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November 2004 - Poking Fun at Yourself

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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November 2004

Poking Fun at Yourself

A long time ago I learned that speakers must be careful about who they poke fun at in the audience, but taking a jab at yourself almost always invokes a laugh from the audience and puts them at ease with you as a speaker. People who make poke fun at themselves come across to the audience as more human and approachable. We like people who can laugh at themselves.

Religious jokes can be risky, so when I decide to tell them, I make certain people know I am a Methodist, and then I make certain Methodists are the butt of the joke. Since I spent the first thirty years of my life in Iowa, I also often make jokes about that state and the people who grew up there. And at my age I can tell "old people jokes."

Make a list of things of ways you can poke fun at yourself without hurting your credibility. You could use your state of residence-"I grew up in Kentucky that probably explains a lot". "I'm a Texas Aggie, Auburn alum, Green Bay cheese head, Louisiana Cajun, etc." (take your pick ) As you noticed, these are things their possessors are probably proud of. They are examples of positive ways to poke fun at oneself. Also consider physical characteristics. Your height-are you vertically challenged? The color of your hair, or lack of it-bald jokes are funniest when told by bald people. Stupid things you've done like dishing your food directly onto your tray without first putting a plate on the tray or locking your key in the car after your wife warned you that you should wire an extra one behind the bumper. You won't have to think very long in order to come up with quite a list, unless you are perfect or lack a sense of humor.

To learn more about how to use humor effectively, see chapter 5 of my new book, Speaking Effectively.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

November 2004 - Poking Fun at Yourself
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