Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Storytelling vs Humor


“What is a cow playing an instrument doing?”
my six-year-old son asked at the dinner table. “I don’t know, what?” I responded. “He’s making mooo-sic.” My son then burst into laughter, completely
taken by his own humor. I, too, let out a chuckle because a first
grade kid’s sense of humor is funny. What isn’t funny? A grown man or woman trying to use jokes or
“humor” to enhance their communications or “get attention” – whether in writing
or speaking or memos or whatever. Now, it’s one thing if humor comes naturally
to you in which case “trying to be funny” advice is a moo-point (see what I did there?). However, if you are not funny by nature, forced
humor will only highlight that underdeveloped trait and undermine your authenticity and
subsequently, your authority. Yikes! If you’ve ever wished you were funnier or
quicker-witted – let me put those laments to rest. You have something better! Storytelling. Think about it. First, stories are easier than jokes… Good jokes are hard. The long ones usually aren’t worth the pay
off, the short ones make it tough to stick the landing, and in either case you run the
highly-probable risk of alienating half of your audience as jokes are often told at someone’s
expense. And in the age of social media, a bad joke
can quickly become a public relations nightmare. It’s simply not worth the risk. If humor is your goal, a better option (and
a safer one) is telling a story. Stories are engaging, persuasive and most
BONUS… can be funny. However, again, don’t let “being funny,”
be your first concern. PRO TIP: Instead of telling a “funny” story,
focus on telling a familiar one. I use this strategy for every presentation
I give. Before each one, I think about something I
have in common with the audience; something we can laugh at together. For example, recently I spoke for an event
in my home state of Minnesota. I told the story of the first time I brought
my Southern Californian husband to Minneapolis in the winter and how fascinated he was by
the skyways that connected the buildings downtown. The audience chuckled at the image of a grown
man surviving a Minnesota winter for the first time. There was no slap-stick in that story and
it didn’t need it. The story was funny because the audience could
picture it so clearly, it was so familiar – it was their reality. The more FAMILIAR you can be, the FUNNIER
it will be. Whether you are a funny person or not, if
the story rings true for the audience in a funny way, the audience will chuckle. They will connect with the irony or the frivolity
or the reality of the story. This type of laughter also carries more weight
— they are not laughing at you or your material, they are laughing about something within themselves
which makes the enjoyment more meaningful. And if you can’t think of a familiar story
to tell that particular audience, don’t resort to a joke. Instead, tell a different story that is universally
familiar. My last piece of advice for you on humor vs.
storytelling is this: Don’t TRY to be funny… LEARN to be funny. Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians like Jay
Leno are meticulous about testing their material. What works. What doesn’t. Storytelling (and humor for that matter) are
skills, not talents, which means they can be developed over time. Set goals for yourself to tell a story several
times in a week – write it in an email, tell it at a meeting, use it while you’re
networking. Each time you tell the story, you’ll gain
additional insight on how well it connects with your listener, what parts to keep, what
parts to leave out. Develop a storytelling discipline…. Or don’t… whatever… but I guarantee, the more you
test your stories, the funnier you’ll become.>>A little funny goes a long way… but
Being funny is no laughing matter… use your stories and never worry about a punch line
again.

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