Being funny is not as easy as it looks, especially if you are not already known for your amazing sense of humour. So, if you want to make a funny speech, or include humour, here are some invaluable tips.
The good news is: everyone likes jokes. The bad news is: not everyone has the same sense of humour. What you think of as funny, others may think as rude, or crude or inappropriate.
You must never make racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic jokes. You must never make fun of a real person, especially if he or she is in the audience. (unless you have asked and received their permission).
You should not tell well known and corny jokes that are likely to receive a groan. Even puns are not very popular or clever.
There seems to be nothing left. Not true. The funniest parts of speeches can be stories of things that happened to YOU.
YES, self deprecating stories are the best! You know, the time you fell into a bush, wet yourself, mistook someone’s identity, made a fool of yourself, embarrassed yourself, went into the wrong toilet, stole something accidentally. Got caught cheating, ran over an X? Failed an exam. Turned up at the wrong house for a dinner party, or the wrong night… we have all done them and as you tell the story, your audience will picture the whole incident and roar with laughter. If you tell it well.
How do you tell it well? You make it fairly short, sharp and full of adjectives and great action verbs. You lead to a strong punch line. You state the punch line clearly and loudly. Then you stop and pause.
Let me give you an example.
When I was in Grade 5, Mr Potter asked me to clean the black board. There I stood, dreamily cleaning it with the grey duster, when he said, “Come on Judy, put some elbow grease into it,” he said.
“I don’t have any, sir,” I replied, confused.
“Well, go to the office and get some.”
Off I toddled and when the office ladies stopped laughing they informed me that they were all out of elbow grease too.
I was getting suspicious and walked back to the classroom, even more confused.
While I was away, Mr. Potter explained to the class what elbow grease was. So, when I walked in and loudly proclaimed that the office was all out of elbow grease, the whole class laughed loudly at me.
At that moment I remember I could have burst into tears or burst out laughing at my ignorance. I chose to laugh. And it taught me the importance of laughing at myself.
What makes this story so funny is the dialogue, the descriptions and the build up to the climax. Notice, I never explain what elbow grease is. That would spoil the whole story and treat the audience as stupid.
To sum up, humour in the right place at the right time is great. In contrast, inappropriate humour detracts and can spoil a speech.
One last thing. Don’t laugh at your own story or joke. Just tell it, pause and keep a straight face. If you are funny, they will laugh. If you are not, they won’t.