• Is crafted/choreographed—flows
naturally with the presentation
• Is funny to you
• Is presented with confidence
• Is refined through repetition
• Originates from pain
• Relates to the audience
• Is well-timed
• Employs segues from and to your points
• Takes place on a higher level of
thinking or creativity
• Relaxes the audience
• Provides escape and healing
• Creates an immediate connection
• Tries too hard
• Is unrelated to your material
• Is used out of context or at an
• Relies on “standard” or “old” jokes;
• Distances you from the audience
Funny Action Items
1. Read and watch comedians and
speakers. Study their timing and
2. Don’t expect to be hysterical. There
are other ways to engage and entertain an audience if comedy isn’t your
3. Focus on segues. Once you have a
strong funny story or joke, find a way
to smoothly transition into and out of
the joke or story.
4. Use quotes from seasoned comics,
with attribution, of course.
5. Instead of delivering jokes, use
humorous photos, video, props, or
6. Build on your strengths. Start simple.
Grow your confidence over time.
CULBERSON That’s to encourage you. You
know, it was very helpful to me last night (at
the foundation event) when I was not confident in my material, to hear you laugh at
one or two lines. For me, that gave me
confidence because I wasn’t confident to
RIZZO: You sucked.
CULBERSON (Laughs). He felt sorry for me.
Yeah. There is that.
THURMON Dale, how are you confident
with jokes that are untried? You are constantly coming up with stuff that you’ve
never done before. You just walk on stage
and present the material with confidence.
You expect your jokes to work.
IRVIN Well, obviously they’re funny to me.
That’s the real—the only—yardstick I have.
And sometimes they’re funny to me, and
they’re not funny to other people. And I
think that a lot of confidence comes from
your delivery. If you say something with
confidence, people sometimes feel stupid
if they don’t laugh. So, yeah, I think, and
maybe that’s the “forceful” part (of eloquence), sometimes you force it on them
to the point where you expect, almost
demand that they laugh.
THURMON And, Ken, you take a different
approach. I’ve heard you say that you
don’t really maximize a story until you tell it
FUTCH Yeah. The first time I went to an NSA
event, Cavett Robert had a little breakout
group and he said, “You can’t really tell a
story or a joke until you’ve told it 50 times.”
I thought to myself, “Sure you can, three
times is good enough.” I didn’t know what
he meant for years, until I finally figured it
out. You can’t maximize it: turn your head,
pause at the right moment or use the right
expressions. Those things evolve over time.
CULBERSON I have a question for you.
When are you not confident on stage?
What are some of those circumstances
when you have doubts?
RIZZO You know, that’s a good question.
When I did first stand up, I really questioned
my confidence. And when there are
“industry people” in the audience—that
can get you nervous.
IRVIN Oh yeah.
THURMON That’s true with speaking, too.
Especially here at NSA.
CULBERSON Yeah, but can you break
down what’s happening mentally? Why do
you lose confidence?
RIZZO Well, you’re concentrating on “I
wanna do so good.” And, you hope the
audience is great and your mind is
focused on their reaction, as opposed to
just doing your thing.
CULBERSON Instead of being in your zone...
RIZZO Well, you’re not in your zone. You are
completely out of your zone.
FUTCH The same thing can happen if you
are not a good “fit” with what the audience expects.