Tag Archives: humor

Element of humor

I am working on my “Humorously Speaking” manual for my Toastmaster program. Some people seems to have natural talent with a good sense of humor, but humor can also be learned. You just have to remember the basic principle of humor and practice, everyone can become a decent joke master.

Telling a joke always has 5 basic parts. The first part is the set-up. It builds up the expectation of the audience so you can surprise them later. Then it follows by a pause to draw the attention of of audience. Then the punch line is the sentence that creates humor. Within the punch line, there is a punch word, the word that triggers the laughter. After the punch line, follow by another pause to give the audience time to absorb the joke and enjoy it.

A joke starts with a target, someone or something you want to make fun of. Hostility to the target in subtle or obvious way is fun. But because choosing a target that suits your audience. Sex, racial, religion jokes sometimes may be offensive to some people. Then use exaggeration and emotion to draw the attention of the audience before surprising them with the punch line. Humor must be unexpected. The joke would be less effective if you laugh at your own joke or you tell the audience you are about to tell a joke.

There are eight handy methods to construct the punch line:

  • Exaggeration, push your imagination to make the tales sounds absurd.
  • Incongruity, two genuine points followed by an radical point.
  • Reverse of view point
  • Definition to distort the meaning of the subject
  • Combination the characteristics of two totally unrelated items
  • Play on words, use words with different meaning in different context
  • Understatement, the opposite end of exaggeration
  • Implication, let the audience draw the missing connection

Here are some examples:

Philosophy is so difficult that even philosophers don’t understand it. (Exaggeration)

Talking philosophy in a date makes you sound intelligent, sophisticated and boring. (Incongruity)

Nietzsche says God is dead; God says Nietzsche is dead. (Reverse of view point)

The cost of doing philosophy research is minimal, it only have food and shelter the philosophy. The easiest way to apply for philosophy research grant is through social welfare. (Definition)

A moralist questions others morality, a skeptical moralist questions his own morality. (Combination)

Why an immoral person wearing a T-backs? Because he wants to become immortal. (Play on words)

Sophie’s boyfriend is a philosopher; He loves Sophie. (Understatement)

Philosophers thinks about all sorts of questions except the question “How to earn a living?” (Implication)


The toastmaster magazine of month has some good articles on how to be humorous in the speech. Use jokes effectively in the speech to further delivery your message is the hardest thing to master. The article give some very good pointers on how to delivery the laughs, contingency plan when the audience don’t laugh and simple elements of humor. All humor are rooted from the element of surprise. A joke is funny because it breaks the normal train of thoughts of your audience. Rule of three and pinch line is the most comment technique. If you had just told a joke and no one laughs, the best way to deal with this situation is pretend you were serious. You’ll look like an idiot if you try to explain the joke or force a few laughs from yourself. Most people will long forget the content of the speech, but still remember the joke used in the speech. Here is my to first try to write my own joke.

How can a romantic movie make the audience cry?
1. One or both of the main characters has to leave town
2. One or both of the main characters is about to die
2. One or both of the main characters has really bad acting