No joke: Monroe comic’s self-help book reinforces the value of humor

Monroe comic’s self-help book reinforces the value of humor


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  • B.J. Mendelson




  • This is the cover of B.J. Mendelson's self-help comic book.




By Christine Urio

— Comic book writer B.J. Mendelson is back at it again.

After spending the last six years traveling around the world talking about his books and comics, Mendelson has come back to his home town.

“I don’t see myself leaving Monroe any time soon,” he said. “I have two brothers who are mentally disabled and my mom is not in the best health. Plus, my dad is going to turn 70 in the fall, so it works out well for everyone since we’re all here and we can take care of each other.”

During high school, Mendelson used the Internet to begin his writing career.

“I was always the class clown throughout my time at Monroe-Woodbury High School, so out of that, I started writing jokes on the Internet since it was the 90s and a lot of people weren’t quite doing that yet,” he said. “One of my early websites blew up in terms of popularity when I was a sophomore in high school, and I realized that there may be something I have talent-wise that was worth developing. It wasn’t just me saying I was funny. I was getting feedback from everyone in the school, even from some football players who wanted to kill me, so I just kept at writing from that point on.”

An early adapter of social mediaDestined to be a writer, Mendelson is now the author of the cult book, “Social Media Is Bull----.”

“The book is about the disconnect between what online marketing and advertising is said to do for us and the reality of that,” he said. “As most people reading this will tell you, online marketing and advertising is not at all what it’s hyped up to be.”

Mendelson came to this conclusion after doing 55 shows across the Hudson Valley with punk and emo bands.

“I’d go on stage and do my comedy set, and then the bands would perform, and since we were all broke, I had to use the Internet extensively to promote my stuff with MySpace, YouTube and eventually Facebook,” he said. “So I was an early adopter and got to see the platforms when they worked and when they didn’t, since all of these platforms tend to fail in terms of effectiveness as more people use them.”

Between his gigs and Internet joke writing, Mendelson was approached by companies like Sears to do campaigns for them, so being a marketing consultant became a side business.

“I’ve had health issues since I was 18 and knew I wouldn’t be able to work a regular job,” he said. “So I had a lot of research and experience that allowed me to approach the issue of effectiveness in terms of social media marketing that a lot of people didn’t, and that’s what lead to the book.”

'Eureka moment'His inspiration for the book came from his Breast Cancer Awareness Tour (a colossal failure), and his High Five Tour, which went on to be a big success.

“The High Five Tour was built around old-fashioned public relations and word-of-mouth marketing, with very little social media involved, so the difference between the two tours created that Eureka moment for me where I realized there was more to the story of social media,” he said. “As I found out in my research for the book, like with the original gold rush, it was the people selling the shovels (social media gurus and companies like Facebook), and not the people digging for gold (the rest of us), that were making all the money.”

Comedy builds communityUltimately, it was a heart attack in 2013 that pushed him to write his self-help comic book.

“I realized the thing I wanted to do more than anything was to go back to making people laugh,” Mendelson said. “Marketing, and later privacy, are important topics, but I don’t want to be known for that. So I knew if I was going to succeed and reach my goal of making everyone on the planet laugh, a comic would allow me a greater opportunity to do that then a book because it’s more visual and accessible.”

However, through his research, Mendelson realized that from when the genre got started in the 1890s, there really wasn’t much more to say.

“Dale Carnegie wrote the self-help book in the 1930s, but Carnegie was just heavily borrowing from Abraham Lincoln, who in turn was quoting from the Bible,” he said. “The comic format makes ‘A National Story of Minor Significance’ stand out from a very crowded market since it’s inherently different from the other self-help books because it’s a comic, and because of the way it’s told.”

Comedy works as a community builder because it depends on common bonds to work.

“Especially in today’s world where we’re way too focused on what separates us and don’t spend as much time talking about what unites us as a people,” said Mendelson. “It helps remind us of something we like to forget: That we’re 99 percent similar to each other genetically.”

Coping mechanism, tooBy laughing at a joke, people acknowledge a shared bond and that allows them to lower their guard around each other.

“This creates a path for us to explore what other bonds we might share,” he said. “It’s an entry point and a way to signal to each other that we may have more in common to discuss and that allows for groups to form and fuse together.”

Mendelson said people have also used humor as a coping mechanism for almost as long as they’ve been hunting and gathering.

“Humor brings us together,” he said. "Humor heals. It’s part of our biology and evolution as a species. We laugh because we know that life is precious and could end at any moment. Either back then because a saber-toothed tiger decided to mug you and your family, or today because someone didn’t properly secure the air conditioner in their apartment building. So that’s how humor can help.”

He added: “We’re wired to relieve tension and to play through laughter. If you look at what I’ve been through, or what my family has been through, I think if we didn’t have a sense of humor about it, none of us would be here right now. I know I wouldn’t be.”

Additional information

• See B.J. Mendelson at www.BJMendelson.com on the “Speaking” page or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzblGkAqYf0
• Mendelson has the rights to “Social Media Is Bull----” so if anyone would like a free pdf copy, visit “Contact” page on www.BJMendelson.com for the link to it.

“Humor brings us together. Humor heals. It’s part of our biology and evolution as a species. We laugh because we know that life is precious and could end at any moment. Either back then because a saber-toothed tiger decided to mug you and your family, or today because someone didn’t properly secure the air conditioner in their apartment building. So that’s how humor can help.”
B.J. Mendelson




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