Kent grad releases book trying to make people “less awkward”



Alexis Pfeifer

With too many socially awkward people in the world, how can a book shatter the expectations of society in social situations? With humor, of course.

Kent State alumnus Tommy Leonard’s newly released humor book, “How to Talk to Famous People: and make your grandma laugh,” takes readers through random observations of people Leonard has met to help them become less awkward.

“My desire is to wake you up to your dreams, make you smile and help you become socially less awkward,” Leonard said.

The book talks about why people talk about their dreams and passions, but in the end, it seems most people let them go. Humor set aside, the book is set to inspire and motivate readers to pursue their dreams, so people don’t regret things when they are old, or so they aren’t angry old people with only boring stories to share.

“I think it is sad we are letting our lives slip away from us,” Leonard said in a Skype interview. “Shouldn’t we enjoy our life? I guess that is what motivated me: to grab an audience and share my feeling.”

That feeling dragged Leonard through a journey building relationships, having good friends and observing a lot of people. Creating the book required Leonard to find ways to tell jokes and talk about the interesting people he observed.

“I realized the title ‘How to Talk to Famous People’ because most people couldn’t do it — because they can’t even talk to their peers,” Leonard added. “Then, after observing some family, friends and strangers, older and younger, they talk about all this stuff they want to do.”

Most of the time, Leonard noted, the next year they seem to be in the same place. With an interesting or humorous observation, he pulls small points to tie the ideas together.

“I can’t do many things seriously without adding in humor,” Leonard said. “That is my specialty or talent. So why go out of my element?”

The humor book idea made sense and was the best way to get Leonard’s point across. The idea of humor writing, however, began for Leonard in high school with many ideas, often unfocused. The passion continued through college with the creation of many 5-minute funny videos. Then, after moving to South Korea, he focused on TV scripts and movies. He wanted to try something new, like his move to Korea.

“I was able to write this book last year because I had time teaching in South Korea, and I loved my job,” Leonard said. “It made it easier to come home and get to work; plus, I focused on one of my ideas. That helped a lot.”

After various jobs requiring a far drive to work every day, working too much and waking up too early, Leonard took off to South Korea to teach English.

“I said, ‘This is not why I went to college, and I do not want this life,” Leonard said to himself. “If I continue this path, I will not be a happy person in the future. I want adventure, I want to see what else there is. I want to take a risk.”?A month and a half after applying, Leonard was in South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Each year, he had a different job teaching English to kids.

“I really enjoy using my humor to teach children English,” he said. “I still enjoy the adventure of being in a different city and being surrounded by mountains.”

His adventure to a new country and to a new job he actually enjoyed influenced certain ideas for his book. After coming home from work, Leonard no longer relied on watching TV or relaxing as much. He could bike ride over the Han River, climb a mountain or explore the city.

“All of that inspired me, in terms of me overall liking my situation and wanting to pursue my talents,” he said.

The inspiration led to the observation of different kinds of people in Leonard’s life. However, not all the writing in the book was about the people he observed. The random observations were gathered to make an overall point: to make people laugh and motivate them to think about their lives.

“Writing and sharing my thoughts and jokes is something I am going to give a try,” he said. “I really enjoyed writing this book. Slowly, day-by-day, I watched it come together, and it is crazy it is done, and I get to see others enjoy it. Plus, I actually did it.”

Leonard found people enjoyed the book as much as he did. After one year of writing, designing and publishing, “How to Talk to Famous People: and make your grandma laugh” was released Feb. 14.

“Usually I had two to five ideas and worked on one for a little bit and scratched it and went to the next one,” Leonard said. “I think in my mind I have always been holding in ideas from my previous experiences, so I just stirred through that for all my thoughts.”

Contact Alexis Pfeifer at [email protected].