Saturday, May 11, 2013

J is for... jokes

Humor is an important part of storytelling. It can help underscore a point, ease a tense moment or just give the audience some fun. Think about how many speeches you've heard that use a joke to point out something that needs to be changed. Think about how often in the midst of something deadly serious, we use a joke to take a breath. Think about how good it just feels to laugh.

A good joke can be effectively woven into a story as a way to lighten a moment, or a story can even be built up to a punchline. A badly told joke will ruin the moment and leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouths. They won't remember how well you built up to it, how cleverly you included it, all they'll remember is that they didn't like the joke. But if you do it right, your audience will feel that much closer to you and you'll have moved your narrative along exponentially.

Not all of us are naturally good at telling jokes. Frankly, I struggle with jokes in stories, which is part of why I wrote this post.

If you choose to use jokes in your storytelling please choose ones that are appropriate to your audience, work on your timing and make sure you like them. Give your audience time to laugh, don't rush them through the funny moment. We're not stand-up comedians, but you may want to take the time to watch those who use longer forms to tell stories, building jokes into the narrative. Check out Eddie IzzardChristopher Titus and John Leguizamo among others. I'd love to know which comedians you also consider good storytellers.

And remember, the best way to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. What fascinates me about Izzard is his command of the audience with his non-stop divergence from storytelling structure. I see him use a narrative spine to hook the audience, but his scenarios and riffs leave it behind, and rarely resolve... instead "ending" with callbacks... or are just dropped as he starts the next proto-narrative. I really appreciate his flights of logic, cultural references, and commitment to extending jokes past the point of no return. I learn a lot from watching Eddie Izzard, but I wouldn't call storytelling one of his strengths.


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