The Art of Being Funny

Watch this…

I write a weekly column for AllAccess, The Talent Pool, and a couple of weeks ago got a comment from one reader asking if I knew of resources that could teach the structure of being funny.

There is a basic formula for being funny.

But, I honestly don’t think you can teach someone to be funny, even if they follow the formula. You’re either funny or you’re not.

And if you’re not funny, the worst thing you can try to do is be funny. Always play to your strength.

But, after months of caustic political sniping, fear-mongering, and angry partisan fighting, the need for escape is acute. So, if you can be as funny as this old lady, I want to hear your show…

She’s funny! And she follows the right structure that all funny people use…

Note her effective use of pauses, the care she uses to set up her surprises — her punchlines — and how she pauses again to allow a listener reaction. She doesn’t step on her own payoffs.

The whole premise adds to her funniness. We don’t expect an old lady to be funny, especially during a prayer, so when she is, that makes her lines even funnier.

Still, every payoff is relateable — we can see ourselves, or someone else we know well, in each line, and that also makes her funnier.

Yes, there is a formula for effective humor:

  1. Timing is important, and pauses can be really effective.
  2. Set-up is everything: Create an expectation.
  3. Spring a surprise ending, a twist we didn’t see coming. This is the funny part.
  4. Allow for reaction. They can’t listen when they’re laughing.
  5. Recognize the punchline. Know when to move on.

Laughter — even a genuine smile — is wonderful medicine today if you can produce it as well as she does. So if you have this gift, share it with the rest of us.