Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Make Laughter Count is taking on a life of its own

By Robert Strand

Laughter is important to me, and I have a particular affection for puns. I did not inherit my father’s PhD in Organic Chemistry Brain, or his ability to fix just about anything, however one thing is clear – from a humor perspective, I am my father’s son. After graduating college, his advice to me entering the working world may be distilled to laugh, give back, and if the person sitting next to you on an 18 hour flight is making you nuts, change seats.
I moved to New York, determined to “make it there”. My mother and aunt grew up in New York, so I called my aunt for advice. She said, “go to Macy’s, they’ll hire anybody”. At first, I wasn’t sure how to take that. The next day I was hired to sell women’s shoes. Having had a sister with long narrow feet, I built a large and diverse customer base of women with the ‘odd’ size shoe. See a need and fill it.

As per my bio, I am “recognized creative brand strategist and concept activator with 19 years of intellectual property rights management, licensing, marketing, product & content development, and buying experience”. Really what I do is put the right people together to accomplish great stuff. I have learned that when you put your mind, creativity and passion and network into something, you can make anything happen. And, when you hit a groove, it’s almost as if the universe gets behind you with high octane fuel for support.
In my last year of corporate employment, I brokered 35 million in new business. My reward? I was outsourced. Truth is it had grown unfulfilling. The universe told me that chapter was out of gas.

I started out on my own on Christmas day 2008. I decided to focus on brands and partnerships that revolve around active lifestyles, health, well-being and education. Staring blankly at my LinkedIn profile, I noticed that companies had created alumni groups for current and former employees to stay connected. Some of the places I had worked, I noticed did not have a very ‘robust’ following. However, one was missing – The NBA – so I created an NBA group which today has over 1300 members. I spent 5 amazing years in the league’s NY headquarters. Despite not being blessed with eye-hand coordination – I hit a groove, had a lot of laughs, had an impact on the business and young staff, built amazing relationships and left to work for a team owner. People joke that the NBA stands for “Nothing But Attorneys” – for me it was “Nothing But Amazing”.

Amazing is now what has been missing from my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful and loving partner, family, and with my business I am involved in rewarding work with wonderful people and brands. I give back by serving on the Board of Directors for my trade association ( – where I Co-Chair our Charity Committee – We have raised over $2.5mm to launch a tissue bank to help find new treatments and a cure for pediatric brain tumors ( All of this is incredibly enriching. Yet, for me, amazing has been a void. Until now.

I recently met up with my old friend and comic, Rich Kiamco. As we were catching up, an idea was born. You may soon read the full story on – and in short, we wanted to integrate comedy into education in a meaningful way – and have an impact in a realistic, tangible way. Through Rich’s work with comic Jessica Kirson, we met Shari Manko. It was almost like the universe said “OMG what has taken you three so long to connect!” We wanted to build awareness of bullying – through comedy in an aspirational way – to show people that those who throw dirt are sure to lose ground (one gratuitous pun…).

Rich, Shari and I have created Make Laugher Count. Our goal is to create a bully free world with funny people, funny stories through opportunities to laugh, learn – while also helping raise funds for charities - - because everyone deserves a positive, safe space in which to live their dreams.

Tune back in to hear more – and tune in Thursday March 17, 2011, at 9 PM ETt to hear all about Make Laughter Count’s interview with “Mojovator” Danielle Hawthorne ( speak with Rich, Shari and me in the first interview in a 2-part series that will focus on reactions to the recent Bullying Prevention Conference held at the White House last week as well as delve into the MLC mission.

Make Laughter Count is taking on a life of its own – a life that Rich, Shari and I are committed to raising. I have changed my thinking about only making “my” life count. A wise woman (and our publicist Kathy Horn) recently said, “The work you do on earth will fade away but the lives you touch will leave eternal fingerprints.”

So, with this all said, I say live, love, learn, and MAKE LAUGHTER COUNT!!!!