Bringing together humor, magic, and understanding, Dr. R. Bruce Baum presented “Humor and Disability” Tuesday night, continuing the Honors Colloquium’s “Power of Humor” series.
Baum holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Buffalo State College, where he has been a tenured professor since 1978 and a semi-retired professor for the last three years. A self-declared “legend in his own mind,” Baum brought together his knowledge of special education and his love for humor in the colloquium.
In his presentation, Baum focused on the ways that humor and disability interact with one another and the many different ways to look at these subjects. He stressed the point that humor and disability can both exist within the same space without necessarily making fun of the disabilities themselves. As a Doctor of Special Education, Baum has spent many years dedicated to the understanding of disability and the ways in which it can function along-side humor. His interest in special needs began at an early age.
“When I was young, I had friends who were disabled,” Baum said. “I grew up with a kid who was deaf who lived in the same building as me; he was a good friend… [And] when I was in high school, I befriended a guy who had pretty involved cerebral palsy, and I helped him get around the school and things like that. I think those things influence me. Plus, I wanted to do something to help people. It was when I was a sophomore, almost a junior when I decided I wanted to study special education.”
A lifelong fan of humor, it wasn’t until years into his career that Baum began incorporating humor into his education, teaching and presentations.
“I started going to the Creative Problem Solving Institute in Buffalo, and through that, I met people from the Humor Project,” Baum said. “Around that time, I also went to a colleague’s presentation, where she was doing research on humor. That was the first time I realized that humor was a discipline that you could study. From there, I made a connection with humor and disability, and started doing workshops and writing research pieces.”
Going forward from there, Baum merged his knowledge of special needs with his love for humor in order to take a close look at the way humor and disability interact. In the colloquium, he stressed the importance of tactfully using humor as a means to bring people closer together and help understand one another.
In addition to being an educator and a humorist, Baum is also a magician and almost always works magic into his presentations. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and enjoys working magic, humor, and compassion into the classes that he teaches. These traits are things he hopes to pass onto his students, who will one day become teachers of their own.
For more information about Dr. Baum, you can visit HumorCreativity.com.