I’m a huge fan of Louis C.K. Louis is a masterful performer whose spot-on observations of the human condition and casually neurotic delivery have won him praise from comedians (Chris Rock is a big supporter), filmmakers (he’s won 3 Emmys) and fans. But what’s his secret?
You guessed it: storytelling.
It took Louis over 25 years to perfect his jokes and stories, but it doesn’t need to be such a struggle for new storytellers. Here are ‘5 Ways to Inject Humor Into Your Stories’ for anyone who wants to lighten the mood of their stories. With enough practice with these techniques, you may even get your own HBO Special.
1. Find the game. The game is the fun or funny thing played as a pattern. In storytelling and stand-up, the game presents itself as an unusual character trait that recurs throughout the story. Did you wear the same “Black Sabbath” t-shirt to high school every day, even though your friends told you that it smelled? Did your boss at Rolling Stone play Michael Bolton at his? The audience may not laugh the first time, but when you return to the game later, you’ll at least get a chuckle.
2. Use dialogue. It’s ok to paraphrase, but the best stories include dialogue. Dialogue allows you to recreate the speech patterns and mannerisms of the characters in the story. Maybe there’s a guy in the office who warbles when he talks or a waitress who has a high pitched voice. The better you can recreate characters in the story, the funnier and more relatable they become.
3. Obey the rule of 3’s. Western audiences are accustomed to hearing funny things in a three-part pattern. While most one-liners (jokes) have a two-part structure – set-up and punch line – you have more time in stories to set up something funny and return to it later. Introduce the game, play it, then re-introduce it a third time. You’ll blow your audience away and get a big laugh.
4. Play to the top of your intelligence. Don’t make jokes that infantilize your audience. If something isn’t funny to you, it probably won’t win over your audience. You may get a small guffaw, but it’ll end up being more distracting in the long run. Be smart and play smart.
5. Don’t force your jokes. If a joke doesn’t land, move on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the joke isn’t funny, it just means that this particular audience doesn’t find it funny. Flopping is part of being a good storyteller, so don’t worry too much. Everything in life that’s worthwhile takes practice, and you’ll eventually find the funny thing. Just remember that it took Louis C.K. almost 30 years to kill in front of an audience, so be patient with you stories.
Feeling funnier already, right?