People often ask me if I get nervous on stage, mainly, I guess because they themselves do and whilst I’m a great believer that a few nerves are good for any kind of public speaking, just don’t get paralysed by them. One of the scariest things to do on stage is tell a joke. Once you deliver the punchline, there is nothing else you can do; it’s all down to how the audience respond. But there are basic rules to observe;
The rule of 3 is about how many you use and of equal importance, where you place them. If using 3, it’s much easier; start, middle & end and once you’ve decided on that, you are then free to ad-lib as much as the event allows. But be careful of truly ‘ad-libbing’ and talking yourself into trouble. I like to plan every spontaneous moment which all comes down to pre event planning and really understanding what the event is all about.
Research the event (basic professional courtesy anyway) and find out the gossip about people & events in advance BUT and it is a BIG BUT, work closely with the organisers to make sure you know where the boundaries are. In a room full of Bankers, jokes about the crash are probably not going to go down very well.
Dara O’Briain does some of the most detailed research I’ve ever seen and starts the evening with one joke, weaves a load more funnies throughout the evening and ties all the threads together at the end, making the audience feel like he has really understood and valued them.
If it’s an award ceremony, do NOT diss the event, the nominees or the quality of their win. I worked with another comic, who shall remain nameless, who hadn’t got a clue what the event was honouring, sneered at the trophy which he described as ‘just a bit of plastic’ and gave the distinct impression he’d rather be doing something else. Anything else.
For anyone who is still brave enough to want to tell a joke but short of ideas, here are a few links that might help;
For short, snappy two liners:
The best from The Fringe:
But if you disagree with that list, here’s another list, the Top 50 this time, from the Daily Mail:
All the very best to those who choose to use humour in their talk. What better way to finish but with a joke my friend Digby Jones told me and is a firm favourite with me and audiences everywhere:
Divorce Vs. Murder
A nice, calm and respectable lady went into the pharmacy.
She walked up to the pharmacist,looked straight into his eyes,and said, 'I would like to buy some cyanide'
The pharmacist asked, 'Why in the world do you need cyanide?'
The lady replied, 'I need it to poison my husband'
The pharmacist's eyes got big and he exclaimed,
'Lord have mercy!
I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband.
That's against the law!
I'll lose my license!
They'll throw both of us in jail!
All kinds of bad things will happen.
You CANNOT have any cyanide!'
The lady reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband in bed with the pharmacist's wife.
The pharmacist looked at the picture and replied,
Well now, that's different......You didn't tell me you had a prescription!
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia: President Clinton's News Conference With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia in Hyde Park, New York 1995