Can You Learn To Be Funny For A Speech Or Presentation?

I did an online search for “how to make a speech funny” for a couple of reasons:

1. I wanted to see what kind of bad information is being peddled by those so inclined to write about adding humor to speeches and presentations.

But more importantly…

2. I wanted to see what misleading content was being served up in the top spots in the search engine results. And guess what I discovered?

The information that is listed in the top 3 search engine results was mostly GARBAGE. Specifically, I am talking about content about how to make a speech funny that is not only lacking in actionable value but is nothing short of misleading.

One of the absolute worst statements (or some similar variation) that tends to burn me up is this:

Learn to be funny.

From my professional point of view as a globally establish comedy trainer, that approach is no different than this one:

How to learn to be taller.

The idea that one must somehow acquire a unique comedy skill set or master certain comedy techniques in order to get the laughs they need from a speech or presentation is one of the most destructive (and misleading) components of the “learn to be funny” approach.

Not only is this obviously untrue, but I will also give you the data you need to verify what I am about to say regarding the absurd idea of “learning to be funny” on your own.

But let me start with this first:

A person CAN’T gain new or different comedy skills in addition to (or instead of) the ones they already possess.

Let’s now investigate why that is.

Some Key Definitions

Let’s start out with some simple definitions so that we are on the same page:

Sense of Humor Aspect #1 (The Mental Aspect): This is the “lens” through which you see the world around you. It is comprised of your perspectives and points of view on anything based on what you have experienced, know, thought about, etc. It’s how you “connect the dots” in your mind using information that you gather to generate laughs when you are talking with other people.

Sense of Humor Aspect #2 (The Expressive Aspect): This is the natural way by which you actually physically communicate the mental aspects of your sense of humor. This is a combination of the words you instinctively use, how you combine the words you choose to use along with the facial expressions, body language, voice inflection and tone variations that you use when you talk.

Comedy talent: The ability to make others laugh as a result of the combination of both aspects of an individual’s sense of humor – the mental aspect and the physically expressive aspect.

Armed with that information, here are some questions that I’m going to discuss and that you may want to do research on yourself:

How did you develop the sense of humor/comedy talent that you have right now? Another important question is…

How long did it take you to develop the sense of humor/comedy talent that you have right now?

The answers to those two questions reveal exactly why a person CANNOT “learn to be funny” or develop some magical comedy/humor skills that they don’t already have, specifically:

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It takes a person the first 1.5 to 2 DECADES of their life to develop the baseline sense of humor/comedy talent that they will have for the remainder of their life.

The sense of humor/comedy talent skills that a person has is the result of many hundreds of thousands, if not MILLIONS of personal interactions with a countless number of people in a countless variety of accumulated DAILY scenarios that start when a person is a very small child.

So this nonsense that someone can “learn” to be funny absolutely discounts the extensive time and experiences that were involved to garner the sense of humor and comedy talent they already have.

Now you are certainly welcome to comb through white papers and articles from leading psychologists and researchers regarding details about how a person’s sense of humor is developed, what is involved and how long it takes.

But one of the more interesting “proofs” that I have discovered involving the development of a sense of humor/comedy talent actually involves artificial intelligence.

Looking For Answers In What Artificial Intelligence CAN’T Do

You might not be aware of it but artificial intelligence (AI) has become incredibly sophisticated and advanced.

As a matter of fact, you may not be aware of it, but if you use the internet for just about anything, you are interacting with AI.

And AI continues to evolve at such a rate that it could actually pose a whole host of issues for humanity (think Terminator and Skynet).

But no matter how advance or evolved AI becomes, it cannot “learn” to be funny. It cannot be programmed to be funny beyond the simplest jokes, puns or riddles. Odd huh?

What’s even more odd to me is that AI developers, researchers and scientists can’t seem to figure out why AI can’t learn to be funny past the most simple and basic levels.

I have an article on my main blog for comedians about AI and how it relates to comedy talent that you can find here.

But here’s why AI can’t learn to be funny like a human in a nutshell:

AI involves an initial set of data points used to formulate some sort of output. When it comes to data points, it does not matter how many data points AI has when it comes to programmed input, it can’t “learn” to be funny at a high level because…

AI is missing the countless unique human interactions over years that are responsible for the development of the sense of humor/comedy talent that results.

In other words, it is simply impossible at this point to “program” AI to be funny with countless complex human interactions, complete with the widest possible range of points of view, life outlook, common experiences, associated body language, facial expressions, micro expressions, voice and tone variations and on and on.

So if all one needs to do in order to write and deliver a funny speech is to “learn to be funny”, seems to me that all the professionals who work with AI need to do is simply “program it to be funny”, right?

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And if that’s the case, how come they haven’t seemed to figure that out yet? Odd, huh?

But there is some good news to be had with the information that I have provided…

Some Good News

First of all, humans need not worry about being replaced in the realm of funny public speaking or stand-up comedy by any head on a stick programmed artificial intelligence any time soon. More importantly…

Most people have all the comedy talent that they need to write and deliver a funny speech or presentation IF they simply choose to use and apply that comedy talent to the speaking environment they wish to conquer with laughter.

Now do let me say that there are some people who have the same comedy talent as an ingrown toenail. Interestingly enough, these are usually the folks most interested in somehow “learning” how to be funny (which again, is like somehow learning to be taller).

But those folks are the minority, not the majority of people who want to entertain public speaking audiences with laughter.

I guess my biggest gripe with the whole “learn to be funny” BS is that it immediately discounts a person’s own sense of humor/comedy talent as somehow not worthy or not good enough for public speaking. That’s rich considering that…

It only took the better part of two DECADES to develop the sense of humor and the comedy talent a person has in the first place.

Here’s the bottom line:

For individuals who are unable or unwilling to grasp that their sense of humor/comedy talent IS by far more than good enough to entertain public speaking audiences and feel that they need to “learn” how to be funny…

Those folks will struggle and continue to do so when it comes to writing speeches or presentations that generate big and genuine laughs.

I’ll end this article with some important questions that you need to answer for yourself:

  • When you cause friends, family, or coworkers to laugh with something that you say, how did you “write that material? Did you stop in mid-conversation and jot down what you wanted to say in a note for all to read?
  • What EXACTLY would cause you to believe that the sense of humor/comedy talent that you have right now is somehow not sufficient to make public speaking audiences laugh on demand? Is this something that you have assumed, something you have read, something someone has told you or combination of these things?
  • How are you going to approach the process of how to make a speech funny? Are to going to try to “learn” how to be funny or are you going to use and structure the sense of humor and comedy talent THAT YOU HAVE ALREADY SPENT YEARS DEVELOPING?

Whatever you decide to do, it’s 100% your call.

Steve Roye is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of spoken word comedy development and delivery for stand-up comedians and public speaking professionals alike. For details about Steve's diverse background and extensive experience, click here.

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