Humor for Speakers

The Importance of Likability

by John Cantu ©

All of the feedback in my classes, workshops and coaching stem from the following MAIN principle: When people describe a comedian or speaker they like, admire, and find funny, they will say things such as, "I felt like he/she was talking to me." Or, "He/she would be cool to hang out with." In other words, besides commenting on the funniness of said performer / speaker, they often comment as much or more on his/her likability.

This is the hardest principle for non-pros to understand. That being successful as a funny person has not so much to do with your jokes as it does with how much the AUDIENCE likes you. I emphasize how much the "audience" likes you because you can be an extraordinary unlikable person, but if that part of you is not seen nor perceived by the audience, you can still be successful. I have known a few such comedians. Despicable off stage, beloved on. This takes place in the social arena as well, but for this essay I am writing about speakers and performers.

It was the personal likability of Bill Cosby (probably one of the most current, beloved comics) that was responsible some years back for his show bringing NBC from the bottom of the ratings to number one. (By the way, I have never met him personally and I don't mean to imply in ANY WAY he is not likeable offstage. I am simply emphasizing the power one has when one is likeable.)

I don't think any other comedian comes anywhere close to Cosby in endorsement contracts. You want to be a monster talent? Work on being likeable as much as on being funny. Not understanding this feature has caused much unnecessary pain, frustration and anguish to many a would-be performer.

They watch comic or speaker "A" and think "I'm funnier than he/she." So they throw together some of their funny thoughts, get up on the speaker platform with their clever stories, but because they have no rapport with the audience they get nowhere. The comic, after bombing big time, will walk off stage muttering, "What a bunch of losers that audience was." Then get on stage again and again and again still not trying to connect with the audience. Ten years later, they can't understand why those unfunny jerks who started performing the same time they did are on television, but they're still playing toilets.

When the audience likes you, you can get away with a multitude of sins.

NEXT: Tips on Your Opening Lines

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