Public Speakers — Be Funny By Doing Less

Less is More.  As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet:  “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  This especially applies to public speakers.  And it applies to using humor.

1.  Brevity makes strong structure.  The punchline is the payoff.  Traditional wisdom is that the shortest distance between the setup and the payoff is best.  When a story has a long set up before getting to the joke, it’s said that the punchline is carrying a lot of baggage.  Top comedians work hard on writing a tight setup because it’s the most effective way to structure a joke.

2.  Brevity clarifies.  The key to humor is relationships and connections.  Concise writing helps to make crystal clear the precise words that need to be connected to activate the joke.  Doing more results in confusing clutter.

3.  Brevity gives focus.  Wordiness makes for noise that can hide the punch word or the punch line.  That’s why the punchline and the punch word normally go last.  It puts the spotlight and focus on the key words.  Anything added after that only camouflages the joke and confuses the mind.

4.  Brevity creates scarcity.  The person who is trying to be funny all the time, wears out his welcome.  People get tired of the showboating.  The person who is selectively funny wins.  Scarcity creates value.  It wins the attention and admiration of others.

5.  Brevity teaches discipline.  By selecting only the best jokes and delivering only the best lines, you develop the discipline of knowing which lines are funnier.  When you blurt out all your funny thoughts, you’re not having the mental exercise of filtering out the weak lines.  Being selective will make you a funnier person because it will make you a better judge of good humor.

6.  Brevity makes you appear funnier.  The person who self-selects and uses only the best lines can appear to be funny most of the time.  The person who insists on sharing all lines, strong and weak, will appear to be funny a smaller percentage of the time.  I’d rather be known as a person who delivers a gem nearly every time he speaks, than someone who speaks all the time and is occasionally funny.  One skill set is attractive.  One stands a good chance of being annoying.