How To Be Funny (Pt. 1) | A Non-Comedian’s Guide

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man_laughing_with_friendsOkay, okay, you’ve talked me into it.

After all the emails, I’m now going to start to dedicate some of the space on this blog for non-comedians; a place where the ‘everyday’ person can get a dose of insight into how to be funny.

Before we get started with the tips, please be advised that being funny is subjective. What one person thinks is funny may draw, from another person, a blank stare or worse a snarl, or a punch in the throat. (It hasn’t happened to me yet, but there’s still hope!).

Despite the subjectiveness of ‘funny,’ there are certain strategies and techniques that you can apply to your daily conversation that will drastically increase your ability to be recognized as “funny.”

And… it’s not as hard as you might think, because much of learning how to be funny is surprisingly scientific.

It is a scientific fact (proven through scientific case study and scientific process), that a human being laughs when they are surprised.

You should be writing that word down right now. SURPRISE. It’s key. In fact out of the 9 Major Human Laughter Triggers, if you focused on surprise alone, in a short period of time, you could be recognized as the funniest guy in your school, at your work or in your cell block. (I write that, because as it turns out a lot of inmates have been reading my blog).

I guess you can avoid being someone’s bitch if you’re making them laugh!

The problem with surprise is that it also causes us to startle or cry.

So we have to understand how to apply it so it works to help us achieve our goal—and that’s to make someone laugh.

We laugh when we are surprised in a benign way or in a way that doesn’t threaten our safety or our reputation.

So let’s start with owning the fact that the number one trigger for human laughter is surprise.

Actually there are, (at a psychological level), 9 major laugh triggers for the human being.

Since one of those triggers is tickling, there are eight which are applicable to what we are trying to do and that is to make people laugh in every day situations;

  • At work
  • At School
  • In Social situations
  • Dating
  • Giving presentations or speaking engagements
  • Teaching
  • Leadership
  • Job interviews
  • Auditions, etc.

The great thing, is that if you’re NOT a comedian, a LITTLE humor goes a LONG way! You don’t have the same requirements and expectations as a comedian does, so a small surprise in the middle of a talk can be very effective.

If you’re known for being a square or completely ‘un-funny,’ then a small joke can be hysterical because everyone is so used to your normally subdued personality and the wordplay is unexpected which creates crisp surprise and BOOM a laugh.

For example Conrad Hilton founder of Hilton Hotels was noted for being a dry and serious human being. When interviewed at a business function in January, he was asked, “What are some of your New Year’s resolutions?”

He replied, “I would just ask that people put the shower curtain INSIDE the tub.

Not incredibly funny by any means, but since Mr. Hilton is rarely ever seen saying anything that is NOT serious, it got a big laugh. It was the SURPRISE that triggered the laugh mechanism.

The eight major laughter triggers for the human being are:

  • Surprise
  • Embarrassment
  • Recognition
  • Incongruity
  • Release
  • Superiority
  • Ambivalence
  • Configurational

Some comedy writing gurus have stated that the last one, ‘configurational’ doesn’t apply to commercially accepted comedy today, but that’s completely wrong.

Configurational jokes are those that make an audience think and solve the punchline. If you think of Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, you know that that kind of comedy is alive and well.

Well Mitch Hedberg is dead, so I guess it’s only half-alive.

Hedberg and Wright still have had such influence, many comedians are emulating their style and becoming very successful.

You can’t watch Steven Wright or Mitch Hedberg without starting to think funny or incongruously yourself.

But, after watching you might ask “how’s that help me to be funny?”

I’m glad you asked.

Sometimes just seeing it in action gives you a better understanding of how to apply it.

Understanding surprise as a laughter trigger is just the first step.

The real fun comes when you apply the techniques yourself.

You can be the most boring person in the world but if you engage surprise effectively, you could easily get a laugh.

One of my favorite techniques to get a laugh in everyday situations is to use the double entendre comedy formula. It’s one of techniques I teach in my 12-Steps to How To Be Funny for the every day person.

Double entendre means ‘two meanings.’

If you really take a moment and listen to the English language, you’ll find that we have a ton of words that have multiple meanings. All you have to do is think of the alternate meaning.

If you know someone that turns everything you say into a sexual connotation, then you know someone who uses double entendre to get a laugh.

GUY #1: You gonna be able to get your haircut this weekend?

GUY #2: Yeah, Cara said she could do me, Saturday.

GUY #1: Then, when’s she gonna cut your hair?

All you have to do is think of alternate meanings for common words.

For example, say you’re at the grocery store and the clerk at the counter says, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

Think in steps:

Step #1: What do they mean by that?

Step #2: Is there a word in that statement that I can change the meaning of?

Step#3: What is their intended meaning of that word?

Step#4: What’s my ‘comedic’ interpretation of the word?

CLERK: Did you find everything you were looking for?

YOU: Well, I found the wine and the candles, but I couldn’t find a soul mate. You had Mahi-mahi, but I’m not into twins.

Let’s try another one in a different joke format:

I was on the road with a comic. As he got off the phone with his girlfriend he said to me, “That’s a relief. My girlfriend got a cat to keep her company while I’m on the road.” Then I said, “Bad news is, that cat is a six-foot-two jazz musician.”

With the simple double-entendre formula, you can actually train yourself to recognize the multiple meanings of words and respond to it with a comedic or ‘alternate’ interpretation.

It’s fast. It’s easy and tons of fun… Sounds like my fat ex-girlfriend!

So use double-entendre and you’ll be on your way to learning how to be funny!

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