Posts Tagged ‘funny’

Every once in a while an ordinary, simple task or event turns into what has been called a ‘comedy of errors’. It’s probably  annoying at the time, but it’s excellent humorous speech material.

This is one story about one event, not the string of pearls which has a series of linked anecdotes. But while it is one story you can certainly build into it events that happened on other similar occasions. If your story is about a camping trip to the mountains two years ago you can include a happening from a different camping trip to a different place at a different time. You just write it in as if it happened on this specific trip.

Your story can start off as if this is going to be an ordinary event but it should escalate very quickly to the humor. Don’t wait too long for that first laugh.  Your ‘ordinary’ camping trip should degenerate into its humorous chaos if not immediately then step by step but promptly.

No-one in your audience should be thinking “When do we start to laugh?”

Make the people funny. Have contrasting types – you a heavy-duty outdoorsman ready to chop firewood, your wife trying to decide which swimsuit and what shade of make up to bring along. Give at least one person unrealistic expectations – as you revel in the solitude of the wilderness they are asking about Internet access.

Exaggerate the disasters. If you ran out of gas on the freeway coming home, move that to running out of gas while you’re still in the wilderness. Have it be pouring with rain. Have everyone so fed up of each other that they are arguing nastily BUT arguing wittily. The dialogue should be developed with care for maximum humor.

What’s that? You didn’t run out of gas at all? Then you had better have had at least one other ‘disaster’. It’s hard to build a humorous speech if everything flows smoothly and everyone gets along happily.

Not getting along is another source of humor. Being crammed in a tent in pouring rain, besieged by mosquitoes does not bring out the sweetest natures.  Spend time on the attitudes and arguments that develop. Have them build using your insight into human nature and what will make people irritable, what they say when they are getting to the end of their patience, and how they say it.

Build your speech to one final, concluding laugh. It’s your story climax, the funniest of the funny moments. Stand for a moment to enjoy the laughter. your story has been a success.

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One of the issues with putting together a humorous speech is getting all the funny stuff organized. so your first task is to find a theme to hang your humor on. One useful structure is The List.

The List can work one of several ways:

1. The Top 10 list (You know, like Letterman)

  • The top 10 results of…
  • The top 10 ways to….
  • The top 10 reasons for…and so on.

You could make the list appear initially to be serious issues but you give each one a funny twist, building from slightly silly to downright ridiculous.

Or they can be funny right from the title “The top 10 ways to annoy your mother-in-law.”

Just remember that 10 is a lot of points to cover in seven minutes. You don’t have much time to comment on each one, especially as you need to allow time for the audience to laugh..

2. A short list of three, five, or seven “how to” points. Think of the on-line ads you see –

‘three secrets of…’,

‘five best ways to…’,

‘seven proven ways to speed up your….’

You could think up wild and wonderful secrets as well as crazy topics that people might want dissected in your own inimitable style.

3. A list, again of  three, five or seven points (odd numbers work better than even numbers) of steps you took to achieve….. Often the goal itself is humorous and part of the title “Seven essential steps when giving a cat medication”, “five ways to prevent your children from getting a puppy”.

As long as you have points lined up and developed to be even funnier than they seem at first you will have a well structured speech.

Arrange your points from mildest to funniest and within each point build so that your punchline comes at the end.

Once you’ve got your list of points decided, develop an opening that draws your audience immediately into the humor of your speech. Link this to a conclusion that is the grand climax – the biggest laugh of all. Leave people laughing so hard that they will always remember you.

And enjoy the laughter – you’ve earned it.


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It’s one thing to enter a club contest and feel terrific when you find you won. Of course you’re happy! You get  congratulations and you feel wonderful.

Then you wake up next morning and the other shoe drops. You remember you have to compete in the Area contest. These are probably strangers, not the nice people from your own club. You’ve heard stories about one of them being almost a professional speaker. Another one has been a Toastmaster for nearly twenty years. What is your little bit of experience compared to that?

This all goes under the heading of ‘negative thinking’. If you go into the contest with a mind set like that you reduce your chances of winning. Turn it around. You’ve beaten the other good speakers in your club. You have freshness on your side. Remember how you felt as you were acing your club speech – you were in the zone, it felt terrific, it was fun.

That’s the mind set you need to re-create for the Area contest. Go for it!

You’d like some tips?

Go on to the stage, head up, looking confident and smiling.

Grab the audience’s attention with a great opening.

Keep your eyes on the audience and give the best eye contact you can.

Wind up with a strong closing.

For Table Topics

Ahead of time, bone up on current events locally

Look as if the question is just perfect for you, and you can’t wait to answer it

Answer the question! This is no time to wander off.

If it’s an ‘either/or’ question try to give the pros and cons of each

Try to put in a dash of humor and a tug to the emotions

For Humorous Speech

Practice in front of at least one friend. If they are uncertain about some part or didn’t quite ‘get’ it, work on it until they are satisfied.

Hone the funny parts till they are much funnier.

Weed out or reduce long explanations that don’t add to the humor.

Try to fit stronger body language to the humorous parts.

Work on your pauses. People need time to laugh. Leave yourself a good margin of ‘laughter time’ so you don’t have to worry about time disqualification.

Good luck!


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Your speech is mostly about words. You’ve chosen them carefully, and that’s a good thing. You say them clearly, and that’s good too. But that only engages one of the five senses. Your audience is hearing you.

You can double your impact if you bring in another of the senses – sight. As your audience listens to your words, what are their eyes doing? Is your audience’s visual attention wandering  around the room. Are they taking in that dress of Wanda’s that’s a bit too tight? The fact that Mark and JoAnne are sitting together so they must have got over their quarrel? And Mrs Black is looking very tired, maybe she has been ill.

These people are not fully focused on your speech. They may be listening but part of their focus is elsewhere. They are missing much of what you hoped would have impact.

How do you keep their visual attention? Give them something to look at. Start with your clothing. Women – forget dulland appropriate. Wear colors and accessories that are bright and attract attention. They should make a statement – “Look at me!”

It’s more difficult for men, but if you are going to wear a tie,  wear a bright one. If you are dressed less formally, wear a brighter shirt rather than a conservative one. (Personal preference here – if your gut hangs over your belt, cover it up with a jacket. The yuck factor does you no favors.)

Walk on to the stage as if you can’t wait to get started, as if you are dying to share this terrific story. Let your body portray that sense of  “This is going to be such fun, you won’t want to miss it!”

Sometimes our bodies have a different agenda than our minds. Unconsciously we pick up odd little traits that are distracting. (Someone told me last week that when I speak I lean over to one side and she was wondering if I was going to fall right over. How embarrassing.) Practice in front of a friend and have them point out every distracting little physical thing you do. Once you know them you can start eliminating them.

At the same time, ask the friend to tell you where you can intensify your movements to bring more life to your stories. Practice those short segments until you get more physical bang for your story buck. Make your movements so intrinsic to the story that the audience won’t want to take their eyes off you.

Reciprocate by giving great eye contact. People are looking to connect with you as a speaker. In the beginning everyone is looking at you. If you look at them, give eye contact with the group and the individuals in it, you will keep them looking at you.

It seems like a lot to remember when you are trying to remember the speech as well. The best speech advice anyone ever gave me is “Go in there and have fun!”

If you can go on stage with the attitude of  ‘I’m having fun,’ your posture, your smile, your stance will pass that message to your audience.  They will start to have fun too. So will the judges.

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“Yes” she said. “I love your posts on humor. But how do I put humor into a speech?

That’s a tough question. It’s like being asked, “How do I make a joke funny?”

To start with, you have to think that it’s funny yourself. Whether it is a joke, or a humorous speech, you yourself have to see and believe the humor. There’s no point thinking “This isn’t very funny to me, but maybe the rest of the group will like it.”

If you yourself think it’s funny, then  you will present it in a way that says, “I really enjoyed this and I can’t wait to share it with you!” Your enjoyment and enthusiasm comes across to your audience carrying the humor and the laughter with it. That alone will get you to first base.

Humor usually depends on the set up and the punch line. If it is a story it’s possible you might have 6.5 minutes of set up and thirty seconds of totally hilarious punchline at the end. I don’t advocate this unless you can make the set up really, really funny. It would be better if your story built along a series of funny events so there are some laughs along the way and one great burst of laughter at the end.

Humor doesn’t have to look  or sound like punch lines, in fact it’s better if it doesn’t. You build your story in a certain direction with characters carefully presented and then something happens to them. Something innately funny. Your dog shakes mud all over Aunt Priscilla’s pristine living room. You’ve shown Aunt Priscilla as a rigid woman and a fanatical housekeeper. You’ve mentioned her white carpet and cream colored upholstery. You’ve shown your dog, the lovable energetic Labrador puppy. Really, you should have remembered to close the door more quickly.

Now it might have been, in truth, that your dog shook that mud all over your own living room that is no big whoop for cleanliness. Story building puts it in Aunt Priscilla’s living room, even if you have no Aunt Priscilla. It’s just funnier. Imagine the expression on her face, imagine yourself trying to minimize the damage and making it worse. Imagine the dog, jumping up on Aunt Priscilla to invite her to play in the mess.  Imagine…

Well, that’s the point, imagine. Think of similar incidents you’ve experienced that are quite funny. How can you bring them in, build them, focus them to make them fit here and be very funny? How can you build in sideline humor – say two or three examples of Aunt Priscilla’s cleanliness.  (She’s the one who sanitizes her outside mail box because you never know who’s handled the mail.)

Your aim with your humorous speech is to draw people in with your own enjoyment, keep the laughs coming through a series of anecdotes within a main story, building to a big final laugh in your conclusion. Sidelights – similes, metaphors, sharp observations of human foibles keep the humor coming moment after moment in your speech.

How do you know if your speech is funny? Having your audience laugh time and time again is a really good clue.

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Almost everyone looks forward to the Humorous Speech contest, and most of us at least consider the idea of entering. If we’ve done a few speeches before, and made people laugh, then why not?

So you agree to enter and then comes the moment: What shall I speak about?

And suddenly, nothing seems all that funny. Funny enough, but not speech contest funny.

So here are some ideas of places to start:

1. A basically funny situation. Ever tried giving liquid medication to a cat?

2. A difficult situation made funny. One of the funniest speeches I’ve heard was given by a man who had tried to rent a car in a foreign country, only to find his drivers license was out of date. It could have ruined his holiday. How he found a solution made me laugh till tears ran down my cheeks (Thanks, Alan!)

3. A twist on the usual – a rant, for instance, on the disadvantages of leadership

4. Any topic that you can pack with one liners. Practice delivering them – timing is the essence of success.

5. A story that goes from bad to worse. It’s best if it’s a personal story. You set off to do something that’s not particularly hard, but one thing after another goes wrong and your situation gets increasingly (and funnily) difficult until it becomes impossible. Your solution should be funny too.

6. A story that is basically funny but is presented with so much vocal inflection, so much action and energy, such wildly appropriate gestures that it becomes hilarious. Again, practice to get each movement – even the raising of your eyebrows – timed and presented just perfectly.

7. A story based on your personal weaknesses, and some of the predicaments these have led to. Personal stories always go across well and self-deprecation works well too.

Do you know of any more ideas for finding humorous speech ideas? If you comment, we can add them to the list.

Enjoy your humorous speech!

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