The Elephant in the Room; Notes on Humorous Speaking

Notes from a short workshop speech I made.

Comedy is like having a baby…

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There are three areas to concentrate on, The Room (Hospital or Hot Tub), The Delivery (someone who knows what they are doing – a nurse with a short skirt?), and The Material (it is helpful to actually be pregnant…)

The Room:

Sight, Sound – prepare this in advance

Make sure they can see you – if there is a light onto the stage, if it is shining into your eyes then you are probably in the right place (remember, yes, you Are the Messiah!)
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If they can’t hear you, they can’t laugh at what you are saying, only at what you are doing. Check the acoustics, do a mic check if there is one.

Delivery:

Status and Vocal Tone

Comedy is about status. By being on stage, you have the highest status in the room. There are ways to raise the status further – really take control of your stage, show that you own it, and also take control of the audience, get them to do as you request. If you address a member of the audience and take the mickey, you raise your own status higher by raising theirs than by lowering theirs (as it shows greater confidence)

Make sure you deliver the baby to your audience with confidence – the punch comes right at the end, don’t drop it (people don’t laugh when you drop babies, think Michael Jackson)

Material – the beautiful baby itself. Remember, it doesn’t matter how ugly your baby is, if you love it, so will everyone else (and what they want to think is that you had fun making it!)

There are many ways of writing material, and there are many good books on the subject. I would recommend

Logan Murray’s Be a Great Stand-Up: Teach Yourself

Sally Holloway’s The Serious Guide to Joke Writing: How To Say Something Funny About Anything

A couple of very useful tips to bear in mind:

Address the now, the elephant in the room. Any reference that everyone can relate to, and especially if it is highly noticeable – someone getting up during your speech, the sound of a siren, a very loud shirt, etc. Your audience notices these distractions, and by mentioning them you take control of them, whatever afterthought you come up with, no matter how simple or silly, will generally get a laugh.
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People like to be surprised. If they are expecting one thing and you give them another, they will enjoy this.

If you can create a full image, you will bring people much more deeply into your reality.

The rule of three. Set up the premise, confirm the premise, and then surprise them with the third point. Alternatively, have three punchlines on a row – very powerful if you can come up with it.

Writing comedy requires work. It can be easy, it can be difficult, but the key is to do lots and lots of it. If you write as many afterthoughts as you can to every sentence in your speech, 10% will likely be quite good. Of those, 10% will likely be excellent. If you want lots of excellent punchlines, practice by writing one hundred times lots of punchlines and don’t worry that they aren’t all works of genius!

So you see, being funny really is like having babies: Everyone can do it (even if it is by mistake!), if you enjoy it you will practice lots, and if you practice lots, you will make lots of lovely babies!
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Good luck

Al

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