Your at an fancy event and and the host scans the room before a questioning gaze lands on you. Finger pointing expectantly in your direction she utters the words, “you…tell me a funny story.” All eyes focus on you as your mind races but finds nothing. Nothing comes.No story. No funny. No words. In medieval times someone might have ordered your head cut off. Thankfully the modern day corporate environment is ever slightly more tolerant…unless you work for Uber.
Exceptionally funny people often have one huge advantage over the rest of the world. A funny file.
They don’t depend upon their memory to keep track of everything they discover that they find funny. In the olden days, great comedians carried notebooks to jot down funny thoughts or observations and scrapbooks for news clippings that struck them as funny. Today, you can do that easily with your smartphone. Open your notes section and start a “Funny File”.
Journalling or keeping a diary is a natural hobby for many. You might pick out an entry from last Tuesday where you were particularly sad and emotionally distressed by not getting any free cake after your expensive dinner on your birthday and take to first Yelp to document your distain and later your diary to record your emotional state of mind. Will you really want to read this back in 5 years?…probably not…but a happy journal…a funny file..a list of all the awesome things that made you laugh or smile. Now that would be pretty epic. A place where it’s all cake!
The next time you need an addition to your latest blog post that gives a little slice of humanity you go to your funny file. Same goes for your next talk, presentation, book, speech, any form of content. It’s a big advantage comedians have over you. The literally have a file of all things funny.
The good news? There is nothing stopping you from doing the exact same thing. Even better, this list just grows and grows.
Don’t just take my word for it. Pat Hazell is one of the original writers for NBC’s Seinfeld, a Tonight Show veteran, and declared by Showtime to be one of the five funniest people in America. Pat says “Many funny things are said and done in your presence that are wholly original and can be used as a humorous illustration in your stories or speech,. “I overheard my kids arguing during a candy exchange after Halloween that was a wonderful message about value in negotiations. My oldest son Tucker said, ‘I hate dark chocolate!’ To which his brother responded, ‘It’s still candy, you got to respect that.’ I use the dialogue verbatim because it is so pure and to the point.”
Another great example of this comes from multiple New York Times bestselling author Jon Acuff. Jon is one of the best business speakers I have ever heard, perfectly lacing his talks with humor. Opening up a recent keynote to a packed conference, Jon spoke about how fast the world is changing:
One night at dinner my daughter said, “Dad, today at school the internet was down. We had to do everything . . . old fashioned.” And I said, “Old fashioned, what does that mean?” and she said, “Well we were supposed to draw the state flag of Tennessee, but we couldn’t Google it up, so we had to walk to the library . . . and look it up in a book.” And I said, “With your legs? The whole way?”
As you begin to take notes and observe the world around you while looking for humor, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find it. Every time you think of something funny or you have an observation or something that you think will be useful, make sure you write it down. If you have a smartphone, use your notes section or an app like Evernote. Otherwise, use a small pad and a pen. You’ll be surprised just how quickly you forget these thoughts, so make sure you keep track of them. You want to build a funny file that you can draw from and make relevant to every topic on which you’re going to present.Or for that for that event when the questioning gaze comes your way.
The world is a funny place and your existence within it is probably funnier. Accepting that fact is a blessing that gives you everything you need to see humor and craft stories on a daily basis. All you have to do is document them and then tell someone.
I interviewed years ago for a position with Uber and as part of the job requirements they said they were looking for someone “with the fear tolerance of a honey badger.”Funny in itself, and more so in light of all the scandal around their corporate culture.
Last week in a meeting a female colleague highlighted a statistic. She said “90% of women are not happy with their body”, to which I responded, well that’s a strange one because 90% of men are happy with any womans body.”
These small moments from daily life are always funny and relatable. Write them down.
In the world of public speaking it’s easy to spot someone without a funny file. They are the ones that just gave you that time tested default pile of hilarity…the widget example.