The second most frequently asked question I receive is “Where can I find good humorous material?” (The most frequent question I’m asked is “May I please see your driver’s license, sir?”)
Anyway, my answer used to be a list of books, magazines and newspapers. It was a long list that required a trip to the library unless you wanted to spend a fortune on subscriptions to a lot of publications. Then the Internet came along and almost changed the situation. Instead of recommending a long list of periodicals, I started recommending a longer list of web sites.
The problem was that if you liked a site, then you’d bookmark it. And that was the kiss of death. Because how often have you gone back to view the sites in your bookmarks? Be honest now. Not too often, right? In fact, if you’re like most web surfers, you’ve got a bookmark full of sites that you’ve never looked at since book-marking them. Let’s face it. Book-marking a website has become the high-tech version of taping something on your VCR. (But I really am going to watch that tape of the C-SPAN special on the history of politics some day. Uh-huh.)
Here’s the good news. As an old motivational guru once said, “When faced with a problem, make it into problemonade.” So here’s what I’ve done. As a special service to anyone interested in using humor in oral or written communication, I’ve created a super site. (Not the polluted kind!) It’s a web site packed with thousands of links to incredibly great sources of funny material. Here’s a guided tour.
Start by surfing to http://www.museumofhumor.com. That’s the homepage. Along the bottom of the page you’ll see a button labeled “For Clergy.” This section of the museum contains over 700 links to sermons about laughter, joy, humor and happiness, as well as links to humorous material appropriate for use in sermons. If you’re worried about finding material that’s in good taste, it doesn’t get more appropriate than this. Click on some of the sermons to see how clergy have used quips and jokes to make various points. You may be able to adapt them for your own purposes.
Now go back to the homepage. Along the left side of the page, you’ll find a button labeled “Resources.” Click on that and you’ll come to a page divided into three sections: News, Tools and Material. Under “News” you’ll find links to offbeat news stories. These can provide fabulous topical material, especially if you look at them on the day that you’re scheduled to give a speech. They’re great for developing a humorous opening to your presentation.
The “Tools” section provides links to variety of web sites that can provide material for your presentation or help you write it. For example, “Today In History” and “Those Were The Days” give you lists of events, birthdays and other things that occurred on the day that you’re speaking. The “Lexical Freenet” is a great word association tool for brainstorming ideas and phrases to use in your presentation.
The “Material” section is what you want to see especially if you can’t tell a joke. Instead of dividing material by subject-matter (the traditional way), it groups material by type of humor. Categories include “Anecdotes & Jokes,” “Carnac,” “Definitions,” “Goofups,” “Insults & Comebacks,” “Laws & Lists,” “One Liners,” “Quotes,” and “Topical Humor.” Click on the type of humor that you feel comfortable using. You’ll be transported to a page with lots of links to your desired humor type.
Below the “Material” section is a section labeled “Cartoons.” Cartoons are a fantastic and yet overlooked form of oral humor. Why? Because even if you can’t tell a joke, you can probably describe a cartoon. (I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t.) That means you can make a point by describing a cartoon, just as you would make a point by telling a joke. The links provided will allow you to peruse thousands of cartoons until you find one that makes your point. (Tip: look for one that’s easy for your audience to visualize as you say it.)
OK, let’s go back to the homepage. On the left you’ll see a button labeled “Library.” Clicking it takes you to – here’s a big surprise – the library. You will be most interested in the middle section labeled “How To.” It includes links to a wide variety of how to articles ranging from “How to Make Meetings Fun” to “How to Write a Humorous Speech.”
Let’s return to the homepage one more time. On the left you’ll see a button for “Exhibits.” Click on it. Then click on “Talk Culture” and then click on “Talk Wine (New Style).” What you’ll find is a funny analogy generator. Although I’ve set it up to generate analogies for wine, you can use the analogies to describe anything. For example, I just clicked the button and got: This wine is like “watching Gilligan’s Island for the first time, not quite humbling but close.” Well, that’s a good analogy for lots of other things you might be writing or speaking about. Just keep hitting the button on the analogy generator until you get something you can use. They’re not prewritten. The computer combines phrases to keep generating new ones.
Want to help support the museum? Visit the gift shop and buy someone a present. Or become a museum member.
And that’s no joke!
Malcolm Kushner, “America’s Favorite Humor Consultant,” is an internationally acclaimed expert on humor and communication. A co-creator of the humor exhibit at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Kushner is the author of several books including Public Speaking For Dummies which has sold over 100,000 copies. He has been profiled in Time Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post and numerous other publications. His television and radio appearances include CNN, National Public Radio, CNBC, “Voice of America” and “The Larry King Show.” Prior to becoming a humor consultant, he practiced law with a major San Francisco law firm. A popular speaker at corporate and association meetings, Kushner is based in Santa Cruz, California. For more information, and lots of humor you can use in your next presentation, check out http://www.museumofhumor.com.