Pauses in humor delivery are a critical part of comedic timing. The following is the process of using them effectively.
Here’s the process I use to explore the humor in a sentence or paragraph:
- Read the written paragraph aloud.
- Identify areas where you can slow down the pace by underlining or highlighting them.
- Reword the sentences (if needed) to incorporate pauses to help slow down the pace.
- Determine what parts might initiate audience laughter and mark them in some way. (I put in three dots just before the expected laughter.)
- Reword the sentences (if needed) just before the three dots so the wording structure is concise and ends with as strong a punch word as possible, followed by a pause in anticipation of audience laughter.
- For the parts you expect laughter, or have experienced laughter in the past, you have additional opportunities. Explore the possibility of adding additional funny details to get additional laughter, and/or punch up the laughter to a higher level.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more aloud.
- Keep refining until you are ready to deliver it to an audience.
That’s a lot of steps, and it might look overwhelming at first. In summary, know that this is a process and the “funny” may not come to you immediately! Give yourself some time to think it through and get it right. Sometimes I work on a sentence for months before I find the version that I like best! Here’s an example of a paragraph I revised several times before I landed on the final version.
Initial Version: “Picture me at 12 years old, on a Sunday drive with my parents, suffering from travel sickness, painfully shy, and wedged tightly in the back seat between my siblings and a hitchhiker that my dad had just picked up. I start to taste salt in my mouth, my stomach clenches and for a few seconds I think my bulging cheeks can hold the pressure, but they explode into projectile vomit, and my dad’s car was never to have a new-car-smell ever again.”
Final Version: “Picture me at 12 years old…PAUSE…I am on a Sunday drive with my parents…PAUSE…suffering from travel sickness…PAUSE…painfully shy…PAUSE…and wedged tightly in the back seat between my siblings and a hitchhiker that my dad had just picked up. I start to taste salt in my mouth…PAUSE TO BUILD COMEDIC TENSION…my stomach clenches… PAUSE TO BUILD COMEDIC TENSION…for a few seconds I think my bulging cheeks can hold the pressure (ACT OUT BULGING CHEEKS)… PAUSE FOR LAUGHTER…my mouth explodes into projectile vomit (“VOMIT” – TRIGGER/PUNCH WORD)…PAUSE FOR LAUGHTER…and my dad’s car…PAUSE…was never to have…PAUSE…a new-car-smell again (“AGAIN” – TRIGGER/PUNCH WORD)…PAUSE AFTER HUMOR TRIGGER WORD.”
There’s one more thing I need to call out, and that’s the importance of practicing out loud! Think of someone who loves telling jokes but is bad at it. It’s typically because they have not practiced enough. Humor delivery is a skill, and like all skills, it takes work to master!
The video for this lesson is in two parts. It will help you explore the success strategies I use to build tension and anticipation through storytelling.
In this first video I explain why pauses and comedic timing are important and the logical steps to implement them.
This next video has captions to help you understand the thought process I used to incorporate pauses, punch words, build tension, and build on the initial humor. You can also see that I am not “stepping” on the audience laughter.
This is a series of blog articles and brief videos on “Finding the Funny – Learn the Step-By-Step-Process to Develop and Deliver Humor & Funny Stories & Incorporate into Serious Content.” The blogs are excerpts from my e-learning course (see link on right) which includes:
- Over 16 lessons
- Over 8 hours of video instruction
- Activities and quizzes to complement each lesson
- Downloadable worksheets and templates
- 12 month access to course updates and additions
Please feel free to share with professional speakers, public speakers, trainers…anyone who stands in front of audiences who wants to make them laugh or bring some lightheartedness into serious content. Help me out by “liking,” “subscribing.” and “sharing” on the various social media platforms. To help me out, please make sure you “subscribe” (right-hand column) so you do not miss any of these weekly blog articles. Please feel free to comment on this blog-site and on social-media sites, and share with those who will benefit from them.
Copyright © MMXX by David R. Hill