I’m back, sorry if you missed me yesterday. I threw up a post on Sunday in response to a fellow Brit blogger and it put me off my stride. I’m glad you came back and you’re reading this post, as I want to to about you. There are lots of books out there that provide a rather mathematical approach when it comes to learning how to be funny. That’s why I want to talk about you. I want to talk to you about you.
As you know the main focus of this blog is about learning how to be funny in speeches and presentations. I’ve been talking about non-humour related subjects recently as I want to be able to level the playing field a little bit.
It’s important to me that you know the basics, I know that many of my readers do so already, so apologies if I’ve covered ground that you already know. But I know that, for some of you, a few of my posts have contained new information.
Once we have an understanding of putting speeches together then we can concentrate on the humour. There will be future posts whereby I seemingly stray from my main subject, but some posts like the recent Memory Hack are about memory techniques. And others like 101 Presentation Hacks allow us to establish a foundation upon which will can build a humour house.
Now don’t think “I’m a speaker, not a stand-up comedian. This doesn’t apply to me”. Well, I’ve got news for you. And it may shock you…
When you you speak to an audience and you make them laugh… you are performing stand-up comedy! What is stand-up after all? Boil it down to it’s essence and it’s a person stood in front of other people making them laugh. That’s all it is. The environment may be different, but the mechanics are the same.
But the most important thing in all of this is you.
Well, more specifically your personality. The reason for this is that there are many comedy books out there which talk about the need for comedians to develop a comedy persona. Even though my focus isn’t about turning you into a comedian, it is necessary for me to address it.
These comedy writing books say that in order to be funny you have to have a comic persona. Then they set about providing exercises and examples of how to get a comic persona. Like you need some sort of operation to get it done.
Let me say categorically that this is utter nonsense.
I know, I know, this might be difficult for some of you to bear and that’s fine. But the point is this… if you are able to make your friends or work colleagues laugh in a social environment, why do you then need to create a comedy persona in order to get laughs on the speaking platform?
The answer is you don’t.
I’ve said before that the mechanics of getting laughs is the same whether you’re talking to a group of friends or talking to a large audience.
I know some people think, I have to be the “one-liner king” or I have to be “a sad sack” or I have to be a “buffoon” in order to get laughs. Nope. You have to be you. You and whatever your natural sense of humour is.
During 2003-2004 I developed a one-man show that I produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August ‘04. Even then I was still stuck with the idea that you had to develop a persona. I somehow got stuck with a cheeky cheery chappy persona. There were elements of that in me, but that wasn’t my complete personality.
I had somehow forced myself in this mould that I couldn’t get out of. By being on stage every night for three weeks solid you learn some things. You learn some things about your material and about you. It felt like a lie.
I secured a headline gig for around October after Edinburgh was over.
During my month off, I dumped my persona that I was using in Edinburgh. I trimmed the material to fit the new timeslot and took the stage. I got the biggest responses I had gotten the whole time I was at the Festival.
Material that had stopped working, started working again. Material that had never worked, was suddenly getting laughter. It was only when I dumped this forced person and was 100% me, that it slotted into place for me.
What does help is if you are you, without the boring bits.
We all do it. We hesitate, repeat ourselves, contradict ourselves and so on. By practising and knowing what we’re going to say in advance we’re able to leave those bits out. We’re a slightly edited version of ourselves when we’re on stage.
Next time you give a humorous speech, or a speech that uses humour, think about your own personality rather than a made up one.
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