Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.
I have spent days wondering what I should write about.
My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’
I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.
I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.
What is funny?
I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.
I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.
I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.
According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”
The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.
I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.
That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.
I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.
I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.
Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!
In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?
How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.
Talk to you later.
Keep on Creating!
Yvette K. Carol
My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green
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