is something you wish you didn't have," says Joel Weintraub. "But get together with friends and you kill yourself
trying to prove that you have more of it. One guy says, "I've got an ulcer,' and the other replies, 'Mine's bleeding."
Same with older folks and their health problems.
I walked into the lobby of a senior citizens' home and saw a guy talking to his friend. One guy was complaining about
his arthritis, the other one was talking about his heart disease. Then I see one guy just sitting there. He says,
I'd like to develop a bunion so I can have a half-decent conversation.'"
Weintraub's thesis: As much as we gripe about our problems, we are also very
fond of them. And boy, do we love to flaunt them - as if health problems, financial job woes or relationship troubles were
badges of importance. (Just look at The Jerry Springer Showfor
an example of the latter.)
go ahead and worry. The sheer lack of fun in modern human experience, along with the toll it can take on the human body, have
enabled Weintraub to build an unusual career. The
Lafayette Hill physiologist may be one of the few working standup comics
who blends medicine and philosophy along with his one-liners.
Weintraub has a master's degree in exercise physiology
and an undergraduate degree in health education from Temple University. But he also has a delivery that rivals Jerry Seinfeld's,
and onstage manner that recalls angst-ridden comedian Richard Lewis. The difference with Weintraub: he's out to defuse that
chronic stress. He's got a seemingly endless supply of gags that illustrate his points about the importance of keeping your
funny side up. And that separates him from the rest of the health and healing industry.
"In the health and
fitness business, (practitioners) become bible thumpers," Weintraub observes. "People don't want to hear it.
But make a joke, and people will not only remember it, they'll repeat it."
Same with discussing relationships. "Usually men and women are
in denial about their relationship problems, and spend a lot of time saying it's the other person's fault, "says Weintraub.
"If they intellectualize, they'll disagree with you. But they're laughing, they can say, 'Yah, you're right there.'"
Weintraub's unorthodox career actually began during childhood. As a
kid Weintraub studied martial arts as a way to fend off the bigger kids. Like many comics, he soon learned that being
funny could accomplish the same objective.
In college, he officially combined the two disparate disciplines. "First I was working in cardiac
rehab and running fitness centers, all the while doing standup comedy," he says. "Then I found out that a
degree in Physiology in those years was like having a degree in unemployment." He decided to graft his comedy career
to his health career. These days the 42-year old Weintraub takes his show on the road at least three times a week, visiting
hospitals, nursing homes, schools. corporations, synagogues, and churches. He speaks on health and fitness, stress management,
nutrition, exercise and sports medicine. He even takes substance abuse and mines it for its comic potential - a great
departure from the norm, and certainly a relief for people weary of professional preaching.
Weintraub calls his series "humor for the health of it." His
audiences call it entertaining," "dynamic," and most importantly, "very funny."
Stages of Growth
On the home front, Weintraub "came close to
getting married a few times," but never took the plunge. "I'd end up talking to a few friends who were divorced,"
and apparently that would be the deal breaker. But "I'd always end up with five more minutes of material,"
Weintraub laughs. "It got to the point where women became apprehensive about ending up in my shows."
The "humor Pharmacist" also finds inspiration
in his audience. Fearlessly improvisational, Weintraub welcomes open dialogue with the people out front. He even
credits them with helping shape his act. "We're writing as we go along," he says of the collaboration.
"And some of the greatest lines come out when you're on the spot."
Weintraub calls eastern philosophy, specifically zen, a guide for those who
would be less harried. Rigid strength is not necessarily a virtue, he says. People should allow themselves to
lay down some of their self-imposed burden. "An oak tree will break," he says, citing the Buddhist axiom.
"A willow will bend."
is now expanding his repertoire of programs to include motivational seminars. "I'll talk about the social, the
physical, the financial and career. People should adjust those four issues, then add the spiritual by going to the church
or prayer hall of their choice.
important to develop physically, emotionally, financially, and occupationally. Be passionate about your life's endeavor."
For years, the life enhancing properties of hearty
laughter have been affirmed by health gurus like Norman Cousins and Andrew Weil. Laughter is alleged to actually prolong life,
standing an old saying on its head. Far better to say, He who laughs best, laughs last. Joel Weintraub wants to
insure that people get the message while they can still enjoy it.