Brand names are funnier than generic names.

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

“Pinto” is funnier than “compact car.”

“Skippy” is funnier than “peanut butter.”

“Captain Crunch” is funnier than “cereal.”

“Lazy Boy” is funnier than “recliner.”

“Home Depot” is funnier than “hardware store.”

Any questions?

When you have the opportunity, use a brand name of a product or service, rather than just saying the generic name. “So there we were, sitting at the Dairy Queen, in our formal wear” is funnier than “So there we were, sitting at the ice cream shop, in our formal wear.” This isn’t rocket science—it’s just that brand names sound funnier!

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The Rule of Three

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

This is one of those techniques that comedians have been using for centuries. I’m sure that even the funnier cavemen were etching three drawings on the wall of their caves—the first two normal, the third one funny. That is the essence of the Rule of Three—a list of three things; with the first two being perceived as “normal” or fitting to the idea being conveyed, and the third one catching the listener by surprise in its outlandish contrast to the others.

Notice I said “listener.” The Rule of Three is designed to be enjoyed by the ear. While it can work in print, it doesn’t have the same impact that hearing it can. There is a rhythm that is created with the three items, regardless of how short or long each item is. (Although shorter is always better.)

Here’s an example from one of my programs: “I remember when I first started in this business years ago. I had dreams. I had hopes. I had….hair.” With the setup, the listener is expecting to hear something like “I had dreams. I had hopes. I had courage.” Instead, they’re hearing “I had dreams. I had hopes. I had….hair.” (I take an ever-so slight pause before the word “hair.”) They’re surprised and they laugh.

Another example: “One day we’re hoping to open offices in some major cities. New York. Los Angeles. Okeechobee.”

And it can be in the form of longer sentences or a series of questions: “How many of you here have a graduate degree?” “How many of you here have a bachelors degree?” “How many of you still get the Weekly Reader delivered to your home and had somebody else write your resume for you?”

If you need to list more than two “normal” items in order to make a point, then don’t make your fourth one or fifth one a funny one. You still may get a laugh, but it won’t have the power that the Rule of Three gives you. You can do multiple Rules of Three in a row, too, which begins to build anticipation with the audience with each successive one.

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Write it down now – or forget it.

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

As you continue to “Punchline Your Bottom Line”, you will find yourself developing your skill to “think more funny.” You will develop a keen sense of observation and a “comic view” for everything around you. You will find humor in places where you never thought there could be anything funny. You will think of funny things at times and in places when you least expect it. And all of it will be for naught if you don’t write it down when you think of it!

We human beings fool ourselves into thinking that the brilliant thought we came up with is so funny and so clever, there’s no possible way that we could forget it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When your funny ideas are created “out of context” (for example, in the shower), that lack of context becomes the disconnect for why you can’t remember a few hours later “that hysterical thing I thought of this morning in the shower.”

It’s important to keep a paper and pencil available at all times if you want to start building your humor strength. I use “paper and pencil” as a generic phrase. It can be a Palm Pilot, a laptop, an Etch-A-Sketch—anything that gives you the ability to capture your ideas immediately. I also keep a small dictaphone in the car, so I can record funny thoughts when I’m driving. (A large percentage of your best laugh ideas will come while driving!)

So don’t fall into the easy trap of being so impressed with your funny thought that you’re certain you’ll remember it later. You won’t. If you’re serious about being funny in front of business audiences, you’ll keep the tools with you at all times to capture the funny thoughts that come to you when you’re not in front of business audiences.

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Annual Washington Correspondents’ Dinner

Once again, we saw the President show his comedic chops at the Annual Washington Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night. He had a number of funny lines. And while this performance is not necessarily a great example of using humor in a speech, since it truly resembles a stand-up routine rather than a speech, the following article will show you how the material is developed. And this is exactly how we write and develop humor for a typical speech. Enjoy.

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Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

This gem comes from a Mr.William Shakespeare,who was pretty adept at getting audiences laughing, (except when he was presenting his tragedies). What it means is: The less words you can use to get your laugh, the better.

In most cases, words will be the tools you’ll use to get your laugh. The more quickly and more simply you can express your humorous thought, the stronger that laugh will be. You may remember that the longer a joke is, the funnier the punchline had better be. With every added word you use, there is an additional investment in time and energy from the listener. And that investment demands a big payoff, or there is disappointment.

Often some of your biggest laughs can come from very few words. Sometimes one carefully selected word is all it takes to send a crowd into regales of laughter. And that one word can be used as a callback to get laughs throughout your program. When you are writing humor, go back and keep editing. Keep removing all the unnecessary words. Find a simpler way to say it. Find a shorter way to say it. When you remove the fat, the steak is much, much tastier.

If your laughs are being derived from something other than words, (props, magic, juggling, etc.), the same rule applies. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a ten-minute magic trick that culminates in a lackluster punchline.

However, you can create a wonderful ten-minute magic trick or fifteen-minute story by adding laugh lines along the way. If you keep the audience entertained throughout the “journey” with laugh “spikes” along the way, you then have permission to tell a long story. If the laughs in your story were to be charted on paper, it should look like a (healthy!) EKG. That’s why I call them laugh “spikes,” because they keep coming in regular intervals and continue to “spike” the interest of the audience.

But if you see them starting to look at their watches, you’re probably using too many words! Keep it short!

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I’ve Gotta Be Me!

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

There are going to be some things in this book you may not feel comfortable doing. If so—don’t do them! You must have absolute and total faith in your material. You must feel confident that it’s funny and that it’s going to get laughs. If you don’t have faith in your material, your audience won’t.

As you begin to inject more humor into your programs— and you get big laughs—you will build the confidence to try more things that you would have previously steered clear of. Just like you develop a “learning curve” with most new skills, you also develop a “comedy curve” for knowing what humor will work the best for you.

However, there are certain things you may never feel comfortable with. No matter how comfortable you get with your new humor, you may never find that particular piece of material funny. If you don’t think it’s genuinely funny, you will deliver it with less than 100% dedication—and the material will suffer.

Most successful comedians have a stage persona that is pretty similar to their off-stage personality. That is one of the reasons they are so successful. They are not acting—they are just doing funny material loosely based on “themselves.”

Of course, some humorists have a Jekyll and Hyde personality on-stage and off-stage, but they are totally confident with the on-stage “character” they are doing. But that won’t work for most business presentations. In a business setting, it is important that you are as close to “you” during your presentation as possible. The humor you do must fit your style, your personality, and your demeanor, in order for it be the most credible.

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The Recipe of Material, Delivery, and Improvisation

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

Those who have the most success in getting an audience laughing strive to have the three ingredients necessary for this recipe. They are:

Good material.

Good delivery.

Good improvisational skills.

By good material, I mean “planned” or “written” material that is funny. Material that you have worked on, created, prepared, or even purchased. Material that is well written and when delivered well, will get laughs.

Good delivery is the vehicle through which the good material is successful. You must inherently feel the timing in a funny piece of material. You must know which word to punch in a punchline. You must be able to show an appropriate range of emotion in your voice. Without the ability to give good comic delivery, the best-written piece of humor will just fall flat.

Additionally, you must be able to think quickly on your feet. You need to have the ability to go outside of your script, and come up with a funny ad-lib when something out of the ordinary happens during your program.

This recipe requires all three ingredients. Two out of the three will not cut it. If you have good material and good delivery, but can’t ad-lib your way out of a paper bag, you will fail. It also doesn’t matter how good your material is, or how adeptly you can ad-lib, if your delivery is horrendous. We’ve all seen people try to tell a joke and botch it terribly.  Business audiences are too savvy to put up with poor delivery.

And the one ingredient that many speakers don’t realize they must have, too, is the skill of improvisation. You can have the greatest speech in the world, with a delivery that wins you awards every time. But if you can’t “think funny” when it counts, you can count yourself out. Unexpected stuff happens in front of audiences, and you have to be able to display the same wit you’ve been showing up to now in your program, or you lose credibility instantly.

Luckily, there are ways to help you get better at all three of these ingredients. Most major cities offer classes in improvisational comedy. This is a great way to leam how to think quickly and be funny on your feet.

As far as humorous material, there are plenty of comedy and humor writers available to help you. (I’m one of them—feel free to contact me!) Many of these same writers can help coach you on delivery, too.

So make sure you’ve included all three ingredients in your recipe before you step up to the microphone. You’ll get a much better “taste” of how to get any business audience laughing.

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Here is a wonderful article on humor and public speaking:

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Knowing what’s genuinely funny

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

As you put together your humor, how do you know what’s genuinely funny? Is there a “humor litmus test” for material? Yes. It’s called “the audience.” They will let you know what’s funny. Here’s an important distinction. I define “the audience” as a “group of strangers.” Not your family. Not your friends. Family and friends know you intimately and will laugh at things you say that strangers would stare at blankfaced. You have to design your humor so that a group of strangers find it funny. Many speakers think that the strangers will start laughing once the speaker “grows on them.” They think, “Hey, I’m likeable. Heck, I’m the life of the party. Once these people get to know me a little bit, they’ll see just how funny I am.” In business presentations, there isn’t time for the speaker to “grow on you.” Funny is funny from the outset. If it takes 20 minutes for them to know you’re funny, but you’ve only got 15 minutes to make your presentation, you’re out of luck! Another distinction of what’s funny is that the audience is laughing honestly, and not because they are uncomfortable. This is also called a “nervous laugh.” Sometimes a presenter will think their humor is connecting well, but the laughter they’re hearing is really based on tension or embarrassment. This is usually reserved for the speaker who tries to use inappropriate humor or off-color jokes. Don’t confuse nervous laughter with genuine laughter. And genuinely funny humor does not need an explanation or a disclaimer of “well,you had to be there.” It stands on its own. The more you engage these humor techniques, the easier it will become to get any business audience laughing.  There is a definite learning curve when it comes to getting laughs. I’ve included this tip because it’s imperative for you to understand that “funny” is only “funny” when it’s funny to strangers.

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Avoid political humor

Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.

I might have just called this, “Don’t risk alienating some of your audience.” When you do political humor, you usually get laughs from the people who agree with your politics. (And the audience does assume it’s your politics, even if you’re just using the material to get laughs.) But you definitely put off the people who aren’t on the same side. Even if you’re speaking to an audience whom you think is predominantly of one political leaning or another, there will be people in that audience who are on the other side. Unless you’re specifically speaking at a political event for that political party, you need to avoid the political humor. I’ve sat in many audiences of wonderful speakers who killed their credibility (and likeability) with me, when they made jokes at the expense of the politician or party that I side with. I could tell from the crowd reaction that I was in the minority, but if we are to work towards getting laughs from any business audience, we need to show extra caution in the humor we choose.  Some might argue that the late-night talk show hosts do plenty of political humor. That’s true, but they are usually “equal opportunity offenders.” They have a fairly even balance between jokes on both sides. But even if you were to balance your political jabs, there’s a more important reason why you should avoid them. The late-night entertainers are making jokes strictly for the purposes of entertainment. You are not. Your speech or presentation is typically for a business-related reason. Business and politics don’tmix. This book is geared to help you be more funny within the context of what you’re already talking about. So save the political jokes for the neighborhood barbeque. (And even then, you may risk alienating your neighbors. People get real funny about politics—no pun intended. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

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