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Sep 09

Humorous Speech Workshop

I ran a humorous speech workshop at my Toastmasters club Grosvenor Square Speakers last night. It’s a little bit difficult in London at the moment because the majority of the workshops for this contest season happened on the same day. There were others I wanted to attend, but had my own to run…

We had a pretty good turn out, had more guests than regular members. Got some really nice feedback from those in attendance so it’s good to see where there’s room for improvement. But for what essentially amounted to a beta test of a humorous speech workshop, we did really well.

I say we, because I was ably assisted by fellow Advanced Toastmaster and resident fellow funnyman, Will Linsdell. Will won the humorous speech contest at club level when we were both members of Speaker’s of Croydon.

It baffled me at the time, but I understand the key distinction now…

Humorous Speech Contest

I gave a very funny speech back then. I had just come from doing stand-up and I got told about Toastmasters and a more or so after joining I found myself in the Humorous Speech contest. I slayed my audience and got lots of nice big laughs. Everyone, and I have to say myself included, had me down to win.

But Will casually walked off with first place. I was perturbed because whilst he was hilarious (I don’t say that lightly because it takes a lot to make me laugh), but I didn’t think he was any funnier than I was.

So to re-use an old cliched expression “where’d all go wrong George?”

Well, I can summarise it with one word…

Structure.

That’s it. I was very funny, but I didn’t really have the structure. I was very new to Toastmasters at the time and I still had a lot to learn – structure being one of them. Will had bags of structure. I was funny, but I had no point. As a result that cost me the contest. I talk about a similar thing on this earlier post on humorous speeches.

You can have the funniest jokes in the world, but without the means to string them together you’re still going to lose. And let me clarify what I mean by jokes. A Humorous Speech isn’t just a collection of jokes either, that’s old school stand-up comedy. A humorous speech contains stories, characters and punchlines. Punchlines are just the bit that makes you laugh. They don’t have to be joke stories.

I really loved giving the workshop and the time flew by, in fact we over ran. Which was a bit unfortunate, I edited it down as best I could. I even managed to secure the services of Jonathan Palmer, 2007’s Division B winner to take part in a short Q&A at the end.

So onwards and upwards. I’ll be re-visiting this workshop again soon (hopefully) and, in the words of chef Emeril Lagasse, “kickin’ it up a notch”.