Do you wish you could make people laugh? Humor is a powerful tool. And I’d argue that it has a place in the business world – unless you’re an accountant.* When used appropriately, humor helps break the ice, keeps people glued to your email or blog, and even persuades people to buy your product or service.
You don’t need to be naturally funny to make people laugh. Believe me. Growing up, I was an unpopular kid with bifocals, orthodontic headgear, and an imaginary friend in the form of a pet rock. (This part is not a joke.) So imagine my horror at age 20 when I attempted to deliver the Valedictorian speech at my college graduation … in front of 8,000 people. At one point in my speech, I said something funny. It was an accident – I swear! – but the audience roared with laughter. It felt great! I had to figure out how to repeat that mistake every day for the rest of my life.
My study of humor has served me well. It’s helped me build a strong network, land speaking engagements, and grow my social media ghostwriting firm. Of the many humor techniques out there, here are my 5 favorites:
Be brief. Jerry Seinfeld once said he’d spend an hour trying to condense 8 words into 5. Brevity adds punch to your punch line.
Use hard sounds. The sounds of P, K, and T are funny. No one knows why; they just are. Pop-Tart is funny; English muffin is not. Chicken is funny; hen is not. Twitter is funny; social media is not, sadly.
Be specific. Instead of automobile, say Ford F-350 pickup truck. Instead of high heels, say leopard print pumps. Instead of imaginary friend, say pet rock. Notice how the funny versions use hard sounds?
Put the funny word at the end of the sentence. The last word in a sentence is what people remember most. Think of Henny Youngman’s famous one-liner, “Take my wife – please.” This is also a great example of brevity.
Be vulnerable. Sorry to be touchy-feely, but vulnerability goes a long way in humor. For instance, I have a huge number of phobias that I’ll share with anyone, including my fear of heights, closed spaces, and Taylor Swift. Show your imperfections, and people will feel better about themselves. They’ll laugh.
It’s okay get serious about being funny. You just may fill your life with a little more love … and a lot more laughter.
* My apologies to accountants. Some do have personality. But no apologies to Taylor Swift.