7.6 Key ideas about relating through humour

  • Humour is a powerful engagement tool, but try to embed your content in the humour. The more you can align your humour with your message, the more powerful it becomes educationally.


  • Humour, like a clown, has big feet. There’s a danger, if you use humour hooks too frequently, too strongly, or in the wrong places, that they will stomp all over your educational content. Smiles have smaller feet, but can be just as useful to you as laughs.


  • Make them laugh when they’re not expecting it. As an informal educator, nobody expects you to be funny. Exploit this assumption by using covert humour to extract most of your smiles and laughs naturally from the action onstage and your interactions with the audience.


  • Supplement this safe humour with higher-risk overt humour, if this suits you.  Getting an audience to laugh reliably when they know you’re trying to be funny takes hard work, experience and aptitude. Some types of overt humour are easier to deliver than others, though, e.g. using funny images and videos created by other people.


  • Learn to recognise a bad laugh. The benefits of using humour as an educator are wiped out when it is perceived as being hurtful, excluding or offensive. Paradoxically, however, this doesn’t mean that your comedy should be bland — the closer you get to the edge, the funnier you usually are.


  • You don’t have to be naturally funny to use covert humour. It depends on principles which are so easy to exploit, it almost feels like cheating, e.g. letting them be funny; being fast; being authentic; surprising them; creating a pattern; exaggerating; revealing a shared experience; being subversive; and failing publicly.


  • Landing a recognisably funny line or joke depends critically on your timing. You can only uncover the best timing for a specific joke by delivering it repeatedly in front of real audiences. Timing is an extremely subtle and dynamic variable.


  • Most jokes follow a well-known structure — setting-up an assumption; reinforcing it; and then twisting this expectation. The best gags have a wording and delivery that is specific, concise and precise; with a twist that is brutal, postdictable and climatic.


  • Commit fully to the line.  If you hold back, even fractionally, from landing a funny line with your normal conviction, the audience response can suffer drastically. They can detect something is not quite right.


  • When you bomb, keep calm and carry on.  Bombing is an inevitable part of using overt humour. The main risk here is that your visible discomfort will infect the audience. If you can, through sheer force of will, appear unconcerned, they will hardly notice it.



Hook Your Audience (volume 1) Copyright © 2021 by HOOK training limited. All Rights Reserved.

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