“Exactly what I was looking for.”
Retired Mom of Four Grown Daughters
How this works.
Folks who laugh a lot — or make others laugh a lot — come my way. I sort them into online text chat groups, by sense of humor.
Why this matters.
In my experience, people with matching senses of humor will nearly always enjoy talking to one another, on matters both silly and serious.
And they often become good friends.
That’s why I’ve had such a wonderful time over the last 34 years gathering them together.
How I define 'sense of humor'.
For me, it means three things —
- Which people make you laugh and which don’t. Comedians, writers, politicians, podcasters, actors, talk show hosts, YouTubers, Tweeters, cartoonists, pundits.
- Whether an increase in your stress level makes you crave humor or avoid it.
- How important laughing (or making others laugh) is to you, compared to all the other things you could be doing at this very moment.
In 1973, he, mom, and 4-year-old me moved back to New York City from Israel (where he’d been NBC News’ bureau chief).
To reconnect with people, dad started a lunchtime conversation group filled with folks he knew from The New York Times, NBC News, and Columbia Journalism School.
The group went so well, he quickly started three more.
Dad’s four lunchtime groups met at New York City Chinese restaurants, every week, like clockwork, for forty years.
The backstory — my first taste of dad's group-making recipe.
My parents split up when I was 11.
After that, if a day off from my school coincided with one of dad’s group lunches, he’d invite me along.
And, boy, did I love it. I was surrounded by people who adored each other, had fantastic conversations, and laughed their heads off.
The backstory — dad reveals his recipe.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I arrived at college for freshman orientation, back in the autumn of 1986.
But a few hours after my parents dropped me off, this thought started repeating in my head —
“There are two thousand kids here. Nobody knows anybody else. Everyone is dying to make a few new friends. And they’re all petrified to talk to one another.”
The next day, I called my dad and we had a conversation that I remember going something like this —
“Dad, there are two thousand kids here who are petrified of one another. And everybody’s lonely. I was thinking maybe I could start some Sy Pearlman-style lunch groups. What’s your recipe for identifying a big bunch of people who are all going to like each other?”
Dad, instead of answering my question, followed it up with one of his own. It’s probably the most impactful question anyone’s ever asked me —
“Ted, how many people with your sense of humor do you dislike?”
I thought for a moment…
“Exactly,” he replied. “Look for folks who laugh a lot (or make others laugh a lot). Then send the ones with matching senses of humor out to lunch together. That’s the recipe.”
I’ve been 34 years, and I still rely on dad’s recipe.
COVID-19 and the need for online groups.
In late 2016, right around the time of the U.S. presidential election, I started daydreaming about supplementing my lunch groups with online groups. But it took the arrival of the coronavirus for me to give that daydream a name, a website, and my full-time attention.
For my whole adult life, gathering people with matching senses of humor has been a hobby.
So, it’s nerve-wracking to try to turn it into something bigger that’s going to require employees and infrastructure and, thus, a budget to pay for them.
I absolutely refuse to have ads or sell user data, so the budget is going to have to come from the members.
Here’s what I’ve come up with —
There are two tiers of membership, both with the exact same benefits. The only difference is the price.
Tier 1: $1 per month
Tier 2: $35 per month
Every new member starts in Tier 1.
The hope, of course, is that not too long after joining, most folks will feel they are getting so much value out of membership that they’ll want to move to Tier 2. But there is no inherent requirement to do so. You can stay in Tier 1 for as long as you want.
Frequently asked questions.
Who are you?
So, being part of a group in The trees is like being in a Facebook Group filled with hand-picked people who have my sense of humor?
Do the groups actually live on Facebook?
What do the members of each group chat about?
Everything under the sun.
Why do you call it 'The trees'?
Tree planting has always been my favorite metaphor for this hobby my dad invented.
The gatherings are the acorns. What grows from the gatherings — friendships, collaborations, the comforts of a safe harbor — are the oaks.
Also, each group is named after a type of tree.
Is your dad still alive?
No. He died in 2015. I miss him.