Comedians use power humor.
Humorists use connective humor. The
latter is the most self-confident, playful,
and compassionate form of humor. It’s
most effective when it acknowledges
the underlying issue with imagination
and cleverness. Attendees who see
themselves “in” your funny stories will
remember the points you were making—sometimes for years!
Unlike power humor, the purpose
of this humor is to connect people to
one another while reminding them
that they are bigger than the event.
After all, if you can laugh at something it becomes less overwhelming.
This is the humor we return to as
the tragedy recedes and life gets back
¢ Let your client homework pay off in
funny stories about events or experiences the group has in common.
¢ Get attendees laughing together in
creative problem-solving groups.
¢ Use your standard laughter bits and
slip in a line or two about the crisis, if
only to show you’re aware of it.
Each form of humor serves a purpose—and they build on each other.
Tailor humor to where the group is
in processing the tragedy and test the
waters with a line or story that leads
attendees to the next stage. You’ll
earn your fee and gain some good
referrals. And, perhaps most important, you will take care of the people in
your audience. ■
Power humor helps us get on top
of the situation psychologically by
putting the issue or enemy down.
Stand-up humor is usually power
humor. Comedians say, “I died out
there!” or “I killed tonight!” Jokes
Revenge and ridicule are common
components of power humor, but
unlike morbid humor, power humor is
clever. It cuts to the heart of the matter and, done well, reduces tension for
an angry or scared audience.
There was essentially no public
humor in the U.S. for two weeks after
the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Then, on
September 26, The Onion, an online
satire magazine, published a series of
articles that went viral and literally
gave the nation back its sense of
The most popular title was: God
Angrily Clarifies “Don’t Kill” Rule.
Other favorites included:
¢ Hijackers Surprised to Find
Selves in Hell: Insist they were promised eternal paradise and 67 virgins
¢ Rest of Country Temporarily
Feels Deep Affection for New York
¢ A couple of weeks after the crisis,
expect most attendees to be over the
initial shock. Your softer, tried-and-true humor will usually work.
¢ Design any crisis-focused power
humor to remind your audience that
they have the power and skills to deal
with the problem.
¢ If, however, the tragedy was something internal that came down from
corporate, don’t go near it—unless you
really know the group and all involved.
Even then, when in doubt, don’t!