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Tips for Using Humor in Your Blog Posts

First of all, you should know something about me.

I cannot tell a joke to save my life.

If you were to ask me why the well-read serial killing, yet thin-skinned chicken crossed the road I’d probably say something like “to kill a mockingbird.”
That’s my level of natural humor which is to say I need to work at it.

Yes, humor is a blade that cuts both ways.

 

You can draw an audience to you, or you can repel an audience from you by the way you use humor. Click To Tweet

But if you draw them to you, you’ll be completely unforgettable. And you will be loved.

Think of the great actors who have passed away in your own lifetime. The ones who made you think were the ones you admired and because of this you felt a little sad in their passing. But the ones who made you laugh were the ones you loved and whose presence you miss the most.

Take for instance two giants of the cultural scene who recently left us for the great beyond. The first, Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Mr. Spock was serious, admirable and brilliant. And we attributed those qualities to Mr. Nimoy, didn’t we?

And when he passed away, there was a day or two of the media taking notice, but given the world-wide fame he experienced throughout his career, nothing out of the ordinary.

Ah, but when Robin Williams died, the feeding frenzy went on for weeks. I even wrote a blog post about it to process my own grief. Yes, there was a suicide involved, but a similar thing happens when there isn’t such a tragic end, at least for a comedian.

Think of George Carlin, Milton Berle, Rodney Dangerfield, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, or Bob Hope. When these beacons of funny died, the world stopped to wipe away a collective tear.

As the song says “Be a clown, be a clown, all the world loves a clown.” And it’s true. The world does love a clown. The clown makes us laugh while challenging our perceptions.

He doesn’t slap us in the face and wag his finger. He disarms us and makes us feel ridiculously happy, if only for a moment. And how attractive is that?

So be a clown (of sorts), and you will never have to chase after clients again. You’ll draw them to you.

This is why it’s so sad how many marketers avoid humor like it’s an attacking zombie. They’re missing out on the chance to make a real and lasting connection with their audience.

I understand why they do it. They say, “it’s too hard to get right.” Or, “it’s too fine a line.” Or, “that it will reduce your sales. And that it’s really only for the gifted.”

Poppy-cock.

Holy-moly, did I just say poppy-cock? Holy crap. Did I just say holy-moly? But I digress…

Here’s the point. If you’ve ever had any pain in your life, you have plenty of humor to draw from and that you can offer an audience.

OK. One last thing before we get started. You can overdo this. Easily.

Think of it this way. You wouldn’t make an entire dinner out of pepper and salt. And you don’t need a ton of humor in your videos or blog posts either.

If you have a 5 minute video and even one funny moment, that’s what people will remember. Humor isn’t the dish. It’s the spice that makes your dish more tasty, and if you put this into practice, you’ll take the pressure off yourself.

OK. Let’s get started.

I think the simplest way for all of us to use humor is by stepping lightly into the incongruity zone. In the incongruity zone, there are a whole bunch of things sitting in the waiting room that really do not belong together. It’s the unexpected nature of those two things brought together that triggers that chuckle you’re looking for.

Like ketchup-flavored ice cream, these incongruities keep your audience paying attention, if nothing else. So it’s a good place to start.

And there are 3 simple steps to make incongruity work.

Step one: Discovering Your Incongruities

Think of two things that don’t go together. To make it even easier, remember that one of those things is the thing you’re making the video or blog post about in the first place. So you really only have to think of one thing. It’s almost like cheating, isn’t it?

For example, let’s say you sell employee incentive programs. What you’re really selling is happy, productive employees. To create your humorous image, just compare that employee to something weird, like a camel.

How is a sad employee like a camel? Or a toaster? Or JayZ? It doesn’t have to make sense initially.

Step two: Figuring Out How it Fits

Now to make the analogy fit. Really. Just force it together. Your mind will make it happen. Or not. If you can’t make it fit at all, just move on to the next association.

So you might say something like “remember, an unhappy employee is like an angry toaster. Angry toasters burn the bread when they don’t like you.”

Hmm. Let’s just go with that analogy and see where it takes us.

Step 3: Building a Bridge

Transition out of the incongruity, but leave a reminder. That will yield 2 instances of your incongruity. Think of these two instances as the support at the entrance to a bridge and the support at the exit from the same bridge.

And what do I mean by the bridge in the first place? Where did that come from?

It’s simple. What you’re doing is bridging between the analogy and the next idea, which is usually the solution. So it might go something like “You can easily avoid angry toaster syndrome by making your employees happy. And making employees happy is easy when you unplug the toaster.”

So in this example our 2 instances are “angry toaster syndrome” and “unplug the toaster” implying that creating a happy employee is not about adding something helpful, but removing an impediment. And the cool thing is that we didn’t even have to say it to put that idea in our viewer’s head.

OK, so maybe angry toaster syndrome isn’t the best analogy. If I knew more about employee benefit programs, it might have been better. But the great thing is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Why? Because humor also makes things memorable. You’re less likely to forget “angry toaster syndrome” than you are something like “employee dysfunction resolution” or some such jargon.

And that may be all the humor you need in your video.

Fear of Overdoing It

But what about overdoing it? Can’t you turn off your audience with corny jokes that make you seem non-serious or otherwise destroy your credibility? Maybe you think you’re one of those people who simply has no sense of humor or no taste, and you can’t trust yourself to know if you’ve crossed the line somehow.

I think that’s mostly fear talking. Sure, using humor is a risk. That’s why no one does it except the big gurus, and only half of them, try it. So I get it. Why do something that might backfire?

First of all, it’s only a risk if you think it is. Today, everyone wants you to be yourself. Humor is just a natural part of life. It’s something everyone has experience with, and when we feel comfortable, we play at it with our friends. That’s why it’s so attractive. Use humor if you want to make friends, even online.

So if you feel you’re overdoing it, share it with a friend you trust. Believe me, they’ll let you know if you crossed the line. But with just a little experience, you’ll be able to sense the line yourself. It’s mostly a factor of getting started.

And did you know there are whole websites devoted to helping you do this? Just type “title generator” into Google and you’ll get a ton of suggestions.

I entered employee incentive programs using the content idea generator tool at Portent.com and got this:

WasherImg

But there are dozens of others. There is no end of help for you to come up with incongruity. So don’t worry if, like me, you can’t tell a joke to save your life. Your videos and articles can still be unforgettable. And before you know it, you’ll not only be unforgettable, you’ll also be a little bit loved.

And who couldn’t use a little more love in their life?

And now it’s your turn. How could you make this simple little tactic work in your next piece of content? Let us know in the comments below.

About Steve Washer

Steven Washer, the vanilla chai video guy, is on a mission to unlock the power of video so thought leaders, mavericks, and \"single shingle\" independent business owners can use the power of the movies to take their messages far beyond their hometown. Check out his YouTube Channel.

30 comments

  1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    That’s a great question, Julie. The first thing I would say is that when you use humor, you will attract people who like humor. I find that a sense of humor is a sign of intelligence, so it makes me happy when I get feedback on the funny. And for everyone who comments, there are at least 10 others thinking the same thing. So the quick answer is you know they like it because they tell you, not only in comments, but in emails. If they don’t comment at all, it probably means your humor is not landing, and you should take another look at it.

    I’m not sure about calculating the impact of humor on readers, except to day that humor is a way to gently make a point that might be too harshly stated otherwise. But in the end, I think it’s more of an intangible part of your brand.

    At least that’s how I see it…

  2. Julie Ellis says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your post.
    What do you think about feedback on humor in content, can we “calculate” the impact of humor on the readers? How do you know that users like it?

  3. Jeanne says:

    Thank you so much for the ideas. I am always looking to improve myself. Although humor does not come naturally to me either, I do see the merit in making people laugh. Who doesn’t want to laugh? Jeanne

  4. Thank you Steve for the awesome idea generator tool link and an interesting read.
    As a South African expat, it’s that much more exhilarating to incorporate humor into blog posts while ensuring my message is easily understood by an international audience, but it’s something I believe is very valuable and it’s awesome to hear that expressed by you as well. I think humor helps us be human, and human brands are that much more appealing 😉
    Camilla Carboni

  5. Pat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s done great things for Groupon. I’ll keep on the look out for humorous opportunities.

    Jeff Walker said something like, if you can get people laughing–then you just tell them to sign-up and they do. Are they afraid to miss the next joke? I’d love to know how that works. Is it really that easy? I wouldn’t say Jeff is funny and I’ve never heard him crack a joke.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I can’t say that I’ve ever found it that easy. I think there’s a difference between live interaction and written blog posts in terms of energy that’s exchanged between 2 people.

      It may be possible for a real outgoing person to tickle someone into buying, (Ben Settle comes to mind here), but that’s a real sustained and more over the top use of humor.

  6. Tushar says:

    Great post,

    You have shared some great perspective views regarding humor in blog posts. However most people would be wary of using this approach, because they think that if they don’t get an audible laugh then they have failed.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      That’s probably very true. But do you see how that also creates a bigger, more expansive space for those willing to pay the price?

  7. Rohi Shetty says:

    Great article, Steve.
    I agree, humor can definitely make our writing more memorable.
    Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “Happy is the person who can laugh at himself. He will never cease to be amused.” Habib Bourguiba

  8. Lauren says:

    wohoo! This post really helped kick-start my creativity. I just realized that the headlines I’m most drawn to are a bit quirky and humorous. Thanks for this!

  9. Mary says:

    Hi Steve,

    I totally agree with you on the importance of humor in blogging. My website covers the very serious topic of chemical toxins and the impact on our health. Some days just writing the articles made me depressed so I could imagine how my readers felt. To lighten the mood I started creating silly cartoons for each of my posts.

    Thanks for the great article. It’s a good reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.
    Mary

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Totally agree. I’m never more difficult to be around than when I think I’m saying something “important”.

  10. Zarayna says:

    Hi Steve,

    Wonderful to see you on this site and thank you for this post.

    My whole life has been utterly incongruous – sometimes I have to delete real life stuff in my writing because it would sound artificial.
    But humour in general can be the gentle wake-up moment which relieves boredom, becomes a non aggressive Trojan horse and best of all, can introduce humanity into an otherwise dogmatic, ego-driven rant.

    Thank you again – I should have known you would contribute a post which lifts and cheers us all on instead of goading us forward.

    Kindest regards.
    Zara.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      What an interesting position you’re in, Zara.

      How about this?
      Instead of deleting those incongruous ideas, make them sound hypothetical. “Say, imagine you’re driving down the turnpike and all of a sudden a seagull flies into your car.” No one else has to know that really happened, but the ring of truth will nevertheless be heard! 🙂

  11. Actually, ketchup diluted in milk, like it would be in ice cream, would have a taste reminiscent of cream of tomato soup. So when you think of ketchup flavored ice cream, also think of cold, somewhat coagulated tomato soup. (I create recipes as a hobby.)

    Will

  12. Virginia says:

    I am more of the spontaneous “oh my gosh – did I just say that” type of humor speaker.
    I don’t try and do jokes – not my style. Little stories about people or the antics you see are generally relatable to most people.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I agree with you regarding speaking, Virginia. Spontaneity is a great tool. It raises your energy level, makes you more aware of the audience, and puts them at ease, all at the same time.

      I’m a little more focused on writing here, where you don’t have the chance to get immediate feedback, but you do have a chance to edit a bit. Just another tool on the belt.

  13. At first it seems incongruous that humor can help you create serious impact. I mean…who ever thought of “humor” and “serious” as congruous? Oh…I know who, Steven Washer in this post. Well done, Steven!
    By the way, the key to really tasty ketchup flavored ice cream is the quality of the tomato and milk used in the recipe.
    I know that comment is really stupid but is it at least slightly humorous?

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Hah! A perfect example of the point just above, Gary. Not stupid at all. I’m just not sure my ketchup-flavored ice cream was a strong enough scaffold upon which to nail your fine ingredient list. 🙂

  14. Great article, lots of interesting ideas… and you were right. In UK recently, when the comic writer Terry Pratchett died, just like Robin Williams, those who had grown up with his books took to social media to comment about what he had meant to them, and how much they cared. They were motivated into taking action… The other thing that I am taking away from the article is that “humour” is a sliding scale… there is laugh out loud funny, through to making someone smile, through to triggering amusement in the brain which makes someone think outside the box, etc… Most people would be wary of using this approach, because they think that if they don’t get an audible laugh then they have failed… but if all you get is a a reaction in the person, who thinks “that’s clever, that’s amusing… I like that” then your work is down and you have succeeded. So maybe it’s not about being laugh out loud funny, but using metaphor in a more interesting and colourful way when you write and post, or showing people how to see things in a new and more interesting way. Definitely, good article. Thanks.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I’m glad you expanded on the point about the “sliding scale” of humor, Brian. What that really means is that whatever sense of humor you have, there’s a natural place for it in your writing. Thanks!

  15. Matt says:

    Great post, and I appreciate the idea of using a title generator to infuse some humor and perspective into a potential topic.

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Yep. It’s like having a goofy partner to brainstorm with. I found it quite helpful, actually.

  16. Alex says:

    Hey Steve,
    Thanks for the post-it was great! As soon as My daughter came by after reading your article, I asked her if she wanted ketchup flavored ice cream. You should’ve seen her face. Lol.
    I to am terrible at telling jokes. Crazy thing about it is, my church (Im a Pastor), think Im humerous. My humor is spontenious and often stupid, but people seem to love that. But during my study and note taking, I cant think of a funny To save my life. It just comes out at the spare of the moment. So the moral of this comment is: be a natural at talking stupid (when appropriate) and people will love that. Ive made many friends (that trust me) by doing just that. Being humerous is often hard for the unnatural, but its in all of us if we just relax and let loose a little. Hey thanks again, gotta go mix my new red colored ice cream! 🙂

    1. Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Very good point, Alex. It’s a great idea to be spontaneous in the moment. What I was referring to in this article was the task of creating something for publication. That can often be an anxiety-producing affair. And hopefully these steps can reduce or even eliminate the anxiety!

      1. Alex says:

        Yeah yeah, sorry, I was in the same vein. I was just meaning that as natural as we are speaking so could we be writting. My spontanuity is in life speaking but not in writting. I have to picturre myself speaking to somebody when ai write. Yeah, the article does help with eliminating some of the anxiety. Thanks again.

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