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How to Be Funny (for fun and profit)

Ever heard the old joke?  

Q:  How do you get to Carnegie Hall (or Sydney Opera House or La Scala, etc.)

A:  Practice!

So if you are chairing an event, giving a speech, or simply making a toast, here’s some practical advice from professional comedian Rodney Marks on How To Be Funny:

  1. Mine your biography for 10 funny experiences that could happen only to you.
  2. Enjoy the pause but beware the silence. The pause connects you to your audience; the silence distances you. Learn the difference.
  3. Name ‘the elephant in the room’. Comedy is bold!  Verbalise the unspoken subtext and you’ll get laughs (or fired).
  4. Practise.
  5. Practice some more.
  6. Done?  No.  Practice more.
  7. Turn your audience’s world view on its head – do we need government? why does work exist?  Comedy is all about perspective.
  8. Don’t seek audience approval. Take them on a journey – “That reminds me of the time …”.
  9. Be the butt of your own jokes and stories. Self-deprecation is funnier than moral superiority.  It’s ok to be inferior to the audience.  Better still, make them feel superior.
  10. If working alone, you can populate your stage with imaginary characters but one one of them needs to be you.
  11. Write to a schedule.  Realistic comedy writing requires 20 minutes per day, minimum.  Unrealistic comedy takes longer.
  12. Find a comedy coach or mentor (or both). Be commercial. Don’t ask for favours; aim for results.
  13. Set your funny bone to autodidact.  Comedy occurs all around you all the time.  Teach yourself to see and use it.
  14. Change the real estate. In public, speak as you do in private or talk to your audience as though they are colleagues.
  15. Discuss your performance fee with the audience; name your competitors and their fees; argue that you are worth more.
  16. Use your stage as therapy only if you are performing for an audience of psychiatrists.  Otherwise, it’s not about you.
  17. Pontificate about how to be funny.
  18. Stop watching TV and use your time more productively … by sleeping. Dream funny. Wake up. Write funny.  Be funny.
  19. As a translation act, be your own thought bubbles.
  20. Over-explain minutiae.
  21. Be punny.
  22. Without changing your appearance, actions or dialect, list some truisms of the generation older than you.
  23. Get out of your own way.  Stop trying and just be.
  24. Use the lens of a visitor from outer space.
  25. Be overly logical.  Extend logic to absurdity.
  26. Go with your first heckle and then continue to have the audience direct your show.  React.  Life if live and unplanned.
  27. Give silence when words are expected by using masks of listening, agreeing, questioning and waiting.
  28. Take “How to be funny 26” seriously.
  29. Never use one word when three will do.
  30. Let your audience be your sub-editor by going where the laughs are.
  31. As didgeridoo players breathe in their noses and out their mouths simultaneously, you must listen and talk at the same time.
  32. Be your own audience.

About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


2 thoughts on “How to Be Funny (for fun and profit)

  1. Great post, except I don’t agree with 18: you should be watching shows you really find funny and really take notes and understand what makes them so funny. You’d be surprised how many similar constructs you can make (and how many shows borrow similar constructs from each other in the same manner!) Same applies to watching stand up comedy; watch, enjoy, rewatch, study why it was so enjoyable.


    Posted by Kyle V | June 8, 2012, 1:11 am

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