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Online humor videos can help vent workplace steam

LOS ANGELES — In the eight years Krista Lang Blackwood has been artistic director of a nonprofit choral group, she has heard it all: prospective donors asking again and again why they can't get comped concert tickets, or why money should go to singers when there are starving children in Africa. • It was getting a little frustrating.

Instead of venting to friends, she chose to make a video about the situation — an animated one in which cute teddy bears speak dialogue like emotionless robots.

She used Xtranormal video to creatively crab about work-related annoyances: obnoxious customers, entitled noobs, oblivious bosses and dim co-workers.

People in all professions are posting their Xtranormal videos on the company's site or YouTube, and some of these are racking up more than 100,000 hits.

Psychologists say this can be a healthy way to deal with stress — but only if the video producers remember to keep humor at the forefront and the venom tamped down, and that what gets posted on the Internet stays on the Internet.

Even technophobes can make an Xtranormal video in a couple of hours by logging on at the site (xtranormal.com), typing in dialogue and choosing a few "camera" angles to create their own videos using the company's pre-designed moveable characters. Filmmakers can choose from robots, historical figures, cute animals, people and other creatures who speak in flat, automated voices.

The videos are peppered with zingers, slick retorts, pregnant pauses and copious swear words. They're often more creative and funny than most job-related tirades on sites such as Workrant and Jobitorial. Some are conversations you wish you'd had yourself.

In Radiology vs ER, a doctor demands a CT scan of "everything" in a patient's abdomen; when asked where the pain is located, the doctor replies "in the abdomen" and "everywhere" and again demands that "everything" be checked.

In an episode of Adventures in Freelancing, the editor at a glossy women's magazine tells a reporter that her article — handed in six weeks earlier — "needs work" because "the reporting is stale," and is now to be on an entirely different topic, with the rewrite due the next day.

Posting videos like these may be a good way to let off some steam and can serve a positive purpose, said David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program.

"If you do it to remove the barriers so people can see the absurdity of the situation, and if it's not overly hostile or aggressive, then it can open up a conversation," he said.

But, he added, "When humor is used to berate another individual, it serves to further divide people — and creates additional problems and conflicts, especially when it promotes discrimination or stereotypes."

Online humor videos can help vent workplace steam 05/02/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 5:12pm]
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