This past weekend someone told me that his wife would never put jokes into her speeches at work because her topic is tooooo serious – I think it was like a food stamp program or something. Well certainly you can’t make fun OF the people on food stamps, but you can still include humor in your speech. Here’s a couple of ways you can match serious topics with hilarity. . .
The environment. Add humor by joking about your surroundings and avoid the sensitive topic all together – whew! People think that because their topic is serious, that they can’t have any fun. Actually, they may really NEED to have some fun to take people’s minds off of it and break the ice. So have some fun with the environment. . .the environment includes everything from the room layout to the ceilings, room location, food, the room set-up, the temperature, the city it’s in, etc. . .
A consequence of the topic. Southwest Airlines has fun with one of the most serious topics on the planet. . . airplane safety! And they do a GREAT job. One of my favorite lines, after they’ve said the safety speech that no one listened to, they end with “For those of you who listened to the safety speech, thank you. And for those of you who didn’t. . .good luck!” They give a funny consequence to not listening! So take your topic and think through scenarios and then make the connection to something that might happen. . .or just make up something outrageous that could happen as a result of your speech (In order to avoid the hassles of redeeming food stamps, we will now just make them edible!!!)
Make an analogy. I once followed a medical speaker who talked about premature babies and one that was under like 2 pounds. Well of course I can’t make fun of premature babies. . that’s serious stuff. AND the speaker wasn’t talking about them dying. . .just their weight. Sooo, since we were at a banquet with a lot of food, I did a quick analogy – “Did you hear that that baby was under 2 pounds? I think the food on my plate weighed more.” It got a great laugh and no one was offended!
Joke about yourself. Along the lines of joking about the environment, you can also avoid the topic by making a self-deprecating joke about you and/or your difficulty with understanding the issue. . .”I stood in line 3 hours at the post office to get food stamps.” A lot of successful comedy is about making your audience feel superior, which is why making the joke be on you almost always works.
So next time you’ve got a sensitive/serious/touchy topic, don’t shut down the humor. Break the tension that’s most certainly in the room by ramping up the laughs instead!