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Lights, Camera, HUMOR - Revisited!

by Darren LaCroix

OK, so I'm working on putting together a book with my fellow World Champions titled: The Presenters EDGE. While looking through my past articles, I found this one from several years ago. I loved it all over again! Since many of you are working on adding humor right now, I thought I would send this out again. It's THAT good!

Fellow students of humor, stand up and make ' em laugh! I say "fellow students" because through teaching others and making techniques and concepts graspable I, too, gain more clarity. I'm still on my own ever-changing path of humor mastery.

Many of you have heard me speak in person. One of the favorite things that I like to teach is the Rule of Three - with a humor twist. (This is just one of the ideas from the Humor Boot Camp.) Some of you may be aware that in professional presentations a "list of three" is often used to illustrate examples.

For instance, in my observations about happiness, I talk about the excuses we all make. We would be happier IF: "IF I just had a little more money... IF I just had a little more time... IF the kids were just a little older."

Three illustrations are optimum because only two may not give full clarity or allow the audience to recognize themselves. Four items seems to belabor the point. Unless it's an unusually difficult concept to grasp, no one likes it when people over explain.

This concept works very well with the setup/punch format. And anyone can develop the technique. The setup "creates an expectation." The punch line "changes that expectation." We can use the Rule of Three to develop a pattern. Establishing the pattern then allows for us to break the pattern and get a laugh!

I was giving a humor workshop in Sarasota, so I scheduled an appearance at a comedy club in town that same night. Some of the attendees mentioned that they were coming to the show. I decided to challenge myself and create a local joke based on the Rule of Three so they could see it "in action." My friend Elizabeth, one of the attendees, worked through the process with me. Here's how I started the show...

"I'm excited to be visiting Sarasota. My friends were delighted to show me the local wildlife. They took me to see the dolphins at Miaka, the alligators at Sonata Island, and the drivers on Route 41."

Notice the pattern?

AB AB AB (a pattern needs to be created in order to "change the expectation.")

A: Location
B: Animal

Notice, too, that the "wildlife" gets progressively wilder. That's why I started with dolphins rather than alligators.

You are creating a pattern... A pattern creates an expectation... An expectation is a setup for a nice "humor twist."

Setup: Creating an expectation
Punch line: Changing that expectation

But how is the idea created? What is the process?

Humor often stems from tragedy. I started by asking about some of the common local complaints. One thing that screamed out from the top of the "pet peeve" list was the drivers. (You usually don't have to look too far!)

The local drivers were going to be my punch line. So now I went back and looked at how I could "hide" the punch line and "setup" the joke. Noticing that there were many vacationers in Sarasota, the idea of vacations seemed like a logical way to hide the punch line.

A great example from a student of humor. While recently speaking in Montreal, John Gupta, DTM, Past District Governor of a Toastmasters group in Montreal, was in attendance. As he introduced me, he used the Rule of Three that I had taught him at a previous conference. He actually put an added twist on it. I have asked his permission to share his humor.

"When people find out that I'm an Indian, they think I practice Yoga, I meditate, and I'm poor... (pause). The third one is correct!"

He used a "1,2,3... then bang" formula. It was very funny! What John did was use an unfortunate stereotype to his advantage. At the same time, he loosened up the audience, showed that he takes himself lightly, and set a creative tone for his presentation. The magic was he did all of that in just 23 words. Brilliant! I loved seeing someone use what I teach. It works, yet most people won't even attempt it.

The greatest benefit to John's creation is that he can use it whenever he speaks to an audience. A little effort goes a long way. He can use this bit for many years to come. It's a great "ice breaker."

What can you do?

About the Author

Darren LaCroix has travelled the road from rags to riches as failed Subway restaurant owner to award winning speaker - he's the Toastmasters 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking. As Darren said in his winning speech,

"After 4 years of business school I went for the American Dream. I bought ... a subway sandwich shop. You're all impressed - I can tell. I don't want to brag but I took a $60,000 debt and in six short months ... I doubled that debt. I turned my subway sandwich shop into a non-profit organization."

As you can tell, Darren's a humorist. He's also a film producer, speech coach, and professional speaker.

Learn how Darren proceeded from being the world's least funny man to a man who helps others learn how to be funny. Check out Darren's website, www.humor411.com, for newsletter articles and resources for better public speaking.

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