Street Talk

Street Talk: Humor really is the best medicine

Hair raising.

March 8, 2013
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Humor really is the best medicine
Hundreds of people fill Rosa Parks Circle to help LaughFest break the world record for number of people wearing fake mustaches.

Wednesday’s Top Women Owned Businesses event at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park attracted a sell-out crowd and produced plenty of powerful networking.

Speaker Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Co., proved an engaging and inspirational choice for the 400-plus in attendance, most of whom were women.

Aigner-Clark’s tales of common sense and innovation when forming her startup really hit home with those in attendance, but it was her “Midwestern values” (she was quick to mention being a Michigan State University grad) and humor that struck a chord with the crowd.

Every entrepreneur knows that a business plan is essential to success, but there’s usually an “aha moment” that transforms an idea into action.

The former English teacher’s moment was pretty straightforward when describing the impetus that led to a series of videos that would keep babies and young children occupied with educational programming while moms tended to other things.

“I just wanted to pee by myself” was her lament that gained instant recognition from mothers in the audience.

Drawing almost as many laughs was part of the video featuring some of the 35 finalists. The laughter came from the snippet showing Bev Wall, CEO of Languages International, wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed: “Yes they’re fake. My real ones tried to kill me.” Wall’s battle with breast cancer resonated with Aigner-Clark, who mentioned that she, too, battled the same disease and is now cancer-free.

So what does a down-to-earth girl from Michigan really want when she comes “home” for a visit?

John Zwarensteyn, publisher of the Business Journal, found out when bringing Aigner-Clark back to the airport after her presentation.

“I asked her if she wanted to stop for some food on the way, and she said she would love to swing through Big Boy for a Slim Jim,” he said. “Apparently, they don’t have those in Denver.”

Much’staches

Those rubber-chicken-flinging, beak-wearing funsters at LaughFest appear to have done it again.

Opening night’s gathering of disguised (otherwise known as fake-mustache-sporting) fans are staking claim to another Guinness World Record. Mustachioed LaughFest enthusiasts started lining up at 5 p.m., Thursday, at Rosa Parks Circle, and after a few instructions and a little practice, the official attempt to set the world record took place.

Officials set the number of people wearing false mustaches record at 1,544 for five minutes, which will need to be certified before the record becomes official. The previous Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people wearing false mustaches was achieved by 648 participants at an event organized by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in September 2012.

West Michigan’s “other” claim to national prominence, in addition to ArtPrize, began its 10-day run in fun fashion.

“This year’s world-record attempt was a seriously fun time,” said Leann Arkema, president and CEO of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and LaughFest. “It was a great way to kick off the 2013 festival. We thank all of the participants who came out and donned a mustache to help us break the world record.”

In addition to the mustache record, LaughFest holds two other Guinness World Records. Last year, 607 individuals performed the chicken dance and set the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of people wearing animal noses (specifically, chicken beaks!) at a single venue. In 2011, 925 rubber chickens were tossed in downtown Grand Rapids, shattering the previous record of 265 set near Boston.

LaughFest isn’t all fun and games, however.

The festival and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids announced a partnership designed to give back to the community. Goodwill teamed up with LaughFestand is sponsoring the Goodwill Community Showcase throughout the 10-day festival. The two also are coming together to help those in need by collecting donations of clothing, accessories and other items through a “laundry bag giveaway.” At select Community Showcase shows throughout the event, Goodwill will give 2,500 laundry bags away to attendees. Individuals who receive the bags can then fill them with gently used donations and return them to Goodwill following the festival.

“Goodwill is proud to be a partner with LaughFest for the 2013 festival,” said Jill Wallace, Goodwill’s chief marketing and communications officer. “Goodwill helps our community with job training, placement and second chances, and LaughFest helps our community with laughter for the health of it. By working together on the Goodwill Community Showcase laundry bag giveaway, we hope to make an even greater impact on the Grand Rapids area.”

The two partners kicked off the Goodwill Community Showcase and laundry bag giveaways at Saturday’s DMNK show at Dog Story Theater. Laundry bags will be given away at select showcases through Sunday, March 17.

“Goodwill and LaughFest formed a seriously awesome partnership for the 2013 festival and we are happy to further help our community through the Showcase laundry bag giveaway,” said Wendy Wigger, vice president of community relations for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. “Being able to partner with another nonprofit allows both organizations to support each other’s mission of helping those in need.”

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