Jan Marshall’s life’s work is devoted to humor and healing through books, columns and consulting. A humorist and former television host, she is also a Certified Master Hypnotherapist.
In 1986 she founded the International Humor & Healing Institute. Her board members included Norman Cousins, Steve Allen, Dr. Bernie Siegel and John Cleese, plus other physicians and entertainers. She wrote the satirical survival book, Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What!
As a survivor, she donates a percentage of book profits to the American Cancer Society, American Brain Tumor Association, Wounded Warriors and The Laguna Woods Village Foundation. She's also written two aspirational children's books, The Littlest Hero and The Toothbush Who Tried To Get Away.
Profits donated to Children of Ukraine.
HUMOR KEEPS LAGUNA WOODS RESIDENT GOING THROUGH GOOD TIMES AND BAD
WRITTEN BY DEBBIE SKLAR, PUBLISHED IN THE OC REGISTER
on July 25, 2021
Being able to find humor in everyday life — and through all its hardships — can be tough, but not for Jan Marshall.
The nearly 20-year Village resident is a certified humorologist, author, motivational speaker and a one-time host of humor shows on TV. She also writes monthly humor columns in the Globe.
Marshall tries to practice what she preaches, and that is to find the positive side when things go bad.
One of her books — “Dancin’ Schmancin’ With the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What!” — was released in 2012, after Marshall survived both breast cancer and later a noncancerous brain tumor. The “satirical survival” book offers advice on how to get back to a joyful place after a rough patch
“When we are going through our pains, we can’t see the humor,” Marshall says. “But little by little, especially if you can see the absurdities in life that are everywhere we look, (it) comes back almost automatically.”
Marshall didn’t waste any during the pandemic. When all was shut down due to COVID-19, she wrote two children’s aspirational books, “The Toothbrush Who Tried to Run Away” and “The Littlest Hero.”
When asked what inspired her to write books for children, Marshall responds with her typical offbeat humor.
On “The Toothbrush Who Tried to Run Away”: “What actually happened, I heard a pounding and thought it was an earthquake,” she says. “Turned out to be my electric toothbrush, which had fallen on the sink counter and could have been heading places unknown. That gave me the impetus for inspiring all the children who have to be nagged to get clean, and I know humor always gets the message to work.”
But seriously …
“I’ve known a lot of them, and little ones and teens are often resistant to clean up. And during the epidemic it was imperative.”
On “The Littlest Hero,” Marshall says: “I’ve seen in many families young ones with labels or judgments that impact them as adults, that could stick with them — they are too young, too short or this or that and would not understand. I want to impart to youngsters that they matter always and can be heroic in their own way.”
Marshall describes herself as “a humorist who is an expert in the healing benefits of laughter and coping with life, work and relationships.”
In 1986, she established the International Humor and Healing Institute. The intent was to “write and share information on healing and connecting the benefits of humor in our lives in every aspect — all with humor interspersed.”
A good example of that intent, she says, is that when we laugh together, we feel connected.
“Have you ever gone to the movies or theater where all of us are perfect strangers and, after laughing at the same time, we feel a bond as we walk out, don’t we?” she said.
Marshall comes from a family of funny folks. “Humor has been part of my life forever, as both sides of my family are and have always been funny,” she says. “It is who we are going back generations, but not as comics. It’s just the way they’ve always handled things.
“Even at the end, my grandma Bubbie, who was in her 80s when I visited her the last time, offered me fruit — a banana with two apricots on each side. When I pretended to be shocked, she laughed heartily. She was my hero.” Bubbie had Parkinson’s disease, Marshall says, and was extremely hard of hearing. That happened after she lost her youngest son in the war. She never got over it, but her laughter, spirit and keen intelligence always shone through.
Marshall’s childhood dream was to become a lawyer, she says, and she got an early start toward that career.
As the “lawyer” in her Girl Scout troop, she was responsible for defending any “tardy” girl (“such a funny word,” she says), or any girls who didn’t have on their complete uniform at meetings.
Her dream of being a lawyer, however, was cut short when her dad told her, “Sorry, honey, girls can’t be lawyers." Later, when he knew better, he apologized and said he was not very informed in his younger days about what I was doing,” Marshall says. In the end, her dad was immensely proud of her as a columnist and author, she says, and would share some of her writings with his pinochle pals.
Marshall, a New York native, attended college classes and seminars, even as she married at age 20 and started a family. In the early 90s, she became a certified hypnotherapist and neurolinguistic practitioner (“we teach how to reframe, so to speak, incidents or issues from the past to view the trauma or problem differently,” she explains). She began presenting seminars herself about finding humor in business, medicine and life in general at companies such as Arco and Lockheed, medical events and conventions, and women’s groups.
(The title of one of her speeches was “Humor for Health, Profit and Firm Thighs.”)
One of her largest seminars was for the NorthWest Naturopathic Physicians Convention, where she was the keynote speaker, she says. “They arrived as serious, hands-across-the-chest, dour, mostly men, and at the end of the seminar they were rowdy, playful, silly high school type hooligans,” she says. “It was great fun to see them let loose.”
She’s written several books besides “Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars.” Her first, released in 1979, was “Still Hanging In There: Confessions of a Totaled Woman,” about domestic life, kids, gophers and everything we know about family life — exaggerated. “It was extremely successful, and that was when I became a motivational speaker. It was the most lucrative aspect of my career at the time. I received a large advance and royalties, and the publishers handled everything, including media bookings, PR, book signings across the country, and more,” Marshall says. “Unlike today where authors must do and pay for most everything.” The book caught the attention of comedian Phyllis Diller when she and Marshall met in an elevator in 1980. “She noticed … that I was holding it and asked where she could buy it, so I gave her one. After that we connected and met often,” Marshall says. Diller even wrote a blurb on the back of Marshall’s “Dancin’ Schmancin” book: “Jan’s writing is so full of humor and a zest for living. Her book literally sings.”
Marshall’s works also have appeared in anthologies, including a Hallmark anthology of love poems, “Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales” and “My Gutsy Story” by Village resident Sonia Marsh.
And she’s not stopping now. She’s writing a new book, “Stretchmarks: Ageless Wisdom for Sexy Old Broads.”
Her Globe column is about finding the humor in the Village and “exaggerating to the point of total satire. It is about real aspects of our existence stretched to its limits. When we can laugh at something, we’ve usually defeated the irritation of it.”
It was a bout with computer trouble that brought her to Laguna Woods. “I went online for assistance and a woman from the Village responded and told me about this little area and all the wonderful aspects as well, so here I am,” Marshall says.
Marshall separates her life into three phases: birth to 40, age 41 to 90, and age 91 to 120. “I am in Phase 2, just like Sophia Loren and my three kids,” she says, laughing. That’s a typical quip from the humorist. And it’s all she’ll say about her age. Except this: “Gouda ages, not people.” Marshall doesn’t believe numbers mean anything. “I have the same measurement numbers as I did in high school, only they are in a different order now, so who cares?” she says.
In the end, her philosophy about humor is what her credo was for her humor institute: “Between the pain, the grief, the disappointments and the miscellaneous unexpected, and the generally in between, not a shred of evidence exists that life (should be) is serious.”
Marshall was put to the test on this statement when, on April 3, her daughter-in-law Sandra died after a brief illness. “I couldn’t find humor anywhere,” she says. “Because I hadn’t yet had the vaccine, and with the lockdown orders, I was unable to attend the celebration of her life and be there to support and ‘schnuggle’ with my son.” Her point: “There are times you must grieve and it’s impossible to find humor. People should understand this and give themselves a break.”
Jan Marshall’s books are available on amazon.com. Contact her at JanMarsh@aol.com.