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Become a Better and Funnier Speaker

Lesson 7 of 15

How To Get Funny Fast

David Nihill

Become a Better and Funnier Speaker

David Nihill

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Lesson Info

7. How To Get Funny Fast


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 How To Watch This Class Duration:01:25
2 Class Introduction Duration:08:53
5 How To Replicate Top Talks Duration:13:41
7 How To Get Funny Fast Duration:19:40
9 Storytelling Tips Duration:18:04
11 Live Storytelling Critique Duration:27:12
12 Avoid Going Blank on Stage Duration:21:46
14 Managing Stage Fright Duration:11:08

Lesson Info

How To Get Funny Fast

Now we have a good idea of the stuff that's going on. Do you guys agree? Don't know how you're doing at home with this. But hopefully you guys, I see some head nodding going on. I kinda see some structure here. You don't really wanna put structure on comedy. It sounds kinda weird. But you need to to understand it. You need to understand those techniques. Remember you copy Chris Rock, get thrown out of the conference. Understand the techniques, you'll do very well, probably get paid to come again. So how do we get funny fast? So this I think is a good way of thinking about it, before we bat around some ideas between ourselves. As a joke form. So very much if you take a general topic, and we're gonna take any story we have whatsoever, and link it to a business topic. And you'll be like "I have this story, "I got drunk in Mexico one time. "Got a bit kinky. "Don't know if I can share it." We're like we can definitely share that. We just gotta find a way to be able to do it. We'll always li...

nk that to a business topic. So we're gonna be a bit sneaky in how we craft content. We're not going to do the presentation, finish it, and then say, oh I need to make it funnier. What do I do now? We're gonna say, I love these three or four stories, like Ken Robinson, I tell 'em, people react to them. I'm gonna find a business lesson in them and I'm gonna link it to my talk and I'm gonna put it in. And I'm gonna build my talk around that to make me feel with speaking. So we literally are gonna take the general topic, we're gonna come down and find our own stories, which we identify the funny part in, and once we get the funny part, we feed it through joke structure. That word that I can't pronounce sometimes, as you guys know. I fell into that thing with the rule of three. So you put it through that joke structure just to make sure we get rid of as many words as possible. And then we play around with the details. What was the word for "to fit" in Spanish? Caber. Caber, you guys are real good in Spanish all the sudden. Donald Trump wouldn't like this, but you guys are doing well in here. (laughing) The details matter. Do you remember the stuff in Chinese? That was a bit more complex because we didn't have as many details in that story. It would kinda get there. But caber it was a yellow tax cab, it was a hairy bear, it was a kinda Middle Eastern guy with a weird Irish impersonation accent that went a bit sideways at the end there. The details really matter in populating that in people's head. And it's a mistake I've made a lot in life that if you come out with strong opinions at the start, so if I come to you and I go Oakland's a crazy place. We're in the Bay area. Anyone who lives in Oakland's gonna be like, "No it's not. "I live there, it's nice." Automatically someone's gonna argue with you. So if you make those strong statements at the start, you're gonna lose at least half the audience. It's people's human nature to argue with you. Don't make any strong statements. If you firmly believe something, tell them something that will allow them to see your way of thinking, rather than forcing your way of thinking on them. And when we go with storytelling, nobody really cares about your story. They care about themselves in your story. But they're kinda listening to your story, but they can see themselves within it. That's the magic part. And their mind's like, "Oh this is really cool. "My mother's a bit like that "or my father's a bit like that." So if tell you about a time I was in China learning Chinese like I told you earlier, realistically you don't care. If you speak Mandarin, you're from Singapore, you're like, "Oh yeah, I'm kinda interested. "What happened with the Irish guy and the Chinese?" Someone else has been to China. They're like, "Oh yeah, this could be cool." Other people are like I don't care about China. You haven't got my interest, and I could be on my iPhone in two seconds. So you try and manipulate that opening statement in away that allows you to bring as many people as you can into the funnel. So if you think of this, this is you bringing people along with your story ride with you. So you come out, and you wanna tell them a story about China but you're like how do I make it relevant to everybody and not offend anybody and not make anybody argue with me? So if I was talking about Oakland and I said Oakland can throw out some crazy things sometimes. Someone from Oakland goes, "Oh yeah, that's right." It's a looser statement. It doesn't have the potential to offend. So now if I'm talking about China, I come out and I'm like being in a new place can be challenging. You guys are in a new place today. That's challenging. I didn't know how to get here, I'm new. So all of a sudden you're just like, "Yeah, okay, I'll listen." And now you're on board with the story. So I didn't come out and I didn't go let me tell you a story, here's how I went to China one day. And you're just like, "I don't care if you went to China. "It's about me." And just remember that, it is about you as an audience member. It's about your connection to it. So we're gonna get sneaky and we wanna use this funnel all the time. So think how can I make a statement that allows me to tell the story, or what am I gonna say after the story? So anytime ever you can come out and tell a story, and after just go I told you this story because. You just bought complete license to have told that story in a business environment. No matter what it is. So when I was seven years old, I got a bit excited and I urinated without surveying my surroundings. And I had an argument with an electrical fence, and it's exactly as painful as you think it might be. It was horrendous. It has nothing to do with business. And I have it in a little clip there later. Nothing to do with business. I peed on an electric fence. Can we even talk about that? Edit that out later. No, no, just joking. But could we, could you put that in your business talk? (mumbles) You think, you're going for it. I like your company. You work for Creative Life. They're good with this kinda stuff. But for most people, sure you can. How do you think we could do it? Is there a lesson in that? We gotta dig for it. What would we say? I wanna tell that story, peeing on a fence. I think it's kinda mildly entertaining and with stories they're good when the person's suffering in the story. So you're like ha, ha, ha. They love laughing at you. "Did you injure yourself? "Oh, yeah? "Oh, great story." Not much in it, but how do we get a business lesson out of it? Shouldn't you think before you act? Oh, beautiful. Think before you act. Even more business like. They're kinda general, like Tony Robbins, let's give life coaching entertainment. More business like. Because I think that's a lot of the audience today. Any business lesson coming to your mind. Peeing on an electric fence, didn't look what I was doing. No planning. Yeah, yeah. Be aware what's going on below your belt. Oh, 100%. Or everywhere, below you, two levels below you. So you're senior management and just be aware what's going on below you, because sometimes that can be painful when you learn about it the wrong way. Or market entry can be painful, if you don't survey your surroundings and you're entering a new line of business, what you learn can be painful if you're not properly prepared. I learned this when I was seven years old fishing for tadpoles. And you didn't tell 'em you bought 30 seconds just to throw in this thing that you think makes no sense whatsoever on the larger scale. So you guys for the most part, I promise you you can take whatever story you have and throw them in a business context. It's just to be really, it's the same exercise you do if you're looking for funny images. You do the same thing with the funny stories. I just need to take that effort and try and get them in there And that way I'm comfortable as a speaker. So our guys in the room, guys at home didn't do this watching, but some of them did a little exercise where I sent out and I said write me a little story about something. So no pressure to be funny, because we're always gonna start with fun over funny. If it's mildly entertaining, mildly amusing to you, there's a reason you guys e-mailed me it, then you kinda like it. And if you kinda like it, there's a way of making somebody else like it as well, for sure. If you think it's a little bit funny, we can put it in a way with techniques that will make somebody else think it's kinda funny as well. Remember the happy dolphins? The bar is so low. Any little quip of information. So there's probably a couple of nervous people in our studio audience now, because they're like, "I hope he doesn't call on me." So I'm not gonna make anyone come up here and speak in any way, shape, or form. But if one or two of ya, I have the stories on a wee list. If you didn't mind sharing your story, that would be fantastic. And if I call on you and you're like, "No, I don't wanna say this." That's totally fine too. But we have one or two of you that I'd like to remember and I wrote them down on a wee list as they come in. So no pressure to be funny, but I'd love you to share these if you don't mind. One's from Jonah Larkin. Jonah, do you mind sharing? (mumbling) So no pressure to be funny. We're not joking, we're just listening and we're like is there a little funny bit in there somewhere or something that's a little big quirky. Yeah, so when I first moved to San Francisco, I was super broke. I moved into a warehouse that had no shower. And I was so poor that even, I couldn't even get a membership at a 24 Hour Fitness. So I went to Home Depot with my roommate, and bought a large trash can and a flexible shower head, and hooked that up to the bathroom sink and showered in a can. We called it the can shower. And I always like to say that I think that's the one time I outdid Campbell's Soup. Campbell's Soup, you certainly did. You're a total gypsy. I like that plan. There's a lot of people in San Francisco, they're like, "Our rent is so high, "that seems like a good idea." (laughing) Where did you do that? How did you do that? If that was a blog post, we'd all be reading it after this class. But like is there something quirky in there and funny that you like sharing? We're not going for viral hilarity, but what's the key funny bit? Is there, what's the key little-- Just the image of him standing in a trash can. Oh, 100%. 100% It's quirky. If I even had a photo of that, it would be even better to put in as you show it to people, like what you actually went through. But does that illustrate any kind of business lesson for anybody? Anything? Anyone got any suggestions on how you-- Innovation and creativity. Innovation and creativity. Being resourceful. Being resourceful, perfect. Business lesson. He MacGyver'd it. He MacGyver'd it, nicely done. He did MacGyver it. A reference from the 70s for somebody. Not showing your age at all, Jeff. But I was quite excited by that one as well. But it's very true, right. Hear something that's quirky, something you've done. It's always a little bit embarrassing. So if you are like struggling for content or in any way, shape, or form a story, because I'm gonna ask in one sec to take out your phones and we're gonna do something that gives us a massive advantage over most other people trying to be funny. But it's also something that comedians currently hold a massive advantage over us. Anybody used to keep a diary here as a kid in any way, shape, or form? Or even now at the moment? It's something that's quite common in the world for people to do until you write something and you're like, oh last Wednesday, I was emotionally traumatized, I ate ice cream and I hate myself. I'm fat. Well, that's not much fun to read back. Who wrote this? And you're like oh I did. That wasn't a good day. And a lot of people stop doing it. So what I'm looking for you to start doing is literally creating a happy file. A funny story file that you keep on your smart phone and you just, every time you see, hear, overhear a conversation that's mildly entertaining or funny, that makes you laugh, you write it down. And that's kind of a cool thing to do if you're ever stuck for something to do and it's Saturday night and you're not out watching TED talks, or whatever you Bay area folks are doing. And then you just read it and you're like, ha ha, that was good. Oh, that was good, that was funny. You tend to forget these things if you don't consciously keep a list of them, you forget them. So literally every day. I was sitting at Whole Foods before I came in here for a meeting yesterday, and I was meeting with this really intense English guy, and he was visibly very in my face and intense, one of these influencer kinda people on the internet, very excitable, and some guy overheard the whole conversation, he came over he was like, "Oh my God, that guy's really intense." And I was like I think he needs a happy ending. I thought this was hilarious. And the guy just looked at me dead in the eyes and he's like, "I'd rather give that to you." I was like ... I was like that's gold. Gold! (laughing) Happy file, happy file. Telling people about this. You couldn't make this stuff up. And this just happens the whole time. And you're just like, all right, what was kind of embarrassing or what was a weird scenario I was in? So it's always nearly always embarrassing. It's gonna be embarrassing for you, so if it's embarrassing for you, it's funny for me. That's literally the way it works. Embarrassing for you, funny for me. And you probably don't wanna talk about it. He's showering in a bin, trash can, can of soup, not sure which one. It's a little bit embarrassing to share with people he went through that. But it's funny and gives him a relatable way of you, that's not you standing up there going, "I'm awesome. "I've been very successful in life all the time. "I used to shower in a trash can. "I brought it with me. "I started selling them, made loads of money." But all of a sudden, so what I'd like you to do now, take out your phone, just for a sec. You get the idea from Jonah from kind enough to sharing one. And I'd like you to think for a minute, and just open your smartphone and create a file on Ever Note or an any form of note, and I want you to do it on your phone, because if you do it on paper, you're not gonna bring it with you. It's very important that this is on you the whole time. So open it and write funny story file and spend a minute just writing, and you guys please do this at home as well, this will make such a difference to every time you're mining for content to make funny for blog posts, for books, for anything you ever do. And just write them in bullet point format. That time my grandmother this. That time I tried to say this word and messed it up. I know if you guys speak a second language, you've screwed something up with language at some stage in your life. If it's embarrassing for you, if it was a new thing you tried to learn, and you failed miserably at it, it's funny for me. The only question is are you willing to talk about it. So one minute, from now, if you don't mind. Just write it down in bullet point format. Not the whole story. First girlfriend, first boyfriend, first car, first time oversees, first travel, most embarrassing sexual thing, don't share that in this class live on TV now with the cameras here, but you get the idea. Anyone got nothing? You all have something? You were all mostly funny to start with. Nothing at all on there? Yeah. Oh you do, good, good, good. We won't do it for long. Is that enough, has everybody got something on there? I just want you to have something on there and just get comfortable with the process. Because we can do this religiously if you're looking for comedic material, you write it down. There's always something that's gonna happen. You got it? Everybody got something? You're all happy? Anybody like, "I've got nothing at all. "What is this crazy Irish person saying to me right now? "I don't like this system of comedy at all."? But this makes a big difference. You're gonna forget these things and if you don't do it instantly, you really do forget. A lot of the most amazing content you're ever gonna get is from listening to other people's stories. So when they say something, when he's like, "I showered in a trash can. "You're like me too, totally showered in a trash can." Maybe not on that one. But the one with the Whole Foods, maybe similar that some guy has hit on you in a weird way you were not expecting, or a girl. When we listen to great stories, so if you listen to NPR, Snap Judgment, you watch stand up comedy, you start to remember stuff. Just write it down when you remember it. I have another lovely example. There was a couple on here. Emily. As a barber's daughter growing up, I had some great benefits, including free haircuts. But every once in a while my dad would go to these stylist conventions and come back very inspired. And because most of his clientele were men, and I had long hair, I ended up being the defacto hair model, which is how I ended up with a Popsicle stick perm in middle school, which most girls had to pay for, but I got for free. Nice. Quirky. Something's in there, right? You like it? You e-mailed it to me, so you like it, right? I like it. I like listening to it. You're just like, "What other crazy haircuts did he give you?" Who wanted to know that? Did you wanna see the images? Imagine you had the images of the stages of your haircut. So you're gonna go, one, two, and then ridiculous. Just stick up a Lionel Richie one or something at the end. Be like, "That was me." But there's a way of always just thinking about that. And there's nothing better content wise than going back and finding the actual photos of these younger stages of your life. So the funny bit in there, what's the key funny bit in there? Did you guys, anybody be like, ah? Were you picturing anything? Were you picturing your own dad cutting your hair when you were a kid? I was remember my mother butchering my hair. Now it hasn't got much better as you can see over the years, I didn't find a way to improve it. But it's relatable. Business lesson? Anything? Don't let your dad cut your hair is a good business lesson. Be flexible, because hair grows back. Hair grows back. When you wrote that to me, I was in a barber shop here in San Francisco. And there was a guy behind me, they cut his hair in front of a mirror, he could see what, or sorry, without the mirror. And when he got up to check in the mirror, he realized they'd given him a zero. They'd shaved all his hair off, and he wanted a number four. There's a big difference between that. A lot of hair and no hair. And the Chinese lady just started laughing at him, like, "No problem, it grow back. "Ha ha ha ha." (audience laughing) Guy wanted to kill her. And it's so funny when you sent me those texts, I envisioned my own little scenario of that story myself. So it's just something that makes a shared experience between people. You can squeeze as many business lessons out as you want. We'll do one more before we go on to quite a fun little section. You've got someone from the chat room. Wanna get one from the chat room first? Yeah, we got some good ones in here. So this first one comes from Sheri Bear and says-- That's a great name. Good name right off the bat, a funny one. Little bit shorter because it's in the chat room so it condensed a little bit, but Sheri says I fell into a fountain and nuns laughed at me when I was in school when I was six years old. She said she was traumatized until high school because the nuns laughed at her at school and she fell into a fountain. Nuns will do that to you. Nuns are funny. The might have threw her in the fountain. She's just being politically correct. So Tanya has one here that says I fell over a brick wall when I was drunk. I managed not to hurt myself. I was holding a glass full of wine, and somehow I didn't spill a drop. But on normal days, I often spill drinks down my top without falling. So miraculous story of keeping the wine together. I like it. As an Irish person I'm very impressed by that. I need to patent that. They're good ones. There's quirks in them all the time. They're all, they're mildly funny, right? Do you notice they're always kind of embarrassing and they're always a little family orientated. There always something. There was someone here wrote me one I just started laughing at straight away when they wrote it. Just out of family was Jennifer Ortega. Are you around? Anyone Jennifer make it? Do you mind sharing what you wrote in? Sure. Can we get you a microphone quick. Again, no pressure to be funny, but it's just like, this, do I like it? I like it. So as a kid I was a really picky eater, and once my aunt developed a strategy to try and get me to eat the food on my plate. So one day she decided that if I didn't eat the food on my plate, she would find an alternate route of transport into my stomach. These were her words, "I will put it up your butt." I'm not gonna go into the details of the power struggle that ensued. But I am no longer a picky eater, I eat all the food on my plate. Now I know why. Through my mouth this time. Nicely done. Quirky, right? You can picture that person in your family going, "Eat it or I'll put it up your bum." And that's the word in there. You know, you try and use a word that it's below the waist, normally you wanna keep it out of business stuff. But again, there's a lesson in that. Like if someone forces you to be adaptive, you become adaptive. I learned this with my Auntie who rather than feed me tacos trying to put them in my bum if I didn't eat them. It was a strange childhood. Now I pay for tacos, strangely I've become so emotionally attached to them. You can just play with it in any way you like. But there's that little quirky that's in there, we wanna use that. So just to show you guys, thanks for sending me in some stuff. Thanks for everyone online who's been sending some stuff. If you look at it long enough, and you force yourself to write it out, and the nice thing that you might have noticed, if I call on somebody who didn't write it out beforehand and someone who did, the person who didn't write it out, or did write it out, is gonna be better and clearer in their delivery of it, because they're forced to think about it. What's the funny bit? Is this even worth writing? Why do I like it? Okay. And then you tend to repeat that structure. So you know the way people wing it when they're presenting, "Oh, I'll just wing it." That doesn't tend to end well a lot of the time. Once or twice. But the conscious act of writing it a little bit really improves you straight away, because it just forces you to mine your mind for little details. So it'll be some of you sitting there now, and some of you watching online going, "That's great, I don't have any stories like this. "I didn't shower in the trash can. "Nobody shoved tacos up my bum as a kid. "And I just got my hair cut in normal ways."

Class Description

Let’s just be real for a minute: most public speakers are boring. And aside from making your day a little less fun, dull presentations are bad for business.

Audiences have become conditioned to receiving information with a dose of entertainment, and that makes humor a critical tool for any professional communicator. We want our data with a punchline these days-- witness the success of The Daily Show or the stickiness of many of President Obama’s speeches for example.

It’s not just about getting some laughs to make yourself feel good; it’s about using humor to grab and hold your audience’s interest, making your message stickier and ultimately more persuasive. In a world full of bland, dull speakers, if you stand out, you win!

The good news is that humor is a skill, which means that it can be learned by anyone. The notion that we’re “born funny” couldn’t be more false: “being funny” is just a set of easily-replicated techniques (for example, the setup followed by the punchline) that anyone can pick up with a little practice.

Whether you are preparing for a business presentation, giving a wedding toast, defending your thesis, raising money from investors, this class will take you from nervous and sweaty to stage-ready.

Bestselling author, storyteller, occasional comedian, and Irishman, David Nihill will teach you:  

  • How top business speakers are using humor
  • One Sure Fire Way to Add Funny to any content
  • How To Replicate Top TED Talks
  • Basic Comedy Writing Techniques
  • Quick ways to get funny fast
  • How To Make Boring Things Funny (with guest Sarah Cooper)
  • Storytelling Tips that everyone can use
  • Advanced Comedy Writing Techniques
  • How to critique your own stories
  • Never go blank on stage with the memory palace technique
  • Content delivery tips for all levels
  • Manage stage fright  

As an added bonus, Sarah Cooper, a writer, comedian, and creator of the satirical blog, will be joining David to teach you how to make boring subjects more entertaining.

Learn more about David Nihill from his appearance on the “Profit, Power, Pursuit Podcast”!  



I always wondered why my favorite TED talks look so effortlessly off-the-cuff while commanding my undivided attention: Laughter. David's class taught me how "The end of laughter is followed by the height of listening." Applying stand-up comedy techniques to the art of storytelling makes information much easier to retain, and hence, easier to share with others. David handily makes the case for why the comedic structure is necessary and applicable in a variety of cases, ranging from business presentations to blog posts. After learning about the joke structure and funnel, I now hear/see them in action throughout my day. He also shares specific tips on how to "memorize" talking points while remaining totally flexible to last-minute time changes (e.g. "Your 20-minute talk just got chopped to 5 minutes. Go!") David covers specifically how to start your talk, end your talk, and where precisely to position your Q&A sessions to maximize audience reaction to the speaker. He supercharges this talk with so many actionable tricks and tips. Sarah Cooper makes a guest appearance sharing 4 tips that I found especially helpful for creating funny visuals. David's heartfelt honesty about the guts it takes to "get up on stage" - the vulnerability of it - really shines through. And now, I carry my "Funny File" with me at all times. This is a truly phenomenal class, both in content and delivery. Thank you for making me laugh, David and Sarah!

Kashif Rashid

Pretty brilliant. David is hilarious so he is definitely using his techniques. Its also easier to follow the class and want more when they are funny. I think most of the presenters on Creative live should be taking this class too . Make it funny so that learning becomes "fun"-ner

Philipp @PhotoAmmon Ammon

Brilliant lecture. David managed to keep me hooked, and I am pretty sure I will do so much better on whatever public speaking I have to do next As a photographer, I know this will help improve the way I look at talking about my work, and I think these kind of skills are vital to any artist. One little thing I didn't like about this was more of a technical issue. He uses videos as examples to the content he is teaching, but none of the CL links to the videos worked. I know its probably a copyright issue, but I would rather watch bad footage of the TV in the studio than nothing at all. Especially since I can't pause the talk and find the videos. Regardless, brilliant talk. Definitely watch it!