A Revealing Article By A Toastmasters Group About How To Add Humor To Any Speech

As I continue my research on what types of information is being made available on page one of the search engines about how to add humor to any speech, I have to say that…

I am not surprised that the information geared for public speaking is just as awful as that available for prospective comedians.

The article that I am going to discuss below was found on a search engine page one using the term “confidence in adding humor to speeches”.

Initially, my intention was to write an article focused on aspects of confidence as it relates to getting laughs, but when I found the article that I am about to discuss (the link to the article is provided below) I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick it apart.

With that said, let’s get started.

The Introduction

Here’s how the article starts:

Listeners appreciate a little humor, even in a serious speech. Done incorrectly, humor can be a disaster. Executed correctly, humor lightens the load, eases the burden and releases tension.

Nothing inaccurate about that.

The introduction goes on to state that there are three basic methods for adding humor to a speech — using a canned joke, tell an original joke or simply make a wry observation.

The information about about using a canned joke is not bad and I will provide some additional input on that topic next.

It’s the original material and make a wry observation methods presented that actually leads people astray, whether the author of the article realizes or not.

About Using Canned Jokes

A canned joke is commonly referred to in stand—up comedy as a street joke or a joke joke. It is an open source joke for which is not attributed to anyone and can be used by anyone.

Contrary to some of the information provided online, using canned jokes can actually be a fantastic way to generate on demand audience laughter at any juncture of a speech or presentation if they are properly selected, edited as needed, rehearsed and properly delivered.

Reality based street jokes can also be easily transformed into quick, personalized short stories that are particularly valuable in public speaking environments (that what my Street Joke Secrets For Public Speaking course focuses on).

Here is an example of a canned joke:

A guy walks into his doctor and says, “Doc, you gotta help me, I can’t remember anything!” The doctor asks, “How long have you had this problem?”

The guy says, “What problem?”

I have personally used canned jokes with great success, mostly as an opener for corporate comedy gigs and speeches.

But there have been times when half of a 15—20 minute presentation consisted of canned jokes.

The more “in-depth” information provided in this canned joke section of the Toastmasters article is pretty much the “standard” type of academic, non—actionable blah, blah, blah.

There’s mention of timing and delivery with an example of what a new Toastmasters member did when attempting to use a canned joke at the beginning of their speech, but…

There’s actually nothing anyone could actually use and apply in that section of the article even though it appears to be presented as something actionable.

But while we are on the subject…

Here’s some additional information about canned jokes (street jokes, open source jokes) used as a means to add humor to a speech that wasn’t included in the article (again, this sort of information is covered in detail in my course that is focused on transforming reality based street jokes into short stories):

1. Good open source jokes can be hard to find. You need to be prepared to sort through a lot of really bad jokes if you are looking for canned jokes to use in a speech or presentation.

The reason is because most of these sorts of jokes fall into three categories:

a. They are too dirty or inappropriate for use in public speaking

b. They are too simple or corny to generate any noteworthy laughter

c. They just aren’t funny (at least not on planet Earth).

2. Almost any canned joke you find that is actually funny and appropriate for use will usually require editing. That’s because:

a. They are virtually all written to be read and not spoken the way a person actually talks.

b. Because they are written to be read, they usually contain more words — sometimes many more words — than needed when spoken.

Tip: When telling a canned joke, the faster you can get to the punchline of the joke, the bigger the laugh you can generate provided the joke is funny.

3. Canned jokes can be effectively tested in casual conversations BEFORE being used in a public speech or presentation.

In other words, you don’t have to embarrass yourself publicly by using a canned joke in a speech to find out that it’s a dud.

You can test just about any canned joke to see if the joke will get sufficient laughs in advance — particularly those jokes that can be transformed into personalized stories because even if someone has heard the original joke, they won’t recognize it.

It is the remainder of the article where the author ventures far outside their level of competence that tends raise my frustration level…

Using New or Original Material

Before I go down the rabbit hole on the information the author of the article offered in the way of guidance on producing new joke material, please note…

The resources provided at the bottom of the Toastmasters article are representative of so—called comedy “experts” who provide detailed academic or descriptive information, coupled with examples of OTHER PEOPLE’S sense of humor in action, which is then presented as actionable instruction in a one—size—fits—all fashion.

I’m not going to go through and pinpoint every single issue in this author’s presentation. Otherwise, this article would be 10+ pages long.

But what I am going to is to point out some select areas that were presented and provide you with some professional insight on why I believe the information provided to be absolute hooey.

The Beginning Of The Process

The section producing new humor material starts with this:

There is a basic three—point structure you can follow to create your own, original material:

Come up with a topic,

Add a premise, and

Turn it around.

Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Actually, what you are looking at is the beginning of MISERY and UNCERTAINTY when it comes to creating or developing original joke material for a speech or presentation.

Here’s why I say this…

What these steps indicate that you do is to attempt to fabricate (translation: materialize directly from ones own rear end) something that may have humor potential in a way that is NOT connected with how a person’s natural sense of humor operates in real life.

What these steps also do is to lay a foundation that implies that how you use and express your sense of humor in everyday life is not sufficient — you need to use some sort of “special process” like this one in order to effectively create the new joke material that you want for a speech.

And just so that we are crystal clear before I dive into exactly why this approach is 100% bunk, please note:

I am one of the very few people on the planet who can review a video of ANYONE generating audience laughs in ANY environment and I can tell you down to the word, word group, syllable and/or body language used how and why the laughter was generated.

So here is the explanation provided by the author for how this is supposed to be accomplished — my comments are interjected:

Here’s how it works: First, come up with a topic. For example, if you are a parent, you might want to make a joke about being a father or a mother. Here’s a caveat. If you are a woman, don’t choose the topic of being a father. The audience won’t be able to relate through you.

Again, this notion of “coming up with a topic” has absolutely NOTHING to do with how a person’s sense of humor works or how a person expresses their sense of humor.

In reality this is nothing more than speculative guessing at best on what may possibly be funny or appealing to an audience.

Answer this question:

When you are causing laughter to happen in everyday conversations, do you stop to ponder or otherwise “figure out” what may be a funny topic before you start talking?

Nope — that’s not the way your sense of humor that took DECADES to develop and express works to get laughs when you communicate verbally.

More questions:

So why can’t you simply pinpoint things that you already know something about, that you already have experience with and/or that you are already interested in that ALREADY easily activates your sense of humor?

Do the imaginary universal laws of humor and comedy prohibit that?

Expectation Management

Here’s the next line in this section of the article that floored me:

“Sometimes a witty observation will produce no more than a smile or a twinkle in someone’s eye. That’s enough.”

This is a statement of defeat and is basically an attempt to manage expectations.

This is probably because the author knows that the process that is being outlined isn’t very effective (if at all) and is indicating you should set the bar low when attempting to add humor to a speech using this methodology.

If you want to settle for the “twinkle in someone’s eye” or a smile when you deliver your speech humor material, that is100% your call.

It’s been my experience that right after that twinkle or smile happens is when that person starts to lapse into a coma.

Here’s the reality — a speech is either wildly entertaining, interesting or engaging or it isn’t.

Your humor material for your speech either generates big laughs or it doesn’t.

Keep this in mind at ALL times if you are more than just a timid hobbyist in the realm of public speaking:

Your “competition” in the real world of public speaking can deliver humor material in a speech at or near pro comedian levels — virtually at will during their speeches.

These are the people who are getting the most opportunities to speak and who can command the most money for doing it.

If that’s not what you are striving for, then you have effectively joined the masses of speakers who are hoping to get a “smile or a twinkle in somebody’s eye” when they talk to audiences.

In stand-up comedy, this situation of only getting a smile or a twinkle in somebody’s eye is called bombing.

In public speaking I suppose it could called providing sleep aid replacement therapy.

The Next Step

Now for the next step…

Next, create a premise. Let’s say you are making a joke about being a dad. Your premise might be that it’s hard to be a dad. Or, that having kids makes men a bit stupid. Or weird. Or that having kids is scary.

Here we go again — it wasn’t enough to “guess” what topic to come up with.

Now the process involves “guessing” what the angle or approach will be on the topic that was effectively plucked from ones own rear end to start with.

See my previous comments and questions on “selecting” (or more accurately speaking — “guessing”) a topic because they apply to this “create a premise” nonsense as well.

This is NOT how a person’s natural, already well developed sense of humor works. But what this does do is…

It provides a fabulous foundation for writer’s block.

As an interesting side note — nobody seems to get talker’s block when they are using and expressing their sense of humor naturally.

The Last Step In This Section

The last step in this section is a near perfect example of how non-actionable information is positioned as actionable:

The third part is the hard part. You have to bring in the unexpected. For instance, if you are working with “skateboarding on the highway is stupid,” and you were being serious, you might finish with how dangerous it is. For a joke, look for insight. Look for pain.

This third part is massively understated — it’s not just the “hard part”, it is damn near impossible considering that:

  • A topic to begin with was guessed
  • A premise to use with the guessed topic was also guessed
  • Now, the last step is to also guess on some sort of unexpected aspect that will generate the laugh

It doesn’t seem to matter at all that NONE of these steps engage a person’s natural sense of humor or the unique way they express their sense of humor.

Nope — what you need to do according to this author is to basically follow the “imaginary universal laws of comedy” and that means that you MUST guess your way to being funny when it comes to adding humor in in speeches.

Now I’m not going to continue on skewering the rest of the article.

You can read it for yourself using the link below if you want to try to shoot for getting “that twinkle in somebody’s eye” when you try to add original jokes or humor material to your speeches:

How To Add Humor To Any Speech

Now if you want to contrast the type of information that I provide compared to what was provided by the Toastmasters group article, you might want to check out this article of mine:

Easily Adding Humor To Any Type Of Speech
This revealing article reveals the truth about adding humor to different types of speeches.

Before I wrap this up, I do have some important information that you might want to pay close attention to as you are reviewing resources to learn how to add humor to speeches…

About Humor And Comedy Examples

One of the key tactics used to peddle non—actionable information as usable or actionable information is by providing examples of what is being described or defined.

The article that I reviewed is no different.

But here is the problem when it comes to using examples of comedy and humor material to bolster definitions and descriptions in order to position that as “actionable” information:


Let’s say that you want to build a small tiny house on a piece of land that you have near a lake.

You want to do all the work yourself, so you go to an expert to share with you everything that you need to know to do that.

First, the expert describes and defines every type of material you will need to build this tiny home — from the cement used for the foundation to the roofing materials you will need and everything in between.

Next the expert shows you hundreds of pictures from every angle — inside and out — of 50 different tiny homes that you might want to emulate all or part of to build your tiny home.

Then when that is done, the tiny home expert wishes you the best of luck building your tiny home from the ground up and can’t wait to to see “the twinkle on your eye” when it’s all done.


Do you see any problems with what I have just presented? I do…

There wasn’t so much as a single lick of actionable information provided on how to actually build ANY aspect of a tiny house — not the foundation, not the frame, not the plumbing or electric, or anything else for that matter.

You are SOL (simply outta luck) and left to “guess” what you actually need to do — just like the “conventional” processes for adding humor to speeches and presentations.

And that’s EXACTLY what happens in the vast majority of comedy or humor education made available in any form — there are plenty of examples of somebody else’s sense of humor in action but…

There is NO actual viable or usable step—by—step instruction on how you can effectively use or apply your own already developed sense of humor or comedy talent skill set to add humor to any speech you want to deliver.

In Texas, this is commonly referred as “all hat and no cattle”.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to pontificate, speculate or guess about any aspect of the process as the author of the article that I have picked apart suggests.

Final Thoughts

Before I conclude this article, please note:

The author of the article that I just reviewed was not trying to be malicious or misleading. They were simply regurgitating the “conventional” and accepted information provided on the topic of how to add humor to any speech.

And this sort of parroting of misinformation happens with great frequency online.

However, unbeknownst to the author, the article that I reviewed simply bolsters an extremely ineffective process that — in real world applications — is actually much like trying to take a drink water from a colander.

It completely bypasses the way a person naturally and effectively uses and expresses their sense of humor to get laughs when they talk.

But this author is not alone — there are literally mountains of this kind of information online that leads people down the path of disappointing audiences using information that is merely informational at best:

Here is the link to another article review that I did for an author touting a trademarked, step-by-step approach to adding humor speeches.

Check it out for yourself to see if you can pinpoint the similarities:

How To Add Humor To A Speech
If you want know how to add humor to a speech, I strongly recommend that you DO NOT follow the advice of the author showcased in this article.

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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