Humorous Speech: 14 Tips to Leave Them Rolling in the Aisles
Have you every been thoroughly entertained by someone giving a humorous speech? Maybe you enjoy watching stand-up comedians on stage.
Laughter is a definite stress reliever – one of the best medicines, as the saying goes!
People love to laugh. Whether it’s improv, observational, word play, dark humour or something else, there are may ways to see levity in the world we live in.
And, there are many ways to deliver a funny presentation.
In Toastmasters, learning how to give a humorous speech is going to be one of the most gratifying adventures you’ll have as a member.
So, take heart, even if you’re not a natural, you can be that person on stage getting the laughs!
Let’s get started by looking at the prep work.There’s no feeling like it, and you’ll be hooked!
Before you Begin Your Funny Speech
As with any type of speech in Toastmasters, you want to do your best.
Starting with a little self-reflection and practice will help you figure out your strategy. Here’s how to proceed:
Remember what you found funny
Not everyone has the same sense of humour. In fact, for some people jokes go right over their heads while others find the same ones side-splittingly funny.
Consider what kind of humour resonates with you.
Do you laugh at silly costumes and clown noses? Or, do you find the physical humour of someone failing miserably at a juggling act comical?
Perhaps puns that exploit the meaning of certain words make you smile.
Think about what you enjoy in a humorous speech and you’re guaranteed that others will find it hilarious too. That’s the type of content you’ll want to incorporate into your presentation.
Play to your strengths
Are you known for telling self-deprecating anecdotes? Do you find fun it re-telling entertaining family stories?
Maybe you weren’t the class clown at school or have never been the life of the party, encouraging others to join in some fun activity.
Even so, you likely display some behaviour that tickles the funny bones of others. Therefore, keep that in mind as you decide how to craft your speech.
Try out your stuff
While you’re sorting out what you want to give a humorous talk about, try your hand at getting a laugh or two from others.
This will give you a little informal practice, and help you decide which route to take in your presentation.
Here’s a few ways to do this:
Explain the funny in your day – Look for anything out-of-the-ordinary in your day and deliver it in a short, comical anecdote at work, or at home around the dinner table.
Did you see a dog wearing a hilarious-looking jacket? Was there someone with a loud snore napping on your bus?
One you start looking for the funny in the day, it’s not hard to find!
Try kid-friendly humour – Kids love jokes. If there’s a child in your life tell them a knock-knock joke, or something along those lines.
Many adults get a kick out of kid-friendly humour as well. Try out a silly groaner joke on one of the adults in your life.
Volunteer for Jokemaster – Take advantage of this ready-made opportunity for you to hone your joke-telling skills at your next Toastmasters club meeting.
After you get a little experience spreading humour, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable in the comedian role. Plus, you’ll find out where you’re getting the laughs.
Watch the experts
As a Toastmaster, you have a ringside seat to speakers of all skill levels.
Notice what grabs your attention in how others present their topic, and the ways they use humour – this goes for any speech, not just the intentionally funny ones!
Search out humorous TED Talks and study what the speaker does to be humorous. In addition, watch different comedians and figure out what they do to get a few belly laughs.
What you’ll find is that, no matter what type of humour is used, a successful performance is all about the delivery.
Crafting a Comical Speech
There are a few things to be mindful of when writing a humorous presentation.
Find the funny
First, you need to pick a topic to talk about.
When it comes down to it, you can use almost any subject matter for a humorous speech.
Some of the greatest material to use comes from personal stories. You could spin a story from a personal anecdote, or talk about the trials and tribulations of a friend or family member.
How many times have you heard stand-up comics regale an audience with the escapades of their children, or expose the comical side of the relationship they have with their spouse?
This is the stuff that works because people can relate to it, and may see themselves in your stories. It’s always funnier when some misadventure happens to someone else!
Write to amuse
When you’re writing your speech, start to think about your delivery.
Is there a particular turn of phrase, amusing alliteration or other play on words that’s sure to make the listeners smile?
Jot those down where they’re likely to have the biggest impact. Will delivering this content in the opening, as you finish up or somewhere else in between work best?
Remember to follow the formula for crafting any Toastmasters speech with a captivating opening, an interesting body and a memorable closing.
14 Tips for Nailing a Humorous Speech
Here’s where the fun begins!
With a well-crafted speech designed to tell your tale in the funniest way, it’s time to focus on your delivery.
There are a range of tactics for engaging your audience no matter what type of talk you’re giving. Some of these can be applied, with a little modification.
Here are 14 terrific ways to deliver a humorous speech:
1. Pace perfectly
Proper pacing in any presentation is important. And, as you can appreciate, this is a critical component of giving a funny talk.
People need a bit of time to get the joke, right?
Leave a little dead air just after you’ve said something humorous. Some people might be chuckling right away while others will need more time to comprehend.
Either way, pausing strategically after a punch line is necessary for the humour to land well.
2. Funny fashion
Dressing up in an unusual outfit, or wearing a silly hat, is another way to amuse your audience.
This signals that they’re in for some original fun.
For instance, if you’re going to tell the story of a hysterical summer vacation you might consider coming on stage in shorts and sandals with a beach towel slung over your shoulder – if you have a snorkel and swimming fins you can wear, even better.
Just watch that you don’t trip, unless you’re going for a laugh for that too!
If your goal is to keep giving humorous speeches, wearing something funny could become your signature move.
One example is the comedian Steve Martin who became memorable for wearing what looked like an arrow through his head.
Anyway, you get the picture. This type of absurd humor can set you up for some laughs right away.
3. Present props
Props are another standard approach to holding an audience’s attention when giving a talk.
When presenting a humorous speech, you don’t have to necessarily bring something on stage that people laugh at immediately.
That’s one way to go, but the trick to being amusing is really in how you use the prop.
Maybe you’ve got a laughable tale about your pet parrot.
Rather than trying to incorporate the bird itself into your talk – which can be problematic on several levels – you could take a toy parrot on a perch with you on stage. Interacting with the fake bird will increase the comic value of your speech.
Another way to use props is to use them to demonstrate an activity.
For example, an amusing story about driving a car can be enhanced if you’re pretending to drive with an actual steering wheel between your hands.
4. Surprise with sound
There are several ways to use sound in a humorous speech.
The most obvious one may be to find a noise maker that has a novel sound. The selection here is endless, and only limited by what you’re able to find.
If you want to use a bell, there are dinner bells, bicycle bells, cow bells and other bells. Some different options are horns, shakers, kazoos, hand clappers and maracas.
You might also find a few items around your home that you can improvise with.
The other choice is to use your voice to make a sound effect. Getting back to that example of a driving anecdote, making ‘vroom, vroom’ sounds when you’re pretending to drive can add humour.
Again, the key here is in how you use sound. While the particular noise might be funny on its own, you’ll get more laughs if you time it appropriately in your speech.
If you plan to use the sound repeatedly to create more hilarity, just don’t overdo it!
5. Exaggerate expressions
Funny facial expressions are another tool for telling a funny tale.
An exaggerated look of surprise, with raised eyebrows and an open mouth, can make your delivery all the more uproarious.
Help your listeners really visualize what you went through in the anecdote you’re relating by emphasizing your reactions, and they’ll be laughing right along with you.
A shake of the head and a shoulder shrug can be added for extra effect.
6. Give grand gestures
This is along the same lines as really playing up your facial expressions.
Grand gestures, like throwing your arms out or reaching your hands high above you head, can add comedy to your speech.
Stretching your arms forward with open palms to the audience can show them that you’re imploring them to see things from your perspective.
As with other methods, such gestures should be well-timed during your talk to add the maximum amount of drama.
7. Perfect a posture
Body language can also be uproarious.
Think about what you want to communicate with your posture that will add to the humour in your presentation.
It could be that you want to express indignation, or incredulity, by standing with your hands on your hips. A slouching position could be used to indicate resignation.
Then again, you might want to come up with a uniquely funny posture that’s all your own.
Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s a posture that will make your speech all the more hysterical.
8. Woo with words
There are so many ingenious ways to employ language for added impact here.
Witty plays on words include alliterations, puns, phonetic mix-ups, obscure words, unusual sayings and more.
An intentional slip of the tongue, for example, like referring to a “funny story” as a “sunny foray” will initially catch people unawares.
However, once they’ve grasped the play on words, they’ll find it amusing and will be paying close attention to catch other examples.
Another move to try is to incorporate pet language for people or situations. Maybe you’re talking about a mischievous child and calling them “the little dickens” brings a smile.
You could also make up words, like calling your spouse the “nagagator” of your trip rather than the “navigator” if she keeps complaining that you’re not following her directions.
9. Vary voice volume
Here’s a strategy that you’ve probably found to be effective in other types of speeches.
Changing your voice volume for emphasis is a tried-and-true way to hold your listeners’ attention.
Modulate your voice to match what you’re saying at the time, and people will connect with the funny faster.
10. Act it out
Go through the motions of your story to show the comical side.
When you’re acting out a riotous routine, it can be very engaging for those present.
Make sure to move around and use the whole stage, and consider actually getting down into the theatre aisles beside the audience if it serves your purpose.
Pause your speech for a few moments while you complete the actions to make things more hysterical. If you’ve ever watched improv, you’ll know how well this can work.
Acting it out can include imitating voices to relate a conversation between two people.
You may have seen comedians do this to add hilarity when talking about an argument they had with their partner, for instance.
11. Display distraction
Here’s a more original idea to bring some fun to your presentation.
Try acting a little distracted. You may be thinking that this is exactly what not to do during a speech!
But if it’s used in a controlled fashion it can amp up the laughter.
One way is to just wander out on stage seemingly lost in your thoughts.
You could pretend to be reading something or talking aloud to yourself and then notice, with a start, that you’re not alone. You have an audience!
Another example is getting distracted a few times in the middle of your speech by something you see around you – like complementing an audience member on the colour of her sweater.
12. Make outlandish comparisons
This is a great way to use exaggeration to encourage your listeners to see the laughable side of things.
Making outlandish comparisons demonstrates your frustration, or extreme surprise, with the situation you’re explaining.
Say you’re talking about having to deal with a lot of dirty laundry. You could say that it was as though a landside had happened indoor with laundry overflowing out of the hamper and down the stairs.
A simpler example is saying that traffic was moving so slowly on the highway that it seemed you were driving backwards.
13. Use the rule of three
The rule of three can be employed several ways to increase the funny factor.
Basically, you can link three thoughts or ideas together. You might say that having children has taught you to appreciate life more, how to calm a crying baby and that your favourite activity is napping.
Make the last point a twist in an unexpected direction.
Creating a presentation that takes your audience through three similar occurrences is another way to use this method.
Maybe you want to tell a fishing story and each experience of trying to land a fish during your day out on the water builds on the last one.
14. Be unexpected
Anything that’s weird, absurd or nonsensical falls into this category.
It should be quite unconnected to the talk you’re giving and is designed simply to get a laugh.
The best place for this is right at the beginning of your talk to prime the audience to be amused. You could also finish off with something unexpected to get a last laugh.
A few behavioural examples of this are funny walks, dancing and acrobatic tricks like riding a unicycle.
Other ways to use the unexpected are to have dramatic music playing as you enter the stage or throw rose petals out into the audience.
A final tip is to harness the power of repetition.
It’s not just using the same noise makers a few times during your talk that can bump up the laughs. You can repeat a few of these other ideas as well.
Take care to use the right dosage of one or more of these ideas. Repeating what listeners found funny the first time, if done in moderation, can cause them to laugh even louder the next time.
Closing Comments on Delivery a Humorous Speech
Granted, there’s a lot to consider in performing a humorous speech.
So, take your time, do your research, select a good topic for your talk and get to work writing your best speech.
Practice is really important in preparing to deliver this sort of speech. That’s where you can try out one or more of the delivery approaches and see what seems to fit best.
Having said that, plan to step outside your comfort zone a bit and experiment with different ways to deliver your presentation.
After all, being brave and stretching your skills is what Toastmasters is all about!
Be advised, the rewards can be remarkable when you see what joy and downright laugh-out-loud humor your speech has brought to people.
Related: How to Write a Tall Tale Speech