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.
[tweet_box design=”default”]You can draw an audience to you, or you can repel an audience from you by the way you use humor. [/tweet_box]
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.”
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:
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.