Wish you were funnier? Do you ever re-listen to those learning programs you have on your shelf? As a constant student, I’m always learning from people who are experts in their fields. I just reviewed a tele-seminar I did with Judy Carter awhile back, and I was re-inspired by her story of how she persisted at the beginning of her stand-up career.
If you don’t know Judy Carter… not only has she been on Oprah, she has incredibly successful students like: Sherri Shepherd (Co-host of the View), Drew Carey (credits her book), and Tom Shadyac (Director of Evan Almighty) She gives many speeches in the corporate arena.
Judy has been teaching comedy workshops since 1988, and coaches many well-known keynote speakers in how to get more laughs. In the interview, I asked her about common mistakes speakers make while trying to be funny. She said there were three.
#1 They tell jokes!
Judy pointed out that most speakers just go and grab jokes from the internet, or they take jokes they’ve heard before and stick them into their speeches. In reality, they’re actually stealing material. If you didn’t write the joke, it’s not yours. And, it makes you look bad to people who have heard the joke before, even if it gets a laugh.
For me personally, coming from a stand-up comedy background, it drives me crazy that people in the speaking world “accept” that it is OK to “lift” a joke or a story. Just because you liked it, doesn’t allow you to reproduce it. Judy says it makes you look like a “hack.” (Comedy term for “wannabe” trying to make it the easy way — and not fooling anyone but themselves).
#2 Speakers try to be funny by choosing funny material.
…or in the comedy world, we call it a “premise.” Judy noted that just because the topic may be shocking, doesn’t mean you should use it. Ideas that get a laugh when you are getting “gross” with close friends, do not transfer well to a corporate audience stage. I see this quite often in Toastmasters Humorous Speech contests.
I’ve been cited for crossing the line before myself. One bit that I do is great for a comedy stage, but inappropriate for a corporate audience. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I do it anyway. It’s a big mistake. A close friend and speaker called me on it over lunch this week. He’s right. (I’m glad I have friends who care enough about me to tell me the truth.)
#3 Speakers tell a funny story making no point.
If you are telling a funny story for the sole purpose of getting a laugh, you’re “laying a lot of pipe.” You have to get to your material (point) quickly. If it’s a long story, it better have a great point for us or you’re wasting valuable “education” time.
It’s OK to start with a funny story… but before you take the stage, you need to sit back and be clear on the “take away” for the audience. Stories in the speaking world must “tie in” to the overall premise of the speech.
I credit Judy for opening my eyes with her book, Stand-Up Comedy the Book, that humor can be learned. If you have a desire to make people laugh, don’t take the easy way out. Please take the time to learn the true “process” of how to do it — for you, the sake you’re your audiences, and your career. Judy also reminded listeners in the tele-seminar that many naturally funny people will never make careers in comedy because they won’t take the time to learn the process and how it works. The same is true in speaking. Are you willing to save time, energy, and face… and learn the process?
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
This Week’s Video Clip:
Humor 101… just released today!
P.S. Learn more from Judy Carter at www.JudyCarter.com.
P.P.S. Get the Judy Carter Tele-Seminar and free bonus HUMOR 101 recorded live in Las Vegas last week! Click here!