Clever Carly: How to Be the Funniest Person at Your Event
Knock, knock, my magnificent planners!
Forced humor, that’s who.
It’s a scenario you’re probably all too familiar with: A keynote speaker at a major conference or even an individual in a networking group opens dialogue with a “knock-knock” or “walks into a bar” type of joke, only to be met with muffled (often insincere) laughter—or, in the worst cases, chirping crickets. But in all fairness, the comedic timing of greats like Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres is a mixture of innate talent and years of practice. That’s unfortunate for those who might lack the ability to tell a spontaneous, spitfire joke: An article from NBC News found that employees and leaders with a more developed sense of humor are better at building camaraderie with co-workers. And that knack for eliciting laughs can make you more successful. A study from the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that sarcasm—a touchstone of humor—correlates with a person’s creativity in the workplace.
Morphing into a comedic force with impeccable timing probably isn’t feasible for the majority of us, but you can be funny (even if you’re not really that funny) when speaking in front of a large group at your next event, or simply while networking. I’ll show you how.
Become a Student of Comedy
Want to be a better writer? Read more (as Stephen King famously advised). Want to be a better cook? Eat a more diverse selection of food. Want to be funnier? Find the funny and study it. As an article from Psychology Today states, studying humor––which includes watching copious comedy flicks and heading to local comedy clubs for inspiration––is the ideal starting point for refining your own sense of humor. Bonus: It’s good for your health. As the article points out, watching comedy movies is associated with increased heart health and immunity.
Know the Most Critical Part of Your Joke
Once you’ve meticulously studied the look, feel and timing of your favorite comedians and comediennes, your best bet (at least for now) is to pick a single joke and stick to it. The content for your signature joke can run the gamut: little aspects about your job that you find challenging, glimpses into your personal life, something that happened to you en route to work this week. But as the NBC News piece emphasized, the most important part is mastering the punchline––the point when your story takes a major turn. Try using an example from a popular comedy movie in which an element of surprise led to laughs (e.g., the three main characters finding Mike Tyson doing interpretive dance at his mansion in The Hangover or the moment Robin Williams’ character in Mrs. Doubtfire suddenly uses cake frosting to disguise his masculine self from the visiting social worker). What was the moment in your story when things went hilariously sour?
As the NBC News piece also states, however, your story will need to create some common ground between you and the audience––so try to stick to neutral, possibly work-themed material at a business or corporate event, and keep it G-rated. A nighttime Celebrate event might call for something a bit more daring.
Practice Makes Perfect
As an article from Business Insider emphasizes, once you’ve found that punchline to your joke, practice will make it perfect. Write down your favorite version, but then challenge yourself to write down five different versions––the key is not to fall in love with a single viewpoint or perspective. Once you’ve crafted those stories, start to practice the joke among family and friends, or those most likely to give you honest reviews.
Always your comical guru,