thought and energy, but you can find a
way to make it relate.
RIZZO Segueing isn’t that difficult at all. If I’m
talking about how we find humor around
us, I’ll say “Gee, I heard on the news that 1
percent of the ozone layer is gone. Now
you tell me that’s not funny.” It’s a segue.
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure that out. But people make it more difficult than it has to be.
CULBERSON I think Freud said that humor
was the highest level of coping mechanism
that humans have. But most speakers are
not going to that level with their humor.
They’re starting at a very basic level, but
they’re not taking it to higher cognitive levels
where they can actually become eloquent
and relate. You know, we sit here and think
that it’s easy. But we already “get” humor.
We’re already thinking on that level, taking it
above the obvious or simple concept.
RIZZO Yeah, that’s pretty philosophical. But
the important part about humor in speaking
is that it relaxes the audience. They get to like
me. They trust me. Because if a guy can
make them laugh, they like him, and now
they’re gonna trust his message even more.
THURMON What are some other ways
speakers can use comedy to make their
speeches more entertaining and effective?
CULBERSON They can use different mechanisms that don’t require them to come up
with the comedy themselves. For example,
it’s very simple to quote someone else.
Yesterday, I repeated something Jay Leno
said and got a great laugh. People saw
me as funny, and all I did was to quote Jay
Leno. I gave him credit so obviously it was
completely ethical. But I just quoted Leno,
and anyone can do that.
FUTCH People can tell stories, use props,
show humorous video clips or funny photos.
CULBERSON Look at Mike McKinley. He has
collected so many funny pictures he
almost doesn’t have to say anything to get
laughs. But, he has perfected comments
to add to it.
RIZZO That’s funny stuff.
CULBERSON You can create laughter
through interaction and activities. Use Ed
Scannell’s Games Trainers series. Guide
the exercises and it becomes funny in the
way it happens. The audience (will see
you) as funny, even though they’re the
ones who created the humor.
IRVIN When people ask me “How can I be
funnier?” I tell them to find an author that
makes you laugh and read everything
they’ve written. Mark Twain makes me
laugh. He may not make everybody
laugh. Dave Barry makes people laugh.
Robert Benchley may make you laugh.
Find out who does, and read all their stuff.
After a while you can see how they’re thinking, and it will shift the way you think. Or,
watch stuff that makes you laugh and figure out why.
FUTCH But the key is to use humor that you
think is funny.
THURMON What’s the difference between
spoken comedy and written comedy?
IRVIN Timing. That’s all it is.
THURMON Is timing something that you’re
born with, or did you develop it?
IRVIN Both. I credit my timing to watching
hours of Johnny Carson.
RIZZO Me too.
IRVIN He had the best timing of anybody
since Jack Benny, who also had incredible
timing. And it’s just something you learn
from watching people. I don’t know
whether it’s innate or whatever, but it’s
something that you have to develop. I
mean, you can’t take a class in it. It’s just
something you watch and learn and figure
out for yourself.
RIZZO It takes confidence, because you’ve
got to wait. Carson was ingenious
because he got more laughs on jokes that
didn’t work. He would wait. And the audience would be howling. He’d make a
snide remark about the guy that wrote the
joke or something, and it would be funnier
than anything else he did the whole
CULBERSON Now, see, I think that’s probably a misunderstood concept. People who
are trying to learn timing are probably
wondering where to shove the punch
line—Boom. But it’s more about being
comfortable with “the wait.”
IRVIN And it’s the same reason why
George Burns smoked a cigar on stage.
The cigar was his timing mechanism.
FUTCH It would help him wait, as he would
look at it and ponder.
RIZZO Bob Murphy was great at that. Oh,
man. He’d just wait for the audience to finish with the laugh. I mean, he wanted the
audience to let everything out, and then
he’d continue with the story. It’s amazing. I
use to love to watch that guy.
THURMON Here’s another question. What is
the impact of customizing your humor?
CULBERSON I would say if I could do an entire
program that was totally customized there
would be nothing better. But that’s like...