Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tom Antion: Old Humor Is Good Humor

Humor is only old if your audience has heard it before and if they remember it.
Most people don't remember the exact details of jokes, one-liners, and stories.
This is not contradictory to the fact that one of the uses of humor is to make
your points more memorable.

One of the reasons people don't remember jokes and other pieces of humor
is that the humor is usually heard out of context. The humor was not used in
conjunction with a point which is the way you should use it in a professional
presentation. The humor was used for entertainment value only and was enjoyed
and quickly forgotten.

When you bring back some of this old humor, you will be tying it to your
point which makes it acceptable to use in the first place. In the second place,
even if some audience members recognize the humor, they probably don't
remember the punch line. If you tell it well, even these people will enjoy hearing
it again.

The technique to tell a very old joke or story is to tell the audience it is old.
This is the one time when you should tell the audience you have a joke or story
coming. If you don't tell them that you know it is old, they will likely think you
are out of touch. If you tell them you are going to tell an old story or joke, you
are telling them you know it's old, but it makes the point so well that you think
it is worth telling again.

As we saw in the last section, you will come across jokes and stories that can
be updated. Some can be updated as easily as adding a current name. Here's an
old politician joke:

Joe the politician said he was so surprised about his nomination
that his acceptance speech fell out of his pocket.

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