What drives me nuts are people who will attend my seminars, classes, and workshops and then say, "Well I would like to do humor, but I speak in front of Fortune 100 audiences. I can't use jokes/humor there." To which I say, "Why not?" Just because a person becomes rich, powerful, and/or influential do they lose their sense of humor? I don't think so. If you don't use humor in your speech / presentation, it's not because the audience doesn't like humor, it's because you are afraid of humor.
In my speech, "How to Be Funny With Looking, Feeling, or Sounding Foolish: How to be funny like a pro," there is a point where I say, "Let me show you the best humor publication to get material for stuffy Fortune 100 audiences." Then I hold up Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
And then I say, "Now you probably think I mean go through the WSJ and look for funny human interest items you can use. No, the WSJ makes it even easier. They have a daily column Pepper and Salt. It usually has three items: A cartoon, a one-liner or quip, and a funny definition, sign, or poem. If the WSJ isn't afraid to use jokes and one-liners why should you?
Start reading the WSJ on a regular basis - in a year, at three items a day - five days a week, that's 750 possible humor items to sift through where you may find something humorous enough to quote (this assumes a fifty-week publishing schedule allowing two weeks non-publishing for holidays). Don't tell me out of 750 items already OK'D by the WSJ that you can't find fifteen, ten, or at least five bits of business humor yearly to use in your presentation.
And here's how you bomb proof the humor in your speech. You reference the Wall Street Journal.
Remember, with cartoons you cannot cut them out, take them to Kinko's, and have them reproduced without getting written permission and often paying an Use fee. But you can simply describe the scene and quote the caption without a fee.
If the audience doesn't laugh - hey, is it your fault the WSJ published an unfunny cartoon, quip or joke?
Reader's Digest, (RD) is right up there with the WSJ in terms of acceptability. Reference it and you will never be criticized for inappropriate humor. What is more apple pie and motherhood than Reader's Digest?
And don't waste time worrying about "Oh if it's been in the WSJ or Reader's Digest people will have seen it." Most people can't remember a joke within two or three hours of hearing or reading it. Do this simple test. The next time you find something funny in either one of these publications, try it out on people in an everyday conversation, but don't reference it. Just use the delivery tips you've read here in "Delivering Material in Informal Situations." Test for yourself. Does it get a laugh or chuckle? Or does it cause people to say, "Hey you got that from the WSJ/RD"?
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