Pep Squad


How to Write a Funny Speech

If you think you lack the ability to tell a funny story, I am here to tell you it is not as difficult as you might believe. I have been in Toastmasters for 15 months and recently won two trophies in a Humorous Speech contest. Here are the ideas I embraced to make a humorous story out of catching a mouse.

  1. Topic: You can discuss practically anything, from finding rattlesnakes to ordinary experiences. My simple speech was about catching a mouse.  An 83-year old Toastmaster told us how and why she “showed her goods” to a funny-looking antique dealer. The winner explained the wrinkles on her neck.  All of those topics are fairly simple real-life situations, and they all got lots of laughs. I bet you have countless experiences just like them.
  2. Writer’s Liberty: Your humorous speech can be a complete fantasy. One fellow at our contest recited a poem about all of the things that went wrong at his ice-breaker speech.  In the end, it was just a dream. My own speech was spiced up by referring to my adversary as Mighty Mouse.  Naturally, everybody knew that I didn’t really meet Mighty Mouse, but my fib lent a personality to the real mouse and depth to the story. Therefore, feel free to let the whoppers fly.
  3. Animation: A humorous speech begs for exaggerated facial expressions and wild gestures.  At our contest, the audience was laughing out loud as the lady with the wrinkled neck stretched her face into all sorts of funny positions. In my case, a mouse gave me the “HEEBIE JEEBIES”.  Can you imagine how I illustrated that?  Your humorous speeches will be much more effective when you replace the restraints of adulthood with the wonderful whims of the child inside you.
  4. Characters: When a speaker verbally “Creates Characters”, rather than merely “talks about” somebody, the audience members form their own mental pictures of the characters and inject those images into the speech. In my speech, there were five different personalities and each one was assigned a different voice. All of that variety provided the antithesis to a monotone and brought the characters to life.  In addition to distinct voices, one should enhance characters with colorful descriptions. For instance, if you are talking about a best friend who is a scatter-brain, give the audience an example of how that led to a funny experience.  Another trick is to exaggerate their features. How could you illustrate a fat barber? Employ these techniques to make up wacky characters and they will do most of the hard work for you.
  5. Pace: Most speakers understand changing the volume and pitch once in a while, but they rarely modify their pace. As the speech unfolds watch for great opportunities to speed up or slow down…or even stop. When I was talking about the mouse running around in a cabinet, I spoke as quickly as I could. When I spoke about the mouse just lying there, dead on the lawn, I slowed way down. At one point I was moving along very rapidly, then I suddenly slammed on the brakes and paused for a full seven seconds.  As I scanned the listeners, they were all frozen in full-facial smiles as they anxiously waited for the punch line. Vocal variety will enliven any speech, especially humorous ones; but, don’t forget to vary the pace.
  6. Finish strong: In a humorous speech, you are granted absolute latitude to move the segments around as you see fit.  Therefore, look for ways to move your best material toward the end of your presentation. You could start out like this: "You might be curious to discover why I ended up spending the night in a cave with a Siamese cat that I didn’t even know."  By telling the ending first, you have allowed yourself to tell something that happened previously near the end. If the listeners are still laughing or at least smiling when you conclude your speech, they are left with the impression that they just couldn’t stop laughing the whole time.
  7. Courage: Beginning speakers are overly concerned about making mistakes, but at Toastmasters we soon realize if we mess something up, our fellow Toastmasters simply make constructive recommendations and encourage us to try again. All that positive reinforcement is just like a verbal hug. What a great way to reward courage.

 Naturally, there are many other traditional practices that apply to every speech, including humorous ones; but, humorous speeches offer extra opportunities for those who grant themselves a license to take risks and act like a kid again. So give it a try. The worst thing that happens is you get a wonderful verbal hug.

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