Posts Tagged ‘humorous speech’

You get this terrific idea for a humorous speech. You write it, hone it and practice it. Then you practice it some more, build in the gestures, practice it some more with longer pauses. And practice it again.

A funny thing happens along the way. All the humor seems to drain out of the speech. That strong funny conclusion you were so pleased with? Now it feels like just an exercise in body language, enunciation and pausing. The part you thought was so brilliant when you started? Flat.

You need to practice, especially for a contest, to refine the humor and bring out every little nuance in the stories. However, it does tend to leave you feeling overdone and flat. What to do about that?

One solution is not to practice the whole speech every time. Have shorter practice sessions where you practice one segment. Practice it not to become word perfect, but to reach into and develop the essence of the humor in it.

Practice making each little humorous anecdote or one-liner a tiny perfect masterpiece of humor. Practice it with its introduction and its bridge to the next part, so you keep the continuity in your mind.

As you do this – bearing in mind the essential humor of that particular segment – you will come to feel the essence of it more deeply. That deep feeling of humor is what you must carry over to the audience.

Humor is appreciated at many different levels. There’s the quick laugh but there can also be a deep appreciation of the human foible being held up for examination. There are fast belly laughs as well as smiles and nods that say “Ain’t that the truth!”

You will hear giggles and you’ll see rueful smiles that they “Oh yes! That happened to me once. I made that mistake. Now I can see the silliness of the situation. I never saw the funny side before. Now I can laugh about it.”

There’s a whole gamut of humor between introspection, belly laugh and clever topical one-liner. As you work on your speech feel the quality of the humor. Sense how the different levels might hit home in the mind of the listener. Can you add in another level?

As you polish each humorous moment feel the way it might reach its target. Then expand it. If it’s a quick belly laugh, can you add depth? If it’s a deeper reminiscence can you add a quick laugh to back it up and carry it one step further?

When it comes time to deliver your speech these feelings and insights that you have built in will come across to your audience. You will have full-value humor and a multidimensional speech.

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OK, You’ve delved deep into your memory and all the events, stories and characters in your life and come up with a theme. In your head you’ve cobbled together a reasonable outline. So now you have a healthy skeleton to flesh out. Then comes the fun part: dressing it up.

Your carefully chosen anecdotes have people in them that are larger than life. They have qualities that most of your audience can easily identify with – impatience, talking too much, exercising too little. But the characteristic you choose to develop is going to be larger yet again. How big can you make it? Good! Now make it bigger.

And while you enlarge it in words, in word pictures and in anecdotes, rehearse it so that your whole body expresses this characteristic in all its ridiculous glory. Is the person hyper? Up the ante, make it more hyper than that. and bigger again, so hyper that…

How is your body conveying hyper-ness? You have to show it to get full value for the humor. How does it look if you pace in all directions, short steps, hands going, arms going, head in movement. As you list off all the major tasks this person completes before breakfast can you represent them with your body language?

Put the person in a setting where hyperactivity is either inappropriate or highly visible – a solemn church service or kindergarten at nap time. What might the consequences be? Now make the consequences worse. Logical in a topsy-turvy way but worse to the point of being ridiculous.

Make your character do something against all reasonable judgement – a serious person (math professor?) who does something incredibly flighty. Show someone defying common sense – enjoying to the hilt an experience that might be thought negative, or vice versa – struggling to escape he miseries of a happy situation.

Write the unexpected, and twist it again, but make every person, every setting, every word vivid so the audience gets the picture.

Jot down one liners that made you laugh. You might not want to copy them, but you can use  them as a basis for your own unique one liner.

Pack your humorous speech full of all the humor you can collect, invent or devise. Then write it a bit shorter than your usual speech – allow people time to laugh.

Making people laugh is such a gift. Do it well and the rewards are huge.



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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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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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I can’t be  the only person who has weird stuff happening to them. Yesterday I took my grandson to a large specialty ice cream shop in a seaside town. Big shop on a high rent sea-front corner. Fancy awning, indoor and outdoor seating. The hard-faced teen behind the counter told us right off,  “We only have vanilla flavor.”

Say what? it reminded me of Henry Ford who would sell any color car as long as it was black. Experiences like that become part of my collection of oddball happenings. It might one day become the basis of a speech or an anecdote within a speech. Humorous speech time is when this collection come in handy because your basic choice is one long five-to-seven minute story or a group of funny anecdotes relating to one overall theme.

If you go with the selection of anecdotes, be sure each one is funny in itself as well as contributing to the overall humor of the theme. It’s quite possible to have a topic that is not usually considered funny. I’ve heard several wonderfully funny speeches about husband/wife disagreements. Now marital discord is not, in itself, funny. Marriage counsellors can tell you that.

However, in the mind of a creative person there are several slants on man versus woman that are quite hilarious. They may not be hilarious when you first germinate the idea but with a bit of mental juggling, an incident from here, an anecdote from there, an exaggeration or two and a couple of ‘what if’s’ you start to build a humorous speech.

Another choice might be three stepping-stone anecdotes that, along with an opening and a conclusion, address the topic. Your focus is on the topic and the anecdotes move from funny to funnier and funniest. If an earlier anecdote is funnier than a later one there can be a sense of let-down.

You can also do a series of jokes or one-liners, rather like a stand up comedian. The problem with this is that all those one-liners are hard to remember, especially if this is a contest and you are nervous.

Another choice is a tall tale – a story so far fetched with characters and situations so far beyond belief that the ridiculousness of it makes people laugh. It takes the audience far away from the real world.

Opposite to this is a story or anecdotes that point out quirks and foibles we had not really noticed, but we recognize as soon as they are mentioned. This can be a very subtle story or anecdotes for a fairly sophisticated audience. It is very much in the real world, and will be very close to home for many. The trick is to be funny without being cruel or pointing a finger at any one person or group of people. It helps if you are a part of the group you are needling. I could get away with stories of older people who like to eat their evening meal very early, or who read with the book at arm’s length. A young person making the same points might be seen as rather cruel.

And lastly, test your jokes on friends, adjust them as needed, before you try them on an audience.

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