Humor Lessons from Stand Up Comedy

  • SumoMe

Do you want to add some punch to your presentations?

Do you want to leave your audience laughing?Or at least keep them awake?

Add some humor!  People are more receptive when they are laughing.

I know what some of you are thinking. “But I’m not funny!  I can’t even tell a joke!”

Forget about trying to tell jokes!  Humor doesn’t have to be that hard.

Here is the basic secret of humor—And I quote World Champion Toastmaster Darrin LaCroix: “ People laugh when their minds are successfully tricked.”

As a speaker you are taking your audience on a train ride,  leading them where they expect to go and then you derail them.

You’ve all heard the classic: “Take my wife…Please!”  Why is it funny?  What do you expect to come after “Take my wife?”  (“for example”)—Your mind jumps ahead to what it expects during the set up.  Then, the punchline “Please” is different than what you expected.

The classic “Set up” and “punchline” format sets up an expectation and the punchline changes the expectation.

It helps to have a little pause before the punchline to allow the audience to “fill-in” an expectation.

Another Example from Abraham Lincoln:  “If I were 2-faced. . .would I be wearing this one?”

Humor doesn’t have to be that hard, but that is not to say that you don’t have to work at it!

I realized that I needed to work on adding more humor to my presentations, so about 7 years ago, I took a stand up comedy class.  Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that doing stand up comedy is definitely different than giving a speech—you have to get to the “funny” faster.

Click on the picture below to see the 4 minute routine (from 2006 when I was skinnier and didn’t realize how awful a patterned dress looks on video!).  A written version of the stand up (not exactly the same as the video), is also below the video.

Hi, I’m Diane. I’m a mini-van driving, Blackberry-toting, soccer mom from the suburbs. 
My little world is perfectly organized. . . except now. . .I have teenagers.

If you have teens, you all know the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde Syndrome:  So mature one moment, so childish the next.  So detached, yet so clingy.  So cool and serene, yet underneath, seething with rage—Well, enough about me.
And now, I have a teenage driver.  It’s caused me to developed a nervous tick—(gasp, startle, brake  gesture).  Hee, Hee, Hee, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo—They should have told me when I took Lamaze that I could still use the techniques 17 years after the baby.

So, just a few days ago, as my son and I were driving down our street– every little kid within a 20 mile radius appears out of nowhere—“Stop! Hee, Hee You’re going too fast!”. . . (Which is good advice for any man).  “Mother, we’re only going 16 miles per hour.”

 I’m one of those moms who loves to do things with my kids—so we all took up karate—now we get to punch and kick each other and nobody calls the cops.  …(smile) It’s called therapy.

I also have a 14 year old daughter—just last year she was telling me how “Yucky” boys are.  This year she wants to go to Southern California because of all the “Hot” guys.  She says it would be like a “Buffet of Boys.”  We have to go vegetarian.

She resents my meddling in her affairs.  ”Mom, this is my life.  Your life is OVER!” 

I must be crazy—I’m homeschooling my daughter.  She decided she didn’t want to waste her intelligence in school.  She’d rather just waste mine.  I’ve taught her everything she knows…if I taught her everything I know, well we’d be back at the “Boy Buffet.”

Have you noticed that teenagers suffer from a kind of blindness?  Especially when it comes to dirty dishes.  I even put a big note on my kitchen counter:  “No dirty dishes on the counter—Ever!”  When I come in the next morning, I can’t find the note—it’s covered by dirty dishes!  I’m thinking of getting one of those things on the front of trains that push cows out of the way—what are they called? Cow pushers?  But what I really need is what all parents of teenagers need:  a little patience, a little perseverance anda big bottle of Prozac.