For Public Speakers The Truth is Funny

One of the humor triggers that I look for is the obvious situation that everyone is aware of…the truth.  Sometimes simply stating the truth is funny.  Sometimes you can get the laugh by stating the truth indirectly.  Let’s revisit a few lines and examine some reasons the truth is funny:

Everybody is thinking about it.  Normally if something is obvious, if something stands out, if something is annoying…everybody is thinking about it, or at least thinking about it.  If it’s a problem, it creates tension (another humor trigger).  And frequently, nobody is talking about it (more tension!).  Let’s look at an example.  I was at a Las Vegas convention five years ago. Although it was hot outside, it was freezing in the meeting room.  Imagine a room which you would consider too cold.  Now reduce the temperature ten degrees and turn on the air conditioning full blast.  One of the members of the audience was wearing down jacket with a hood!  Here is a simple Observational Humor line:  “I think it’s starting to snow in here!”  Laughs are guaranteed.  It’s what people are thinking about.  The problem is creating tension.  Humor relieves the tension.  You’ll probably also get applause as people think, “finally someone notices.”

Exploring the other side.  Sometimes you will observe something that can be perceived differently by different  people.  Fifteen years ago I was at a convention where a wedding-reception band was rocking the room on the other side of a temporary sliding wall.  Our banquet had not been planned to include loud music.  Some people may have found the music annoying, and some may have been enjoying it.  The simple observational line:  “I hope you’ve been enjoying our band.”  Observations often take the truth and twist it a bit.  In this case, the line implies that “we arranged for the band.”  One of my favorite observational lines comes from Joe Griffith.  Noticing that a woman was making noise while clearing dishes as he began his speech, he gestured to her and said, “Have you all met my wife?”  Twisting the truth and exaggerating is a good formula for getting laughs.

A set-up on a silver platter.  The truth, or an obvious situation, is often a just begging for a punchline.  If it’s something that everyone notices, then it probably needs no set-up from you.  From a humor structure stand-point, that’s great.  Normally you want as few words as possible between the set-up and the punchline.  How about no set-up from you and a quick, surprise punchline from nowhere?  I was presenting a program in Atlanta 25 years ago.  I had noticed that the servers returned many bowls of cold peach soup to the kitchen.  It was not a popular dish with the people attending the banquet.  In my speech I did a skit where I ate cold roast-beef-hash from a can.  I added a line to my prepared presentation:  “Cold hash from a can doesn’t taste all that great.  But it tastes pretty good compared to the soup.”  Twenty-five seconds of laughter and applause.  It acknowledges the truth.  It takes advantage of a perfect set-up which required no effort on my part, except to use it.

Tune your radar.  Look for the truth.  Get the laughs!