Peruse these pro-tips from a global comedian and executive coach on how to sharpen your funny bone
A good sense of humour is an asset that can help you attain success in both your personal and professional life. I wish I could say the same for your romantic life, but the fact is that while they say they’re looking for someone with a ‘GSOH’, invariably the funny person always ends up taking permanent residence in the proverbial friendzone.
However, a friend is a wonderful thing to be and whether it is work or play, everyone likes to be around someone with whom they can have a laugh.
As a professional stand-up comedian who has performed over 2000 shows in 25 countries over 16 years, here are my tips on how to be known as someone who possesses that elusive good sense of humour. While I’ve written these tips from the perspective of a joke-teller, almost all of them hold true for humour writing as well. I put my manuscript through these very filters before I published my autobiography.
1. Know your audience
If they don’t like risque jokes, don’t throw one in just because a ‘really nice one’ popped into your head. Unless, of course, awkward silence is the response you’re aiming for.
2. Don’t force-fit your joke
If what you have to say fits into the natural flow of a group’s conversation, sure, tell that story. Don’t just butt in because you want your moment in the spotlight. Attention seekers are looked upon as unkindly as lamb chop at a vegan buffet. With respect to writing, the humour you include needs to be in sync with your narrative.
3. Comedy is tragedy plus time
If you’re going to joke about a tragic incident for someone personally or the world at large, remember that there is such a thing as too soon. Make sure your audience or reader is in the same headspace before you attempt that hilarious plane crash joke.
4. Local and topical are funnier
A joke about recent events or something local and specific to the audience tends to be funnier. So avoid doing that Chinese joke about the Texan taxi driver when you’re speaking to Russian colleagues in the South of France. Apply these rules when you’re writing for local publications and newspapers as well.
5. Be authentic
Your content and delivery should be in sync with your personality and writing style. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not just to impress an audience, they’ll see through it immediately and you’ll come across as someone desperately seeking approval. Don’t do that when telling a joke, and don’t do that in a job interview.
6. Relatability is key
Your audience does not need to agree with your point of view, but unless they get the context of the joke, there is no chance they will get the punchline. Make sure you bridge that gap if there is one. I’m sure that NFT gag is hilarious, but some of us haven’t even figured out blockchain yet.
7. Keep it snappy
In an age of limited attention spans, it’s good to have a few one-liners or short jokes in the bag. Also, the thumb rule is that the longer your story is, the better the ending needs to be. So if you’re going to ramble on, then the punchline better be brilliant. We all know how we felt about the Game of Thrones finale.
8. A magician always carries cards
Be armed with a couple of jokes or stories that you know are fantastic and that you tell really well. So that if the opportunity comes up, you’re locked and loaded and ready to fire. Just like the excuses you have in the bag for why you can’t put your video on during a work Zoom call.
9. Leave them wanting
Little and amazing is better than a lot and not that amazing. If you nail two jokes that score 10s, resist the urge to throw in those “maybe” jokes that will bring down your average. Let them invite you to the next get-together to hear those. Please note that this tip does not apply to dating, and most definitely not to the bedroom.
10. Money can be very funny
If you have deep pockets and want someone else to do all the hard work while you reap the benefits, there is a brilliant and extremely modest comedian who’s available for hire. I believe his name is Papa CJ, and he can be found in the friendzone.
Papa CJ (papacj.com) is a world-renowned stand-up comedian, executive coach, and published author. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Oxford. As an Executive Coach, he has worked with 50+ blue-chip companies across the globe. He has been invited to speak at Harvard Business School and worked across cultures, with all age groups, in over 25 countries. His experience and expertise exist at the intersection of creativity, communication, humour, business, leadership development, and human interaction. His published autobiography is titled ‘Naked’.