Comedy is an art form that takes practice, wit, timing, and a host of other skills that can bring laughter to an audience. While it can seem a little technical at the onset, there are many practical and easy ways to be funnier without you having to try too hard. If you’re interested in improving your sense of humor, here are practical ways that can help you be funnier.
Cynics and pessimists might think that the world is pretty bleak, but even they can’t deny that there’s always something funny going on if you take the time to observe. Just as fantasy novels base their material on reality, your sense of humor can be developed better when you start observing what’s around you. What’s great about learning and incorporating observational humor is that you can find something funny when you begin looking at the world from a different point of view. Observational humor can also happen more naturally than having to come up with carefully constructed jokes or relying on wordplay.
If you’ve watched a couple of stand-ups or comedy shows, you’ll notice that many comedians tend to craft their jokes around some detail. For instance, they might say a little something about their mom, their spouse, a place they’ve been to, or a kind of food they’ve eaten. These introductory details serve as context or a foundation for setting up the punchline. In many ways, telling a joke is similar to telling a story; details can catch the audience’s attention and make it more appealing. With practice, you can discover which types of details or specifics can get more than just a chuckle from who’s listening.
Similar to being observant, active listening is also an important skill when you want to learn how to be funnier. Instead of telling jokes or waiting for an opening to drop a pre-rehearsed punchline, listening and reacting to what someone said in a conversation can be a more natural approach to humor. If you really think about it, the conversation is already setting up the details you need. All you need to do is actively listen and find the right moment to say something witty as a reaction. You’re more likely to get everyone laughing that way instead of trying to insert a pre-written joke that might even kill the conversation.
Paying attention to what’s being said during a conversation can also allow you to make callbacks to what was mentioned earlier. Aside from simply reacting, you can also reference what has been said or make a connection between two points that were likely missed by the other person. After all, comedy can be about surprises, but repetition works just as well. Making a good callback gives you the opportunity to practice some observational humor and might even lead to a little running joke everyone else can enjoy and play off of.
The world might have a lot of funny things going on, but from time to time, it also pays to look in the mirror and discover some funny events in your own life. After all, it’s hard to find humor in everything else when you take your own experiences too seriously. At some point, something funny likely happened in your life even if it might have seemed embarrassing at the time it occurred. With some hindsight, you might be surprised at how an event can turn out to be funny when you view it from a different perspective. Taking a few cracks at your own expense might even change how you remember that particular event, turning it into a positive note that can bring laughter to other people.
Comedy can emerge from a tragic event — provided you understand the context and timing. Sure, there are some things that might seem non-negotiable, but in many cases, humor becomes a cathartic reaction to tragedy because it acts as a coping mechanism that might soften the blow of a terrible event. However, when making jokes about a bad experience — especially if it’s an experience shared by others — timing is crucial to avoid being offensive. The best time to crack a joke about a bad event is when an ample amount of time has passed and people no longer feel threatened by the topic. Making the joke too soon might just land you in an awkward moment.
Dropping memorized jokes isn’t always the best way to go, but it doesn’t hurt to know a handful either. Just as it pays to have some backroom knowledge on random topics, it pays to know different types of jokes in case the opportunity to use them presents itself. When learning jokes, try to diversify and familiarize yourself with jokes that can be applicable to a variety of situations and events. Additionally, try to gauge which jokes are appropriate for the occasion. For instance, jokes you can make at the bar might not be received too well when made while you’re at the office.
Every seasoned comedian knows that not all of their jokes will land 100% of the time. What makes an entertaining comedian is their ability to quickly adapt to the situation and know when to fold. Instead of forcing a joke, it will be a lot funnier if you can learn how to turn things around and make fun of your failed joke. Of course, this skill doesn’t come without practice. With some time and experience, you’ll be able to find humor even in failing to deliver a good joke.
In every friend group, there’s always that someone who manages to get everyone laughing. If you have a friend like that, consider practicing with them. Exchange some riffs together and see what works. There’s a lot that practice can do to improve your timing, wordplay, or storytelling. What’s best about practicing with a friend is that since you’re already comfortable with them, you can think better and faster without your thoughts being bogged down by anxiety. Additionally, you don’t have to feel all that embarrassed when your joke bombs, allowing you to also practice how to make fun of your own bad jokes. Practicing with a friend is definitely a great exercise, and it can also help make your jokes come off more naturally.
As with everything, comedy and humor can be learned, and what better way to do this than by watching more stand-ups or comedy shows? By immersing yourself in funny content, you can analyze just what makes the humor click. You can learn what kind of delivery is best for a certain type of joke, when-to-time punchlines, and what constitutes humor for different types of people. For instance, you’ll notice that there are some key differences between the American and British versions of comedy shows like “The Office.” By getting acquainted with different types of shows and stand-ups, you’ll also learn a little more about a certain culture or population.
Aside from understanding context and having great timing, being funny is also about knowing the appropriate words to help a successful punchline or quip. Usually, the best jokes are short and to the point. As such, leveling up your vocabulary will give your quips the desired impact without you having to explain them at length. Just as it’s great to watch more comedy shows, consider reading books from comedic authors as well.
Nothing can be more awkward than someone trying to act funny or silly when they’re usually serious. If you want to get a laugh, don’t forget to be yourself. Humor doesn’t always equate to cheerfulness or silliness. Dry wit can be just as effective in eliciting laughter. One good example of this is the original “Ghostbusters,” which relies a lot on dry humor combined with well-timed delivery. Don’t be afraid to be yourself even while trying to inject humor into a conversation. Again, it’s more natural that way, and you avoid appearing like you’re trying too hard.
Practice makes perfect. Some people can make it look like they’re natural-born comedians — but only because they’ve been diligent enough to practice their timing, delivery, and punchlines. When building up your sense of humor, remember that practice goes a long way. If a joke doesn’t work, tweak it a bit, and you’ll eventually find the right formula for a great laugh.