The Chemistry of Humor

What are the factors that make for good audience response when delivering humor?

1.  A good joke.  Obviously a good piece of humor with the right structure, setup and punchline is important…but not the only factor.  In fact, good humor is often not the most important factor.  And let’s add good delivery.  Also important, but not the most important factor.

2.  The customization of the material.  When the humor is tailored for the group the laughs are likely to be big.  This includes inside jokes.  This includes observational humor.  This includes involving the audience members in the humor or bringing them on the platform with you.

3.  The size of the audience is a big factor.  Over 100 is great.  More than 50 is good.  Less than 20 starts to border on too small.  But even 10 people can react enthusiastically if the humor is on target and customized.

4.  The reputation of the speaker is a factor.  Does the audience know the speaker as either a funny or a not-funny speaker.  Either case can be a plus for the speaker.  It’s when the audience doesn’t know anything about the speaker that can have a negative impact on the response.

5.  The relationship of the audience members…to each other.  An audience that knows and likes each other is a good thing for humor.  Laughter is a social experience.  People are not likely to laugh as loud when surrounded by strangers or people they don’t like.

6.  The relationship of the audience members…to the speaker.  It helps a lot if they like the speaker.

7.  The mood of the day.  What’s in the news today?  What else is on the program agenda?  In other words, what is the collective mood of the audience as you begin speaking.

As you can see, good laughter is more than just a good joke delivered well.  The right chemistry of people and circumstances is important.  When the mix is good, the laughter comes.