in 1996 when an NSA
member asked, “What
kind of storytelling is
that? Is that acting?”
And the Story Theater
Method was born.
BY DOUG STEVENSON, CSP
and end up with my back to him again. “Turn around
and face the police car.” Mortified, I decide to hide
my privates between my crossed legs so that when I
turn around, they are not visible. Movement done in
silence. Howls of laughter!
Get loud. Yelling is funny if it’s congruent with
the emotion of the moment. When I jump out of the
V W van and start streaking, I yell, “Here I come!”
The volume releases the tension. My audience feels
it and giggles.
Verbalize inner thoughts. When the policeman
says, “Turn around,” I say to myself, “What’s he
looking for, concealed weapons?” Sarcastic private
thoughts, said out loud, are a staple of comedy.
Try the triple. Establish a pattern with the first
t wo words, then throw in a zinger. In the police station, I say I am paraded “around the lobby in front
of criminals, murderers, and the receptionist. Hi!”
Look through your story. Then have fun using
these tips to increase physicality, vocal variety, surprise, and humor.
In 1972, I thought I had a funny story. I told it at a stand-up comedy club in Los Angeles, and no one laughed. Crickets.
After five clubs and no laughs, I decided I just
Fourteen years later, I was presenting in
Colorado Springs, and I shared the same story.
This time, I got hysterical laughter!
The story was about going streaking in
Holly wood as a theater exercise. I got arrested
and handcuffed, naked, while surrounded by
Here are five things I did that made that
story funny. You can use these strategies to
add humor to your stories:
Act it out. In L.A., I stood still and told
the story. When I performed the story in
Colorado, I acted it out. I acted out getting
undressed in the back of the VW bus, and
streaking, and getting arrested, naked. Act
out key moments as if they’re happening in
Silence speaks. The biggest laughs can
occur when you don’t say a word. Picture this:
I’m naked, standing sideways, my hands covering my privates. The cop says, “Turn around.”
Instead of turning to face him, I turn my back
to him. “The other way!” Now I do a 360-turn