If you think humor is just for professional comedians and humorists, think again. In fact, it’s been said that “humor is the shortest distance between two people”. This valuable asset is for speakers, teachers, leaders, salespersons, and anyone who wants to bring a little sunshine into their everyday conversations. Why? Because humor brings balance to otherwise heavy or dry topics, humor sells, humor breaks down barriers and humor even heals.
Last Saturday, I experienced the infectious Southern humor of the great Jeanne Robertson, nationally recognized humorist whose anecdotes can be heard daily on Sirius XM Radio. The 70 year young, 6’2″ former Miss North Carolina was the featured speaker at the monthly Georgia chapter of the National Speakers Association and had us belly laughing from the moment she took the stage.
I’ve admired Jeanne’s humor for years.
But I did not know how gracious she is.
At the close of her engagements, when given the choice of rubbing shoulders with VIPs or instead hanging out with the folks who came to hear her speak, she told us that she prefers the latter. Very impressive.
I was one of four who had the privilege of speaking and receiving feedback from a panel of professional storytellers, Judy Cline, Ken Futch and Jeanne Robertson. What helpful, hilarious and insightful feedback from these three!
Afterward, Jeanne gave a presentation entitled “More Funny, More Money”. Here are six of Jeanne’s tips for incorporating humor into your conversation, whether speaking professionally or just enjoying a dinner party with friends.
1. Jokes are fine, but a personal story is fabulous. When you use a personal story, you don’t have to wonder if someone has already heard it.
2. Find humor in everyday life. Funny stuff is all around us, but we have to be on the lookout for it. Find it at the airport, in conversations with friends and family, in the newspaper, at work.
3. Write it down. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ll remember the funny things that come your way.
4. Test new stories on friends and family first. By trying them out in small groups first, we learn in the process what works and what doesn’t. How that punch line could be rearranged to be funnier. What finally emerges is a great story.
5. Be willing to wait for the laughs. It’s tempting to keep on speaking after you’ve delivered a humorous line. But sometimes, you can milk it for even more laughs by letting it hang in the air for just a few more seconds.
6. Use your body. Jeanne told us that she learned from Don Knotts and Lucille Ball about incorporating physicality into her stories. Be willing to contort your body and use facial expressions. Also use the entire stage, moving not only left and right, but also forward and backward. Physicality brings a story to life, enhancing the humor.
Jeanne’s youtube channel has received over 20 millions hits (and counting). See why as you enjoy this clip, “Don’t Go to Vegas Without a Baptist”. Get ready to laugh!