Self-deprecating humor is one of the quickest ways to get the audience on your side. As I’ve said, a lot of comedy is about people feeling superior to the comic, so if people think you have a flaw then they’ll either feel superior OR be able to relate to you even more because they see some of themself in you. Here’s a couple ways to come up with the funny on you.
- Address what they see first. If you’re really tall, have a big belly or a wacky hairdo, make mention of it. Not only will it endear you to them, but it will also let the audience know that you KNOW you’re really tall. Otherwise they’ll spend the entire evening, if it’s a live event, staring at you wondering if you know just how tall you are.
- Have fun with what they don’t realize is a flaw. I have to tell people I have big feet (size 12 AAA) because (thankfully) they don’t look big. But after that, I can joke about it and use it throughout my act. So is there something real, or even made up, that you can talk about. Yes, you can make something up. . . if you’re trying to connect and be funny, there’s no rule that says you really have to have a birthmark in the shape of New York on your belly. Just saying so makes it real!
- Put yourself at a disadvantage personally. Comics have been doing this for centuries by having fun with things like dating (“I just broke up with my boy/girlfriend”), finances (“I’m so broke”), or bad luck (“something happened to me on the way to the event”). Is there a personal event, again real or made up, that you can bring up to connect with your audience or readers. We’ve all experienced one or all of the aforementioned situations, so we appreciate being a part of the “club.”
- Connect by telling them how some news item is negatively affecting you. Did a new city tax affect you badly? How about those new seatbelt laws? And health care reform! You can go on and on being self-deprecating about things that are happening in the news. And the cool thing about that is that it’s timely and makes your humor look really, really fresh.
A couple words of caution when using self-deprecating humor. . .don’t do it when you’re already at a disadvantage. In my post on how to follow another speaker (4/19/09), I mentioned that if the speaker ahead of you is really, really well-liked, then don’t do self-deprecating humor. The same goes if you’re delivering bad news, or you have to speak (or write a memo) during a situation in which the group already isn’t happy/interested in what you have to say. Oh, and by the way, I did open for Julio Iglesias over the weekend at the Gove in Anaheim, CA. And this is the reason I did not open with self-deprecating humor. . .they were there to see Julio, not me. . so I was already at a disadvantage!