Humor for Speakers

The Inadvertent Ad-Lib

by John Cantu ©

One of your best sources of fresh, funny, creative original material is the line that you inadvertently ad-lib while on your way to saying something else. Another one of the things that drives me nuts when I am coaching executives and professional speakers or when I am presenting to an audience that consists primary of non-comedians is the following exchange:

Some audience member will say, "Some of my best stuff comes when I am just talking to the audience ad-libbing and these lines come out." And I always ask the same question, "What do you do with those lines?" And invariable all I get is a blank look.

But think about it for a moment. If it got a laugh once, chances are it will get a laugh again. This is why you should tape record your speeches and presentations. So when you ad-lib that perfect laugh line; that witty phrase, that trademarkable motto, you have it captured for future use.

Now, let's step back for a moment. If you bought Cantu's Comedy Wit & Humor Widsom and have been reading the Humor Writing Techniques Series section for just three weeks or more, you've probably already begun to have a sense of how to take a joke found in joke books and update it and adapt it to your specific needs. If not, check out HumorMall's free original Joke Study Series.

And whether your goal is simply to make your friends and colleagues laugh or to entertain the audiences you speak to, having a steady source of material is important. And HumorMall's free Joke Study can show you one way to do that. You simply go through any of your favorite joke collections and switch the setup, the punch line, or the joke concept to a topical news situation and soon you're the guy or gal (man or woman for the politically correct anal retentives) in your group who "just sees things funny."

Now, I still use this technique occasionally - especially when I'm on deadline and nothing seems funny. But it does take time, energy and effort. So from now on, when you "write" (ad-lib) a brand-new line without sweat, blood, or tears for goodness sake record them, recall them, and reuse them.

If you are a professional performer this is probably second nature to you. You will often come off the stage and excitedly ask a friend, "What was that new line I ad-libbed that got that great laugh?" More often, you will rush off to listen to your tape to find it. But for speakers this great source of material is used once and tossed away forever. It isn't intuitive to most speakers to recycle a line that was funny the first time out.

So remember, 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. Here's another aspect to that principle. Be aware that lines you ad-lib off stage in casual conversation might also be grist for your platform humor.

Next: Respect Your Ad-libbed Lines

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