Sunday, June 1, 2008

How to Be Funny Without Telling Jokes

Here is how to find humor in not-so-funny stuff. Before long, you will have people laughing a lot at your presentation without telling jokes. Below are some ways to get people to laugh.

1.Set the scene for laughter. If you want to lighten up your program, you might want to let the audience know this, even before you say one word. Project some lighthearted visuals as the audience is entering the room. Play some uplifting music as they enter. Or, add some humor to your presentation title or program description. Your bio, for example, can have a list of accomplishments, playfully followed by "His mother is very proud of him."

2.Poke fun at yourself. Again, even before you open your mouth, you can show the audience that you do not take yourself too seriously by adding some playful things about you in your introduction. For example, have the introducer tell the audience that you are the author of seven books which have sold well over 30 copies. Then the person corrects their mistake and says, "Oops, that is 300,000 copies."

3.Get some laughs with a prop. It has been said that learning is enhanced with visual aids. If this is true, then speakers need to enhance their talks with something to visually illustrate what they are saying. A prop is a great way to do this because it not only makes your message memorable but it can also get a laugh. Use balloons to illustrate how people can let go of their stress; an inflatable globe to illustrate how we often carry the world around on our shoulders; and a plastic hammer with which to hit yourself on the head when you goof up. All make a point and all get a laugh.

4.Tell your humorous stories. Open your humor eyes and ears and look and listen for the funny things that happen all around you. Families are an especially good resource for finding humorous stories. One such story involves the author's 93-year-old mother. Every time she goes to the doctor, she hires a van service to take her there and back. One late afternoon, it did not show up to take her home. Since the doctor had to close the office for the day, he suggested that she wait for the van in the pizza parlor next door. After waiting a long time without the van arriving, she went up to the counter and asked, "Do you deliver?" When the man behind the counter replied, "Of course, we do. We're a pizza place." She said, "Great. Then I'd like a pepperoni pizza and I'd like to go with it."

5.Borrow some witty words. While waiting for your own humor-related stories to appear, you might want to borrow some funny short quotes from famous people to lighten up your talks. Quotation books, the TV, newspapers, and magazines such as Reader's Digest are great resources for locating great quotes. For instance, if you frequently speak to hospice groups, Woody Allen's comments about death and dying are appropriate (e.g., "There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?").
6.Collect audience anecdotes. Sometimes audiences say the funniest things. When they do, write it down. It could be a big laugh in your next presentation. For years, I have been asking audiences, "How do you spell relief?" My answer is "L-A-U-G-H". Then one day a woman in the back row called out, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." It got a huge laugh for her that day and continues to get a laugh for me when I retell it.

7.Remember the bottom line. For non-humorists, some of the ideas presented here may seem too frivolous for your subject matter. Nevertheless, I would still encourage you to seek some way of upping the entertainment value of your talks because it might also increase what you can charge. As Steve Allen once noted, "People will pay more to be entertained than educated."

8.Make it relevant. One final word about using humor in your presentations--make sure it is relevant. Amusing an audience for the sake of getting a laugh might be ideal for a stand-up comedian or an after-dinner humorist but it's probably not okay for most speakers. If your humor does not make a point or have a purpose, do not use it!

When speaking to a group of people, sweep the room with your eyes so that everybody pays attention to you In sweeping the room, periodically make eye contact for a few moments with one person, then with another - don't appear too animated and speak to that person as though they were the whole room, then break contact and look at someone else. In Powerpoint presentations or similar situations, use crudely drawn pictures you threw together in MS Paint (or similar program). Make it quite obvious that you are not an artist with stick figures, incoherent blobs, and poorly drawn simple pictures, all with the brush tool. No predefined shapes, text tools, or anything of that sort. The idea of this is that you threw this picture together in paint in 30 seconds. Present it as you would any other slide, starting off with "this diagram I put together..." or anything that mentions that you did it.

Be careful while poking fun at yourself (step 2). If you do it, do it without losing credibility, or else no one will take the rest of your presentation seriously. Do not dress funny for, let's say a presentation. That is a surefire way for people not to take what you say seriously. You should be able to make people laugh and still get your message across. If you look like a clown you will be perceived as a clown.

The article is written by Stanley Lyndon, author of "How to be Funny" ISBN 1-4276-1392-3 sold at: . This may be distributed free of cost anywhere as long as the author note is preserved. Stanley Lyndon is a well established comedian/writer and author of "How to be Funny". His website can be found at:

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