“Being funny is one of my greatest strengths. I can make girls smile when they’re down, and when they’re having a good time, I can carry on the joke.” – John Krasinski
There’s a well known street performing saying that “Funny is money” – it doesn’t matter what you do (magic, juggling or eating gerbils), but by god you better be funny while doing it, or else no one will tip you.
In life, the “money” is the attractiveness that comes with being the fun guy at the party. Magazines are keen to tell us how we are all looking for someone with a good sense of humour, but how do we get a sense of humour in the first place?
Rather frustratingly, we are often told that these skills are not able to be taught; you’re either born funny, or you’re not.
That’s no help.
But…I think to a large extent it’s true.
That’s even less help.
Of course, if you immerse yourself into the comedic world, you will absorb and learn ideas bits and jokes that are funny. You can go to classes, read books or watch videos to learn stand up comedy. You can learn skills such as timing, voice inflection and pace – all vital in delivering the “funny”.
It’s hard work though, and takes dedication; even for the really funny guys. If you doubt this, I implore you to watch “Comedian” – a 2002 movie about Jerry Seinfeld trying to start again as a stand up, after having given it up for several years. Listening to Jerry talk to his agent about how hard it is to get back into being funny is an amazing eye opener.
I’m depressing you now, aren’t I? Sorry…
So how can you learn to be the funny, people magnet that you’ve always wanted to be?
While I obviously can’t guarantee you a nationwide stadium tour with a string of TV panel shows, there are some things that you can do to give yourself a great foundation:
1. Realise that you can be fun, without being funny! You don’t have to be king of the one liners to raise a smile from people. Just be fun! Just by smiling, being positive and exercising a sense of “play” when with people will get people thinking about you in a positive frame and smiling.
2. Make fun of yourself – This shows people that they need not be worried or guarded in dealing with you. It helps combat arrogance whilst making you more approachable and genuine. Poking fun at yourself on the odd occasion breaks down barriers and actually SHOWS people that you have a sense of humour. It relaxes them, which, in turn makes them more likely to smile with you.
3. Be yourself – You know what makes you laugh, and what you find funny, so stick with that (but don’t offend, abuse or embarrass). You will never be able to make everyone laugh so hard they snort their drink through their nose, so don’t try. The people you want to make laugh are the ones that have the same sense of humour as you, so…find them by sticking to what you find funny.
4. Realise that you are in an ideal place to be funny – Think about it, if you go to a comedy club, your expectations are high. You’ve bought tickets, you’ve talked about it with friends and you’ve thought about it on the journey over. On a scale of 1-100, you’re expectations levels are at least a 90.
In most situations you’ll be finding yourself in, expectations for comedy won’t be high. A large amount of humour comes from the element of surprise, so take advantage of that the next time you’re booked to attend a dreary meeting or event if you’re at a banking convention: relax and try to find the funny in the situation. We’ve all been told a supposedly funny story which, when thinking it wasn’t very funny in the slightest, were told by the teller: “well, I guess you had to be there…”.
Some of the best humour is situational and, even though it’s not going to make Michael McIntyre’s set list, it can still be hilariously funny. It all depends on what place our audience is in….
So, relax, be yourself and look around you with a smile and a sense of play. Open yourself up to being fun and you’re one step closer to being funny. Next time, we’ll look at some exercises you can practice to actually “build up” your funny. 🙂
“When I turned about 12 or 13, I realised that being funny wasn’t about remembering jokes. It was about creating them.” – Paul Merton