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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Humor Isn't What You Think it Is

The funny thing about humor is that it isn’t always funny yet we laugh anyway. There are statements that we hear completely deadpan in one situation and laugh till it kills us in another. Why would this be?

Humor is built on two things, surprise and connection. No, you might say, humor is just funny. What about all those Bob Hope and Jack Benny jokes? Some of them they didn’t even say anything and you still laughed. And that’s the point. We weren’t laughing at what he said or what he did. We were laughing because we were surprised by the words or actions but in a special way, we were so surprised that we don’t realize we are surprised, we just have an emotional reaction and after all laughter is an emotion.

Lots of people say they aren’t funny. That’s true. Nobody is naturally funny. Once you learn the secrets, you can make people laugh almost as well as the pros. Surprise has to do with timing, waiting just that exact interval between the setup and punch line. That bit of anticipation brings up the emotions, saying we have to know the answer, and when it comes we are surprised. I can say the funniest jokes from the stage and get no reaction. I can say profoundly unfunny lines and get a great laugh. It all depends on positioning and timing.

Connection is the other thing that causes laughing. If you the comedian say something that I can connect with, you more likely to get a laugh. If it is familiar or embarrassing, so much the better. Note that many comedians tell stories in their routines. They talk about incidents, events, the news, anything that has a germ of story in it and a bit of surprise. Letterman is funny because he puts a twist on the news that we aren’t expecting.

The best way to get an audience laughing is to build a connection with it first. Talk with them, draw them in, feed them great information, and then tell a story with a few surprises in it. You’ll be amazed at the results.

One of the reasons people fail at joke telling so much is that they are trying to make people laugh. They think it’s the joke that does the job. So they press and in the process turn the audience, whether it is one or a thousand, off. Some people tell a perfectly funny joke in the uninteresting way, forgetting the pauses, the intonations and the words left out that make it work.

The next time you are telling a joke, remember, it is a story in which timing, connection and voice tone are everything and the words themselves relatively unimportant. They key is that you transport your audience into another world where they aren’t thinking funny any more. That’s when you get your best laughs.

 

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