses. I was like, “I want something that’s only available here. I can go into a grocery store and get a peanut butter cup or get a Hershey bar.” There were a couple of things. They said, “This is only available.” I forgot what it was even but I came home and gave my kids. Next time, I’ll send your kids some stuff.
We like chocolate. As you were saying, you go to all these places and you eat all this horrible food then you eat your words.
That’s what I do. Many of my social media posts, in fact, are, “Look what I’m eating in Hershey or look what I’m eating in Philly,” or wherever I am. It is The Healthy Humorous Unhealthy Eating Adventure Across America. I’m allowing people right to, “You got to follow my advice, but from time to time, it’s okay to sample some of Amy’s Ice Creams or Graeter’s Ice Cream,” or whatever it is in that region of the country. That’s what it is. The #THHUEAAA, The Healthy Humorist’s Unhealthy Eating Adventure Across America. That’s me sampling the foods all over the country.
That sounds like a fun thing to do for anybody and when you do that, you’ve got to make sure you balance it out with a lot of greens the next day and a lot of water.
That’s right. That’s what I do. I’ve had people comment on that. They’re like, “What do you weigh given what you’re eating?” When I’m home, I keep it pretty healthy. In fact, I lost 15 pounds during the pandemic.
Did you gain the COVID-15?
No, I kept it healthy and exercised. I lost weight.There's a market for somebody to do both health and humor. People enjoy seeing the lighter side of health. Click To Tweet
Peloton did very well during the pandemic.
They did and my wife helped them do well.
My wife as well.
My wife loves it.
I don’t know if we would have that in our house if it wasn’t for the pandemic. These clients of yours nowadays must have a little bit different message to you when they’re talking to you ahead of the event. I know that you like any good speaker talks to the client before the event. What are you hearing for the last few months? Is it changing a little bit? Are they seeing a light at the end of the tunnel or are they still bummed out and still needing humor to lift them out of it? What are you hearing?
I’m still hearing that there’s a great need for humor and laughter. I had a number of things scheduled for the fall that have now been canceled or rescheduled or switched over to virtual events. The virtual events are still happening and people are still a little wary of doing things in person. We’re still in the middle of this. A lot of folks are struggling and everybody’s over it. There’s still the need for, “We need some levity. We thought we were going to be done now and we’re not. We still need some laughs and we need some healthy humor.”
I remember you brought it up earlier that people book you who aren’t in the healthcare industry. That’s important for me to remember and for people who aren’t in the healthcare industry to remember because you’ve done an equally great job for those clients who have nothing to do with healthcare. In whatever industry they’re in, they realize that this is important.
Brad, as we get through this pandemic and we’re getting closer, hopefully to the end. I know this Delta variant is slowing things down a bit. As we get towards 2022, are you feeling pretty positive? You’re a physician as well. Are you feeling like with the vaccinations and the amount of people who’ve gotten it increasing that in 2022 we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here and people’s outlooks are all looking towards that?
I sure hope so. The vaccines are quite effective at keeping people out of the hospital and not dying. I know there’s a lot of talk about breakthrough infections, but the fact is these vaccines have been very effective at keeping people from getting seriously ill and winding up on a ventilator and possibly dying. I think things are generally improving. I hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. People are so eager to get back to normal.
There are certain parts of the old normal I don’t think we need to go back to. I don’t need to kiss anybody hello anymore, ever. I kiss my wife and my kids and my mom and my mother-in-law. When my aunt Edna is going to come in with the hands and the hair and the eyebrows and the smooch on the lip, she’s getting a fist bump. Edna gets a fist bump from now on.
We don’t need to go back to double-dipping. “We would love our hummus and hepatitis in our chips and salmonella.” We might as well have been Frenching everybody at the party. We don’t need to go back. I hope the handwashing, we mentioned already. I hope people have learned some good hygiene and we don’t spread the germs as much as we did before this pandemic. I hope folks are going to be safer and healthier once we do get beyond a COVID-19.A study shows that people who laughed a lot can feel up to eight years younger and, consequently, live up to eight years longer. Click To Tweet
There are so many things I think back on like, “Can you imagine doing that ever again,” when you think about stuff that you did. There are a lot of new tools and a lot of new introspective things that people will come away with here where they look at their health and they say, “Am I eating right? Am I in this high-risk category? I want to get out of that.” If some people say, “It’s too late if you’re not out of that.” This thing has taken a long time. You can do a lot of good work on yourself. Obviously, the message that you’re bringing to everyone is, one of the things you can do that will help your overall health is try and find the funny side of everything.
I even wrote you a script, Chris.
What does it say? “A chuckle a day keeps the COVID away.” I like that.
That’s for you. Take that to Walgreens. Maybe they’ll give you some gum. I don’t know what they’ll give you but yes. You got to stay healthy. I like your final words there. There are some silver linings again, coming out of this. Maybe we learn to take better care of ourselves, of each other and be outside more. There’s a lot of silver linings that hopefully will come out of this.
Amen. Thank you, man. That was so well said. As usual, you are so fun to hang out with. I look forward to seeing you in person when the time comes, which I know will be sooner than later. I’m booking you a lot and continuing to get those rave reviews. I know we’ve got one coming up soon. Thanks so much, my friend, for doing this. It’s been great to hang out with you.
It’s great to be with you, Chris. Stay well and thank you again for having me.
About Dr. Brad Nieder
If he’s not already, Brad Nieder, MD, CSP*, will soon be on your list of favorite doctors. And unlike some of those mentioned above, he’s actually a real physician! He’s also a funny motivational keynote speaker and master of ceremonies. Yes, Dr. Brad–”The Healthy Humorist®”–is unlike any other doctor you’ve encountered.
Described as “Jerry Seinfeld with an ‘MD,'” the funny doctor was infected with the comedy bug while watching Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” monologues from the foot of his parents’ bed. When he got older and stayed up a bit later, he discovered David Letterman’s “Late Night” antics. He taped and memorized George Carlin’s HBO specials. He wrote funny articles for his Denver high school newspaper. He was a founding member of an improvisational troupe (The Simps) while an undergraduate student at Stanford University. And he performed clean standup comedy throughout Denver while he was in medical school at the University of Colorado.
After completing his internship and getting his medical license, the funny speaker began delivering his unique brand of Healthy Humor around the country to corporate audiences, convention crowds and conference attendees. Physicians, nurses, bankers, teachers—indeed people from all industries—have benefited from the comedian doctor’s house calls. It’s an unusual medical practice, but when Dr. Brad dispenses humor, inspiration and education, it just may be the best preventive medicine available!
Dr. Brad has been a professional keynote speaker for nearly 20 years. He earned the CSP* designation in 2011 and is simply one of the best conference speakers and clean comedians in the meetings industry today.
When he’s traveling the country, Dr. Brad likes to indulge in “The Healthy Humorist®’s Unhealthy Eating Adventure Across America” (#THHUEAAA), in which he consumes such fare as Italian beef in Chicago, BBQ in Austin and ice cream in Columbus. (Yes, he agrees it’s weird that central Ohio has such an abundance of great frozen treats!) The health and wellness speaker eats healthier when he’s home in Colorado, where he likes to spend time with his lovely wife and three wonderful kids. He also tries to practice the healthy part of what he preaches by running, swimming, skiing and fly-fishing in the Rocky Mountain sunshine.