Twenty – Ten & One Belly Roll

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Writing humor is no joking matter.  One of the most difficult things to do is to try to analyze humor, to determine why it will make an audience laugh.  Laughter itself is an emotion.  It is an emotion built up to a certain pitch, then released suddenly to create a surprise.  While there are some subjects that lend themselves easily to humor, a combination of acting funny and good humor will often earn you a nod of approval from your audience and judges.

A good barometer to keep you on track is your laugh count. Whenever  I am  asked what is my formula for preparing a successful  five to seven humorous speech, my answer is  always the same  – 20-10-1 – In a five to seven minute try to fit at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and at least on belly roll into your content.  Laughter should also begin from the first minute of your presentation.

I arrived at this 20-10-1 formula, after a World Champions of public speaking asked me to keep count of the number of laughs he received as he delivered a keynote address. I was so fascinated by the experience, I then did the math and, arrived at an average laugh count of at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and one belly roll. After testing my theory and found that although more is better at least a -20-10 -1- laugh count works just fine.

There are three techniques which will help you increase your laugh count.  The first is tagging.  Tagging prolongs the laughter by just adding a word or two to provide additional information to a previously delivered humorous line. Your tag may have no real connection to the main humorous bit. It might just simply be a funny addition which makes the laughter continue.

The second is “speech brighteners”. Speech brighteners can generate a “quick laugh”. “Speech brightener” requires no setup and does not interrupt the flow of your speech. It merely emphasis a point or provides a change of pace. The whole idea behind a speech brightener is to catch you audience off guard and to achieve one of the most important elements of humor, surprise. For example: “Believers, love your enemy. It will drive them crazy!”

The third is wit; the ability to make clever off the cuff remarks. No one can predict what or when humor will generate laughter, however an unexpected chuckle from your audience can be an opportunity to get witty.  A witty saying may produce very little but they all add to your laugh count. I offer you my 20-10-1 formula, however, keep in mind all audiences differ, their reactions are not always the same and it is your tags, brighteners and wit that count.

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Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmaster in March of 1997. He is presently a member of five clubs in the Santa Cruz and San Jose area. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ who likes to approaches his speechwriting similar to his approach to songwriting.