If you ask 10 random people if they think they are funny, chances are that 9 out of 10 will say no. For some reason, many people are either afraid to be funny or don’t notice when others are laughing at their jokes. For this reason, the idea of injecting humor into their presentation sounds less enticing than a bowl of old sneaker soup. If you watch funny people, you’ll notice they often aren’t even telling jokes, they are just speaking in an authentic way that makes them likeable. The audience laughs because they are connecting with the person in front of them. Here are a few strategies you can try to improve your “funny” on stage.
1. Take joke notes
Have you ever tried reverse engineering a joke you like? If you do, you may start to see a formula for it. Become a student of humor by searching for and watching your favorite comedians on YouTube. Grab a pen and notice when you laugh. Rewind the clip and look for the beginning of that joke. What was the opening line? What was the build up? What was the punchline? Why was it funny? Was it surprising? Was it original? Was it relatable? Often times, the funniest jokes are the ones that are highly relatable, original to the speaker, and surprising to the audience. See for yourself!
Have you ever thought of being a standup comedian? Does that last sentence make you want to stop reading right now? If so, good! This tip will stretch you way outside your comfort zone and give you a foundation for injecting humor into your talks. Many towns and cities have open mic nights for comedians, singers, and writers. Why not sign up for a five-minute slot and try out a few jokes? There’s no pressure; your boss won’t be there and your clients won’t see you. Write a few funny stories about your life. Here are some idea starters:
• A day that went horribly wrong
• A funny summer vacation story
• An awkward high school moment
• Your first kiss
• Worst job interview
• Experience buying a house/with a landlord
• Bad blind date
We all have life experiences that are highly relatable to others and still our own. Try bringing your unique story to the stage and infuse it with humor using the principles in tip #3.
3. Create a Rollercoaster
Great stories can be funny if they include funny details. Telling us you went to the store to buy groceries, filled your cart, got to the checkout and realized you forgot your wallet could be a funny story or a boring story. The details are what make it humorous and interesting. Try answering questions like these:
• Why did you go to the store that day?
• What was your burning desire at the grocery store?
• What was on your mind when you left?
• Where is the pain in your story?
• Are you a naturally forgetful person, or would your family describe you as organized?
• What happened when you were getting ready to leave?
• Why was this day so out of the ordinary for you?
• What happened at the grocery story? Any funny moments?
• How did you feel when you went to reach for your wallet?
• How did the cashier respond?
• What did you do next?
Bring your audience on a rollercoaster with you throughout the story by creating drama and intrigue. Telling them how you felt, why you were doing what you were doing, and what was going through your mind. These elements will bring your audience into the experience with you and get them excited to hear more.
Humor is as unique as a fingerprint. Rather than try to tell jokes like the greats, instead look for ways to find your own style that works for you. It may take a lot of trial and error, but your presentations will improve if you can make your audience laugh. Non-traditional jokes and untested formulas are fair game, and the possibilities are endless! Have fun with humor and your audience will thank you. If you want to learn more about how to be funny, check out my interview with Cathy McNally, a presentation coach and comedian on my podcast. She shares tips for being funny and teaches a few improv games to try at home. Episode 13 here.
Next time, we’ll talk about one of the most useful yet under-utilized tools in the world of public speaking. It’s likely one you’ve overlooked for years.
Recommended book by Highbrow
Share with friends