Many people wonder if they can learn to be funny. The answer just might be “yes”. My life has not been void of humor, but over the age of fifty I decided to go in search of laughs. If you are wondering how to be funny, then I will share my journey to find funny in a world of blah.
Having a funny personality seemed to me like it was given to some. While I could make people laugh, in my youth I admired those with a natural sense of humor. Telling good jokes seemed like something magical.
But my parents were serious about raising the kids to be productive people, and while my mom was fun loving and always made people laugh, they did not encourage my natural funny side.
Comedy is Smart
In my study of great comedians, I have learned that funny people still need to learn how to craft the words. Studies show that many comedians are very intelligent. This is not simply some God-given gift to deliver observational humor, but a skill that is crafted over a lifetime. Jerry Seinfeld did not just become a star, he worked for decades at finding the funny.
For more than a decade I have earned my living speaking at business and association events. I was always cautious of trying to be too humorous, as I feared I would not be taken seriously. Many great speakers have no humor, and the advice I got early was that making people laugh is important, but do not be seen as a funny speaker or you could be seen as “Fluffy”. But recently I realized I had it backwards. Turns out the funny speakers have the most longevity in my industry.
Jumping into Comedy
I began my venture into comedy at fifty-one years old. I went to a comedy open mic night with a comedian friend with the intent this would be a one-time experience. Yet the preparation for this 5 minute stand-up set caused me to look closely at the work I had done on stages over ten years. As it turns out I was a funny keynote speaker and didn’t even know it.
People would laugh at several of the stories I told in my speeches, and that was a good thing. But these stories were not the same as stand up. I had no punchlines (nor should I have punchlines in a corporate speech). The more I looked at the differences between speakers and comics the more I realized that comedians were the most skilled people in the world at using words.
Speakers think they are the experts on stage, but the real pros are comics. However, that does not mean all speakers should be comics. The purpose of the gathering is different at a business event and a comedy club. However, that does no mean speakers should not be learning from comedy.
I discovered how to be funny by seeking what comics do so well and learning to understand that the great comedians are not ever winging their words. The reality is they are more scripted than any corporate speaker.
Finding the Funny
For me, being funny is about learning to trust myself. I have become a better keynote speaker because of my participation in 44 open mic nights over the last ten months. My clients are noticing I have better timing and and more playful with the audience, even when there is no humor involved.
If you want to find the funny you have to get around comedy. I now watch Netflix comedy special every week. Visiting comedy clubs and participating in open mic nights is getting me around some really intelligent comedians, some of whom are willing to share their experiences in the business.
You do not have to be a comedian to get value from humor. In the workplace, if you can laugh at the little things, you will have less stress. In marriage if you laugh together you will probably endure the rough spots. Life has ups and downs, but laughing daily will make you happier.
This discovery of comedy has been the best thing I have done for my career and my mental well-being.
Thom Singer is a corporate speaker and professional master of ceremonies / emcee. He is the host of the Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do podcast.