Observational Humor — Case Study #86

We recently had a Toastmasters meeting with low attendance.  A small crowd can make the humor less effective.  Humor is contagious, and fewer people in the room means less people to “catch the laughter wave.”  It’s easy to have the mistaken feeling that “nothing funny is happening,” when it’s actually a problem with the energy level.  I’d rather present humor to thirty people than to ten. A bigger crowd is a laughter magnifier.

One of the things about laughter is that humor attracts more humor.  The more laughter you have, the funnier will be the next thing that’s funny.  But don’t despair if you have a small crowd.  You can still create your own funny.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Don’t push it.  If the crowd is small and humor is not quite lifting the roof off the building, tailor your expectations.  Don’t expect as many big laughs as you had at a previous meeting with two to three times as many members.  If you get one or two good laughs, you’re doing well.  When humor isn’t working, the harder you try, the worse it gets.

2.  Adjust your Laugh-O-Meter.  The success of a joke will depend on a lower register of the meter than you’d need with a larger crowd.  Be happy with an appropriate response that fits the crowd.

3.  Create your own funny.  The more an audience laughs, the more opportunities you have to piggy-back on previous jokes and funny comments.  If you don’t have the waves of laughter to help you along, remember you can create your own ripples where there are none.  In our low-attendance meeting, for example, it’s easy to think that there is nothing funny about a small audience.  But there could be…if you create it.  A line I used:  “This is great.  Another full-house (laughter).  The secret to our success is that we all bring our imaginary friends (big laugh).”

4.  Exaggerate the small things. Our club President two or three times made a comment followed by “take that with a grain of salt.”  This is an idiom which normally means to view something with skepticism; not to take something literally.  In my Observational Humor monologue, I gave a humorous tip that received a small laugh.  “Take that tip with a block of salt.”  (Bigger laugh.)   Later in the monologue I had another joke that didn’t rock the small audience.  “Take that joke with two blocks of salt.”  (A good laugh.)  I was able to use the block-of-salt line as a saver, or what I like to call a bomb-line; that’s a line you use to soften the blow of delivering a line that misses the mark.  With a small audience, you’re more likely to need a bomb-line than with a larger crowd.  And how nice it is to use an original bomb-line and a running gag from a fresh observation.

5.  It’s not just what people say.  Sometimes you can make a humorous observation from what people DO.  You need to work a little harder at paying attention.  Daniel was introduced by the emcee to be the Master Evaluator.  He ran up to the front of the room with high energy and ran around Corrine, the emcee, twice.  My observation was:  “Daniel is in great shape.  That’s because every day he runs two laps around Corrine.”

So don’t let a small audience get you down.  There are laughs to be had.  You just need to adjust your expectations, sharpen your techniques and direct your focus.