One of the things that I have been doing to get ideas for my own articles about how to add humor to a speech is to simply do a search and review the articles that are listed on first page of the search engine results.
Fortunately, I am well aware of the various “processes” that seem to get the most attention and why those processes don’t really provide much in the way of really helping a person understand what’s truly involved when it comes to delivering a humorous speech.
Not only that, these commonly accepted “processes” also don’t provide much in the way of easily actionable information that will actually work to generate the laughter results desired when delivering a speech.
On a recent search I did, I noticed that one of the articles that was listed on page one was over 6 years old and claimed by the author to reveal the important steps for adding humor to a speech.
Let’s go through these steps right now, keeping this in mind:
I strongly believe that most of the information that can be found online about how to add humor to a speech is pure baloney and doesn’t have the value that it claims to have for a variety of reasons. The article that I am about to pick apart is no different.
So, as I go though the steps in this author’s process, I will try to illustrate why I harbor such beliefs.
The First Step
According to the author of his trademarked process for adding humor to a speech, here is the first step in the process:
I find this quite interesting because people have been making other people laugh since childhood without any formal instruction or inside knowledge about how humor works whatsoever.
They don’t have a clue about what a set-up line is or what a punchline is. They just say something and the others they are talking to laugh.
But once you make the decision to enter the world of public speaking, the dynamic changes and now in order generate laughs from an audience, you are required to know how humor works in order to get laughs and an be funny for an audience.
In my opinion, this is exactly were the set-up for failure starts. Why do I say that?
First of all, this step more than implies that if you don’t know how humor works, then you won’t be able to add humor to a speech and you won’t be able to get any laughs.
So let me give you everything you need to know right now about how humor works when talking in ANY environment:
Set-up lines: Spoken word information that is not intended to be funny and provides the basis for delivering punchlines related to the information being discussed.
Punchlines: Spoken word lines relative to the information being discussed that generates laughs.
Element of surprise: The unexpected “twist”, angle or point of view that gives a punchline its ability to cause laughter to happen.
What I have just provided is what is usually peddled by the so-called experts as the foundational “secrets” for not only building a stand-up comedy routine, but for also adding humor to speeches.
Then, example after example is provided to demonstrate how this “essential” knowledge is applied.
So now that you are armed with these vital “secrets”, let me ask some questions:
How were you able to generate a single laugh in everyday life without knowing any of this information? Was it just the result of decade after decade accidental happenstance?
Explain to me exactly how studying examples someone else’s sense of humor and comedy talent in front of an audience will help you to add humor to speeches that you deliver using your own unique sense of humor and comedy talent?
Now that you know that punchlines have an unexpected “twist” that helps to get laughs, exactly how are you going mechanically add any sort of unexpected “twist” to your speech content to get laughs? Are you going to pull it out of your rear end? Is it supposed to come to in a dream or during meditation?
Here’s my take on this:
The minute a person starts to “study” and “learn” about what humor is – particularly from examples of someone else’s sense of humor and comedy talent – that’s the minute that a person takes two giant steps backward when it comes to adding humor to a speech.
Now don’t get the wrong idea – there is plenty of solid, actionable information to learn when it comes to adding humor to speeches – that is if you want to deliver speeches that get laughs at a pro level.
But the information that I am referring to should be focused on how a person naturally and organically uses their sense of humor and comedy talent in everyday conversations and how to apply that already developed skill set to a speech or presentation.
The second step in the article that I reviewed was this:
This is actually not a bad tip. I say that from this perspective:
You can’t add humor to a speech until you have something to add the humor to.
Where this author takes a left turn and heads deep into the weeds as he continues down the path of revealing the trademarked process that he has to offer is revealed in the steps that follow.
Steps 3 and 4
Steps 3 and 4 provided by this author are connected at the hip so to speak. But I will cover each independently:
What we have here is the road to the old, tired and ineffective “joke formula” method of adding humor to speeches.
This is the exact same methodology that so-called comedy “experts” tout as the essential way to produce the “funny”.
My perspective: I believe attempting to use joke formulas to incorporate humor into a speech is just like trying to get a size 10 foot to fit into a size 6 shoe – the results are painful and it doesn’t work.
But let me ask you some questions:
Reflect back on anytime that you have said anything that made others around you laugh. Did you happen to stop and ponder what “joke formula” that you were going to employ to get those laughs? You didn’t? My, how odd.
Why exactly do you need to know a single joke formula to generate audience laughs from a speech? What does knowing ANY joke formula have to do with you naturally using your sense of humor and comedy talent in your speech?
Why exactly can’t you use your natural and organic sense of humor and comedy talent (the way you express your sense of humor) to add humor to your speeches? Are their public speaking laws that prohibit this sort of renegade activity?
What this sort of approach actually does is reduces the complexity and the decades of trial and error and countless human interactions required for a person to develop their own unique sense of humor and comedy talent to something similar to instructions for using shampoo.
Now for the last two steps in this “easy” process…
Steps 5 And 6
Here are the last two steps in the process explained by this particular author:
Step 5 above reminds of one of the stupidest things that I ever read online about producing jokes for a stand-up comedy routine:
When you write a joke, make sure it’s funny!
Just make sure the jokes (laugh lines) you write or “dream up” are funny – why didn’t I think of that?
Here’s a much better (and far easier) approach when it comes to how to add humor to any speech in my professional opinion:
With this approach you don’t have to learn or study a single “joke formula”, method or tactic that you have to somehow “mechanically apply” to in order to add humor to any speech or presentation.
Here’s how I would characterize Step 6 above:
“Now that you have learned and have attempted to apply simplistic, universally accepted methodologies that effectively circumvents the natural and organic way that you usually use to get laughs when you talk to others in everyday life…
You can now get in front of audiences and suck at a high level when you attempt this approach just like most everyone else does when they give their speeches that flop using this methodology.”
If you want to review the article that I have been referring to for yourself:
The problem that Mr. Olsen has among the sea of so-called “experts” when it comes to attempting to teach people how to add humor to a speech can be described like this:
You can learn how to disassemble a guitar down to every single individual part. You can memorize the name of every single part that a guitar is made of.
You can learn how to skillfully put a guitar together blindfolded using the individual parts that you know by heart.
And after all the time and effort expended to be able to do all of that…
You still wouldn’t know much of anything useful about how to play any type of song with that guitar.
And that folks is EXACTLY what happens in conventual comedy or humor education – whether it be in the world of stand-up comedy or the world of public speaking.
It’s all about teaching people things that have little or anything to do with effectively using and applying the sense of humor and associated comedy talent that they have already developed at a high level.
And please note – I am NOT trying to imply or express that this is done with malicious intent. That’s not the case at all.
Keep this in mind:
Bloodletting was an acceptable medical treatment for literally THOUSANDS of years until the late 19th century when somebody figured out that the process was was contributing to people dying because they were bleeding to death.
There wasn’t any malicious intent involved with that process either – but countless people still croaked needlessly because of inaccurate, yet universally “accepted” information that was being used to treat people.
The same is true when it comes to adding humor to speeches – countless people “die” in front of audiences everyday because they are focused on learning and applying information that simply DOES NOT HELP them to effectively use their sense of humor and comedy talent in the public speaking arena.
Here is an article that you may want to review that thoroughly covers my perspective on first secret everyone should know about adding humor to a speech: