Humor is dicey in any presentation, but a wonderful addition if done well. A recent episode of the Emmy award-winning series Hacks features this challenge. Jean Smart* plays Deborah Vance, a once top Vegas comedienne on the way down.
At her lowest point, Vance is delivering material about her setbacks (like her sister stealing her husband) and flopping miserably. In the moment, she begins making fun of herself. It clicks with her and
the audience. Vance is on her way back.
Vance says: “My husband left me. And I lost a late-night tv show. I got over losing my husband, but I never got over that
“I wasn’t a great mother. I missed my daughter’s first steps, but I made it up to her---I was the reason she did twelve more.”
The key to humor for non-professionals-- make it observational and self-effacing. Old-fashioned joke telling is stale, but you can increase your likability. Jean Smart’s character said, “I need to take myself down— in a real way.” And like comics, test out your material in low-ante situations and monitor the response. You may be funnier than you think.
*(David worked with Jean Smart at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and in Seattle doing a series of radio commercials during the 1970’s.)