Imagine being backstage of the Tonight Show. You are to perform a 3 minute comedy set in front of a live audience and millions of people at home. Your heart is racing, you are excited and a little sick, and you are going over your jokes in your head. You hit the stage. You open up with the best 3 minutes of comedy that you have. Nothing connects. Those 3 minutes feel like 3 years.
You have probably seen that scenario before on a TV show, a graduation, or even at a church. Someone tries to be funny and it just doesn’t make anyone laugh. Watching someone try to be funny and fail is terrible. It is a slow and painful death.
As I write about teaching this week I wanted to put some thoughts down about humor. Most of the coaching that I have had in speaking to youth from leaders can be summed up in two words – “Be funny”. Is it that simple?
Lots of work – Jerry Seinfeld has been widely recognized as one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. Several years ago he decided to do all of his old material one last time on pay per view. The next day he began the journey of writing new jokes. Many times over the next year, Jerry would struggle to be funny at even the smallest of venues. That 3 minute set really took hours and hours to prepare and correct.
How can we work at being funny:
Know your lesson – A point or a bible story may make you think of a funny moment, story, or joke. If you know your lesson a week in advance, you will see funny moments and stories happen that you connect with your points.
Know your audience – Will this story work with senior adults? Will kids understand what is happening? Will teenagers think this is lame? Just because it works with one audience doesn’t mean it will work with another.
Research – Google is your best friend. You can find many funny things on the internet that are appropriate and will help in communication. Funny news stories are published daily on some websites.
Videos – These need to be appropriate for your audience, but many people who struggle with humor have filled this need with funny videos.
Joke books – Throw them away. Seriously, canned jokes are almost never funny.
Personal stories – In my opinion, nothing is funnier or better than your personal stories. I’ve heard it said that a great storyteller has only about 10 great stories. You can’t teach 52 weeks a year with only 10 stories, but even the non great ones can still connect with your audience.
I read this tweet today from the leader of Student Life, J. Roger Davis “Funny sermons don’t change people’s lives. They make people laugh.”
Laughing is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. It is simply a tool to help you communicate God’s word. If you can’t be funny, it is okay. God will use you greatly with the strengths and gifts He has blessed you with.