Can’t tell a joke? No problem. Use simple types of humor that don’t require any special comic ability. There are lots of them available – analogies, quotes, definitions, one-liners. They’re so short that they don’t require comic delivery. Anyone can use them successfully.
As always, the key to success is analogizing your humor to a point. Funny analogies are perfect because they’re automatically relevant. (Otherwise they wouldn’t be analogies). And they’re so short, they don’t require comic delivery. They’re easy to deliver and highly effective.
For example, let’s say you want to make the point that some proposed course of action is illogical. You might say that the proposal doesn’t make sense. It’s like the fellow who heard that 90% of accidents occur within ten miles of home so he moved twenty miles away.
Anyone can deliver that line. It’s not hysterical, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s mildly amusing and it highlights a point. Remember, the goal is simply to communicate the fact that you have a sense of humor.
Funny quotes also provide a simple way to add humor to a presentation. They are easy to find. They gain immediate attention. And, if selected with panache, they make you sound quite erudite.
For example, let’s work with a quote from one of America’s most famous astronauts:
I believe it was Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, who was asked if he had been nervous before he went into space. He said, “Of course, who wouldn’t be? There I was sitting on top of 9,999 parts and bits — each of which had been made by the lowest bidder.”
This is excellent for client presentations explaining the justification for premium pricing — the old you get what you pay for argument. You could also use it to make points about quality, government spending, pessimism and bravery. But that list just scratches the surface. You can analogize the Armstrong quote to almost any point if you think about it long enough. Most important, anyone can use the quote — it doesn’t require comic delivery.
Here are a few more examples.
Let’s say a rival is bragging that his just completed report is a classic. You might add: “Well as Mark Twain once said ‘A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.'”
Or your opponent, the windbag, has finally finished a long, flowery argument during a company meeting. You can say: “Will Rogers must have been thinking of that when he said ‘In some states they no longer hang murderers. They kill them by elocution.'”
Or some miscreant has the audacity to ask what you do for exercise. You affect your best
withering stare and say: “In the words of Fred Allen, ‘I like long walks — especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.'”
But you don’t have to wait for specific situations to arise. Many quotes can be easily dropped into casual conversations — particularly if you want to wax philosophic. Here are a few of my favorites:
Martin Buxbaum: “If you think you have someone eating out of your hand, it’s a good idea to count your fingers.”
Fulton J Sheen: “The big print giveth and the fine print taketh away.”
Woody Allen: “I think crime pays. The hours are good, you travel a lot.”
Lily Tomlin: “If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in a library?”
Lucille Ball: “The secret to staying young is living honestly, eating slowly and lying about your age.”
Where can you find appropriate humorous quotes? Just go to http://www.museumofhumor.com and click on “Resources”. Under a heading titled “Material” you’ll find a list of simple types of humor including quotes, definitions and one-liners. Click on the type of material that you want and you’ll be taken to a goldmine of links. 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.