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Lesson 7 – Using the “Humor Rule-of-Three” to Create Funny Material

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In this lesson, you learn to:

  • Identify the components of the Humor Rule-of-Three
  • Discover areas in your presentation that could benefit from the Humor Rule-of-Three
  • Use the Humor Rule-of-Three formula to create material for your presentation

You know you’re starting to think like a comedian when you’re:

  1. Always writing new jokes,
  2. Trying out new “bits” on your significant other,
  3. Preventing family from leaving your house unless they meet the “two-drink minimum”!

You’ve just witnessed the “Humor Rule-of-Three,” a magical comedic formula! What is the Humor Rule-of-Three and why is it so effective?

The Humor Rule-of-Three follows the formula:

  1. Set-up + Set-up + Twist.
  2. Equal weight + equal weight + unequal weight
  3. Equal weight + equal weight + absurd or crazy item

Before we go further let me explain “equal weight” – they could be:

  • Similar physical size: 1. town-house, 2. trailer
  • Similar category: 1. car, 2. motorbike
  • Similar attributes: 1. tall, 2. muscular
  • Others…

Once you identify the first two the audiences brains…striving to be smart…immediately start looking for a #3 of equal weight…but you derail the thought process with an unequal weight, twist, or crazy item. An example of this would be: The Swiss are a combination of 1. Austrians (equal weight), 2. Germans (equal weight), and 3. nuns (unequal weight or absurd/crazy)! Lets see this in action:

This formula gets laughter by fooling the brain. The first two “Set-ups” are rational and logical. The brain, which loves to problem solve and always thinks ahead, automatically tries to come up with the third item before it’s said. When the “Twist” goes off in another direction, audiences respond with laughter!

Implementing This Technique

As you develop content for a presentation, look for areas where you describe or list multiple items, or where the content would benefit from the one/two/three structure. (E.g. When you’re describing a person, place or thing.) Once you identify a specific “subject” that could benefit from incorporating humor, use the process below.

1)      Identify the Subject

2)      Make a list of “small” things associated with the subject

3)      Make a list of “big” things associated with the subject

4)      Make a list of “absurd or crazy” things associated with the subject.

5)      Once you have your lists, find a combination of two “set-ups” that are of equal weight. Now, find a single item that is unequal weight or just unusual and crazy!

6)      Make the final combination as concise as possible.

Scroll down through the following template table to understand the process.

Download (PDF, 22KB)

Scroll down through the following example to understand how I came up with the funny statement:

“You know you are a speaker when you get calls from:

  1. Meeting Planners,
  2. Speaker bureaus,
  3. Debt collectors”

Download (PDF, 426KB)

Now review this brief video excerpt to see me in action:

Before you move on to the next lesson, use the two exercises below to brainstorm your own Humor Rule-of-Three!


Download the Following Rule-Of-Three Brainstorming Editable PDF Table, find humor relating to “The Thing About Engineers Is”

Download (PDF, 22KB)


1) Review sections of your written speech content and identify areas where you possibly have a sequence of three “descriptions.”
2) Print the attachment below.
3) Brainstorm each of the items above using the attached table to look for humor potential.

Download (PDF, 22KB)

Copyright © MMXIX by David R. Hill


Lesson tags: dave hill, dave hill speaks, funny, funny motivational speaking, humor, rule of 3, rule of three, set up set up twist, twist
Back to: Finding the Funny: How to Create and Deliver Humor in any Speech or Presentation