We’ve all been there. The spotlight is on you, you’ve set up the perfect joke, you nail the punchline, and… crickets.
It’s never fun to feel like your humor isn’t reading as funny to the audience. That’s why I’m here to teach you my six greatest tips and tricks on how to make a speech funny, or your (metaphorical) money back.
See Related: Best MC Jokes For A Conference
#1: Tell Relatable Stories
If there’s one thing we learned from Seinfeld, it’s that the everyday is funny. Use this to your advantage in your speech!
Audiences laugh when they see their own experience reflected onstage. Add relatable humor to your speech with these ideas:
Turn Frustration Into Comedy
What got on your nerves this morning? It was something. I know it was. You know it was. We all know it was.
And you know what? I bet it was funny and would be great for your master of ceremonies speech.
Let me guess…
Did your family member turn on a bright light while you were still asleep? Speech material.
Did one of your friends cut you off on the way to work, causing your chai latte to spill on your brand-new pants? Speech material.
Were you (yet again) not Caller #5 and didn’t win your radio station’s giveaway for tickets to John Mayer’s Sob Rock Tour? (I’m terribly sorry – but speech material.)
These sorts of situations may get on your nerves in the moment, but I promise that, when transformed into a joke told with the right spirit, they will be funny and make the audience laugh.
The main idea when writing your funny speech is to shift your own perspective from frustrated to amused.
#2: Use Your Physicality to Communicate
Humor isn’t just about the words you say. A major part of making a good joke and creating a funny speech is using your body language to tell the story.
What do I mean? Well, think about your favorite comedians.
From Ali Wong to John Mulaney, comedians each have their own way of using their bodies to add humor to the funny stories they tell. It’s like a secret, other skill that is so ingrained in their performances, you may not notice it at first.
Every great comic uses gestures and physicality to deliver their material and engage audiences.
Act as characters
In your speech, maybe you’re telling a funny anecdote about a parent-teacher conference you had with your son’s kindergarten teacher. Instead of just speaking about the event, make people laugh by playing it out for the audience!
Go ahead, embody the teacher and her proper, stiff posture. Show guests how utterly ridiculous it looked when you sat down in a tiny chair made to fit a five year-old because the teacher didn’t have an adult-sized chair for you to use.
I can hear the laughter already!
No need to overdo it
Remember, your shifts in body language don’t need to be hyperbolic. During speeches, even the slightest, most intentional changes will go a long way in helping the audience understand your story audibly and visually.
#3: Deliver Originality
Humorous speeches are based in truth. The best way to ground your speeches in truth is to use your own material!
This may seem simple, but it cannot be overstated: if you’ve heard the joke before, I promise your audience has too.
Personalize Your Funny Speech to the Event
It can be tough to create a humorous message that will pull lots of laughter out of your audience! But with practice, I promise you’ll become a pro – just like a regular ol’ event emcee.
The best way to stay funny, original, and on-task is to remember the primary goal of the event:
What is the goal of the event?
Is it to help new students feel comfortable at a large university? To raise money for a local grassroots nonprofit?
Once you understand what the client hopes to achieve through these events (and, therefore, your speeches), you can begin adding humor that focuses on those particular subjects.
Here’s an example:
If I’m making a humorous speech with the goal of exciting the crowd before a 5K Fun Run begins, I might make a self-deprecating joke about the utter irony of putting the words “fun” and “run” next to each other – lighthearted, relatable for many, and sure to ease some runners’ nerves when they hear it.
Got Writer’s Block?
It happens to the best of us!
Here are some writing prompts to get your creativity, word play, and humor flowing:
- Write about something that made you laugh out loud recently.
- Write about the silliest message you’ve ever received over phone, text, or email.
- Write about the most memorable slip-up you’ve ever made in public.
- Write about a few people who make you laugh – what about them is so funny to you?
- If you are the punch line, write the joke.
Bonus: What Does An Event Host Do?
#4: Structure Your Jokes
Look, not everything can be funny to everyone (and if you discover the magical meme that is the exception to that rule, please send it to me ASAP).
However, you can do yourself a favor by structuring your comedy with intentionality.
Not Sure How to Structure Your Jokes?
Here are the main categories into which most jokes fall:
We touched on the main points of anecdotal jokes at the beginning – they just involve telling a funny story from your own life!
An incident while baking holiday cookies? A mix-up that surprised you while picking your child up from school? The sound of a squeaking chair at a very inopportune moment?
As the speaker, your humorous stories are all fair game!
You guessed it – one-liners are jokes told in just one sentence. Deliver one-liners smartly and you will have the room in stitches.
I mentioned Seinfeld earlier – that show is a classic example of observational humor! Observational jokes comment on the absurdity of everyday experiences and are great to add to your speeches.
A recent example of observational humor in television would be Abbott Elementary. Each episode tells a story about the everyday joys and frustrations that can come with working at a public elementary school in Philadelphia – and finds a way to create humor and heart in every moment.
Topical humor pokes fun at current events, be it the news, celebrity culture, or the latest Tik Tok trend. A dash of topical humor, when used appropriately, can grab your audience’s attention and be an asset to your funny speech.
However, you must stay aware of the client’s needs. If they prefer that politics and pop culture stay out of your presentation for fear of rubbing an audience member the wrong way, you must respect this. In fact, it can be safer to stay away from topical humor unless you know you have the right audience for it.
Self-deprecating jokes are all about finding humor in your own flaws. It’s great to be able to laugh at yourself, but be careful not to use so much self-deprecating humor that it makes your audience feel uncomfortable.
#5: Tone Is Your Friend
In the same vein as physicality, your voice is an incredibly effective tool for making folks laugh.
What Do I Mean?
Say you’re telling an anecdotal joke about your niece’s sixth birthday party. Sure, you could use your everyday intonation to “play” the various roles at the party. But…
Wouldn’t it be funnier to give each character a distinct intonation?
Your six year-old niece’s high-pitched, bell-like voice. Your brother’s gruff, Midwestern tone. The angelic, sing-song-y sound of the actor playing a Disney princess to entertain the kids.
Each character in the story is another opportunity for creativity, and for laughs.
Let’s Take a Tip from Actors
Even when you’re not playing a character other than yourself, your voice is still an incredibly useful instrument. Why?
Your voice is the audience’s guide.
Softness versus loudness. Lightning-quick speech versus indulgent slowness. Serious versus playful.
Whenever you speak, you make a million little choices. Be intentional about those, because your audience is (quite literally) taking your cue!
Delivery is everything. If a speaker or corporate emcee can deliver your presentation with a strong sense of confidence, the audience will feel safe to let loose and laugh. But this takes practice!
I feel disappointed when a speaker exudes insecurity. Try your best to put yourself in the audience’s shoes – wouldn’t you prefer to watch someone with great command of the room and confidence in their presentation?
I know I would!
#6: Bring People Together
Your audience is full of different people – many of whom you don’t know, and who will find different things humorous. Here are some tips for making everyone feel comfortable and ready to laugh:
Speak to Universal Experiences
It is important to do your absolute best not to ostracize anyone in the audience. Your client has hired you to help everyone feel comfortable. So, what is the best way to go about doing this in a diverse society?
When writing your speech, focus on humor that is a testament to the human experience, so that most people will relate to it. Adults, kids, everyone!
I don’t mean to be vague – the opposite, in fact. Specificity is funny.
Here are some examples:
There are certain human experiences with which every single person can identify:
- Talk about a time when you felt embarrassed as a teenager.
- Make a joke about an insecurity you had growing up, and still have to this day.
- Surprise the audience with a weird dream you had recently.
- Keep guests laughing with anecdotes about lessons you’ve learned the hard way.
Balance Listening and Speaking
Okay, okay, I know you’re giving a speech – that sort of implies that you’re talking. But listening is an equally important factor in your delivery of a hilarious speech.
It can be scary, but practice including pauses in your speech. Depending on the joke, the audience may need a few seconds to digest it before they begin laughing. Sometimes, your silence is the most entertaining part – if allowed, the audience will often fill that silence with laughter.
As I’ve said before, humor is subjective – that will always be the case.
If you haven’t been getting the laughs you’ve hoped for, please talk kindly to yourself. Creating a humorous speech that appeals to many people takes lots of practice – you will get there!
Keep Reading: How To Host A Networking Event
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.