“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”  ―Mel Brooks


How humor helps you communicate…

  • Grabs your audience’s attention.
  • Puts them at ease—we sense your confidence and want to hear what you have to say.
  •  Creates common ground between you and the group.
  • Keeps your audience engaged in your argument.
  • Creates surprises that emphasize your point.
  • Humor is a form of play. It can reveal truths that are harder to convey in serious speech.
  •  Your audience will remember you.

The risks…

  • You have to know if the joke will connect with your audience. Will they get the joke? Will they see the truth in it?
  • It's all about timing… Does it make sense for the times? Does it fit into the moment of your speech?
  •  If you use the wrong joke with the wrong audience, it might alienate or offend.
  •  Irony or sarcasm can be subtle and powerful, but it can also confuse an unaware audience. Give them context.
  • Humor involves making yourself vulnerable in some way. If you're overconfident, you might look like this guy:

Things to consider when using humor in a speech:

  • What things make you laugh? What do those things have in common?
  • What do you do that makes your friends laugh? See? You're already funny!
  • Humor is a state of mind. Before you write, put yourself in a mood where you can see your argument or idea from a different angle.
  • A new perspective can reveal how your argument relates to bigger truths, or unspoken truths…
  • Humor comes in the rewrite. Outline the meaningful things you want to say first, then look for the humor in them.
  • Rehearse and revise! Preferably with an audience that you trust.
  • Anything can be funny. Boring everyday things can make people laugh if you change their meaning.
  • Think about building a joke over time. Or using repetition…


  • Try the art of misinterpretation…
  • STEAL material from other funny people…
  • Improvise! Find something absurd in the moment and relate it to your speech…

Parody and satire are great. Portraying another person can make it easier to say funny things, but it can also be risky…

Serious speeches can also be funny! Here is one of the best American political speeches ever spoken…