Health: Whether you're a piece of bacon or a ballerina, life can be fun: New Yorkers are finding that the way to succeed is childishly simple, reports Angela Smyth

NEW YORKERS have a reputation for being loud and pushy, but some of them have decided they are not quite extrovert enough. Throwing caution to the wind, they are enrolling for the latest weekend therapy - which involves making asses of themselves in public.

In a country where corporate competition and stress allow little room for individualism and humour, Joyce Barrie has no shortage of clients who feel a need to lighten up. Formerly a Wall Street stockbroker, she has an exhibitionist streak and a well-developed talent for spotting a money-spinner. Her executive weekend 'playshops' are a hit at dollars 195 ( pounds 130) a time.

This particular group consists of a banker, an accountant, an advertising executive, a teacher and a literary agent, all seeking to break down the barriers of inhibition. Brought together on Friday night in a Manhattan loft, decorated much like a nursery school, the participants put aside their business suits and briefcases and lie on the floor absorbed in crayoning. Sesame Street can be heard as the group is encouraged to drift back into childhood and be as silly as possible.

As the weekend gets under way, exercises, role-playing and improvisations take over, all designed to build confidence, release inhibitions and encourage spontaneity. By Saturday afternoon the group has progressed. 'Be bacon frying on the floor,' screeches Ms Barrie. 'Now be a four-year-old having a temper tantrum; now a ballerina.'

As the participants take turns at contorting themselves into ridiculous postures, the level of hysteria rises. Barriers are breaking down and people draw closer together. 'My aim is to get them out of their heads doing things they would normally be too embarrassed to do,' says Ms Barrie. 'When people learn to laugh at themselves, it frees them up to take life less seriously. It gives them the confidence to be more adventurous, to take risks.'

By Sunday they are ready to display their skills to the outside world. The playshop's climax is graduation night, when families and friends are invited to see what Ms Barrie refers to as the 'trans- fun-mation' of her clients, displaying their newly acquired courage, humour and gregariousness.

Wearing costumes of their own design, the playshop participants put on a show. First the banker does a belly dance, wearing nothing but a nappy. Then the literary agent, somewhat shy and reticent on Friday night, offers a sensuous Marlene Dietrich impersonation, singing at the top of her voice in a slinky catsuit. The accountant and advertising executive collaborate with an improvised skit of the Clintons, high on marijuana, having their first marital dispute in the White House.

'We learn to be ourselves, rather than the someone else everyone outside expects us to be,' says the banker in the nappy, who has shed his strained, serious expression. 'I'm a conservative person, but I know there is someone very playful inside who rarely comes out.'

'The playshop helped me to stop worrying about being judged,' adds the sometime Marlene Dietrich. 'I've never ever sung in public before - I didn't even know I could sing.'

'There are people out there who have zero idea of how to enjoy themselves,' says Ms Barrie. 'Others recognise that their inhibitions are a barrier to success, be it a job or a relationship. They know that something is holding them back and I help them to discover what it is.

'I am not a therapist,' she emphasises, 'I'm a motivational speaker. I teach people how to face their worst fears and work through them. I teach them to be outrageous and not to care what other people think.'

Her credentials and experience for the job are impressive. Before starting the playshops she had made her fortune as a stockbroker, wooing clients with humour and outrageousness. She realised she had something different to offer the day she entered a Michael Jackson lookalike contest. With her blond hair and full figure clothed in red velvet, it is hard to imagine how she could sway the judges. 'I was so uninhibited and fun to watch that I won the dollars 1,000 prize,' she says.

Her two latest ambitions are to hold a humour playshop at the White House, and to find a husband. In search of the latter she has sent press releases to 8,000 newspapers and radio stations seeking suitable candidates. 'Maybe I'll find him in England,' she laughs. 'The Brits could certainly do with lightening up.'

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Science Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Science Teacher - South Es...

    NQT Secondary Teachers

    £100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

    A Level Chemistry Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

    RE Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering