by Eric Feng, The Public Speaking Blog
Why is humor so important?
Have you ever come across speakers who are downright hilarious? They make you laugh on cue, with extremely little effort. And after an hour of laughing out loud, the speaker leaves you wanting more. In fact, there is a tinge of disappointment when the speech ends.
Even when you are driving home, you can’t help but to play back some of the speaker’s funny lines so that you have an excuse to laugh again. Weeks after the speech, you still find yourself telling everyone about how funny this speaker is.
That my friend, is the unfair advantage you gain when you are a funny speaker. When you are able to make your audience laugh.
They like you more.
They learn faster.
They remember you…for all the right reasons.
In the professional speaking industry, your ability to make your audience laugh dictates how much more you will be paid.
So here’s the big question — how do you become funnier? And for those who swear that you have no funny bone, can you even be funny?
To the second question, my answer is a firm YES…and I speak from experience.
Humor can be learned. IT IS A PROCESS!. And there are many time-tested techniques that can help you become funnier. And in this article, I will like to share with you ONE. Trust me, just this ONE technique is sufficient to create 80% of your humor materials.
First, you need to understand this:
AUDIENCES LAUGH WHEN THEY ARE SUCCESSFULLY TRICKED.
So your job as a speaker is to trick your audience.
Let me give you a really simple example. Watch this video by Geoff Burch.
Downright hilarious isn’t it? And here’s why…coz half the time, you really thought that he was inspired by the boy. And he tricked you by telling you that this story is the reason why he is here today (which makes you think it is something really important). And he sounded so serious…even to the extent of being moved by what the boy said. And the surprise came when he fired the boy! That was something that you wouldn’t have expected…which is why we laugh. Unexpectedness. An element of surprise. Tada, you were successfully tricked by him!
The same princple can be applied to visuals as well. Check out this:
Got you laughing right? Why? Coz usually if you want to demonstrate how fast a runner is, you will show him out-run his fellow runners. But in this picture, you see how the runner out-runs his shadow. This is highly unexpected. Again, an element of surprise.
Let’s try one more.
This is a no brainer. We laugh because we see Mc Donald buying a burger from his competitor — Burger King. It would have been funnier if it was a video clip. First we will see a man in trench coat ordering a burger. And when the camera pans in, you see that it was actually Ronald Mc Donald! Now that would have been funnier.
So guys, the principle is really simple. You have to successfully trick your audience in order to make them laugh.
And in order to successfully trick your audience, you need to first figure out what is your audience ASSUMING. And then you break that assumption. That will cause the laughter.
A man and woman are making passionate love in the bedroom. Suddenly, the apartment door opens and a man walks in: “Darling! I’m home!” He walks into the bedroom, looks at the naked couple and says…
First, what are you assuming here?
We assume the man who walks in is the woman’s husband.
Or we assume that “darling” refers to the woman.
So let’s say we go with the first assumption. How we create a laugh is by inserting this line “Oh damn, I didn’t know your husband was home today.”
BUT…this is not going to be as funny as the second one : “What is SHE doing here??!!”
The 2nd one is funnier because it is more unlikely. The first one is highly possible. Get it? The more successful you are in tricking your audience, the more laughs you get. And in order to trick them, you got to first identify the assumption.
There are many more examples I could give you but I think you get my point. Here’s the bottom line, humor can be learned and it is a process.
To end, I shall share with this video. One of my favorites. It’s a tribute to Meryl Streep by one of the funniest guys in USA — Jim Carrey! If you study his lines, you will realize that he successfully tricks you which makes you laugh.
Here’s one without spoiling the entire video.
Jim Carrey (he was talking about his first encounter with Meryl Streep): “At first I was a little nervous. I don’t know what she was like. But lucky for me…she was open and willing to learn. (audience laughs).”
See the mechanics? We assume that he was nervous because it was Meryl Streep! She is one of the best actresses in Hollywood…but the twist became apparent when Jim says “she was open and willing to learn,” making HIM the better actor.
Ok ok… I should just shut up and let you enjoy this hilarious Jim Carrey video. Happy laughing.
Eric Feng, The Public Speaking Blog
Eric is a energetic, young speaker and coach from Singapore. Visit his blog and web site for lots of great information on becoming a powerful speaker.