Humor for Speakers

Respect Your Ad-libbed Lines

by John Cantu ©

In The Inadvertent Ad-Lib you learned that when presenting, you should respect your ad-libbed lines and spontaneous off-the-cuff lines as possible new material. The principle is: If an audience laughed at the line once, it might laugh again. And another aspect to that principle is the lines you ad-lib off stage in casual conversation might also be grist for your platform humor.

If you look at the process of how most "ad-libs" in every day conversation are really created, you will realize that they are most often a joke writing collaboration with one of the writers being unconscious of the fact. I.e., the funny person usually has a straight person who is unaware that he/she is being a straight man.

He/she says "(LINE)," you cap on it (cap on it means make a remark meant to be funny). And YOU get the laugh and the CREDIT even though it was a collaboration. And since most people look at their life as a series of disparate events, they see the capping line as a singular one-time funny spontaneous punch line. But if you realize you can often recreate the off-stage situation on the speaker's platform by describing what led up to the ad-lib, you have increased your opportunities for new material.

You do this by saying something along these lines: "I was talking to (INSERT WHO YOU WERE TALKING WITH WHETHER IT WAS AN INDIVIDUAL OR A GROUP OF SOME SORT). He/she/one of them said, (INSERT WHAT WAS SAID) and I replied (YOUR TAG LINE)" and now you've got a brand new "joke."

I noticed long ago that people who consider themselves spontaneously funny, still need a line (or situation) in order to create a funny line. Thus, all ad-libs are simply an on-the-spot joke creation.

Sometimes the ad-libbed line doesn't have to be something someone said. One time Sam Horn (author of "Tongue Fu") told me about a comment that Bob Murphy (Murphy is a delightful humorist and long time National Speaker Association member) once made in response to a real-world event that was based on a vivid visual scene.

Standing in a hotel lobby he saw a bellboy pulling a wheeled stand with a potted tree on it. In his dry, droll, Nacagdoches Texas accent he said, "Looks like some dog has ordered room service."

Do you see how easy it would be to think that was a "You hadda be there" situation? But all you have to do is do as Sam Horn did. You describe the situation and tell the audience what you or your friend said in that situation.

Remember Cantu's rule of Being Funny #1: Always follow the laughter. Whenever someone laughs at anything you said or did that you did not intend to be funny, assume that it can be re-created another time for another audience and look for HOW that can be done.

Now, once in a blue moon you will discover, yes, it was a "you hadda be there" situation. But always come to that conclusion very reluctantly. And only after giving it time, effort and creativity to find a way to recreate the laugh.

Next: Your Audience Member's Ad-libs

animated key