Contact Dave Hill for Speaker Bookings: (214) 668-5785 dave@davehillspeaks.com
Dallas, Texas, USA 0 Items

Lesson 9 – Poke Fun at Yourself to Encourage Laughter (Preview)

Dave Hill – Funny Motivational Keynote Speaker

In this lesson you’ll learn to:

  • Use self-deprecating humor, witticisms, and contrary points of view to get your audience laughing

Self-deprecation, or poking fun at yourself, is one of the easiest ways to get your audience to laugh! Why? It makes your audience more comfortable!

Some conservative audiences may wait until others laugh before they join in (no one wants to be the focus of attention if the humor turns out to be inappropriate or inadvertently risqué). Poking fun at yourself is often safe for audiences, making it easier for you to get the audience laughing immediately!

You might choose to poke fun at yourself by talking about your:

  • Physical appearance or other characteristics
  • Personality traits
  • Weaknesses

Self-deprecation helps you connect with the audience in an authentic way and makes you more vulnerable. Why does it work? People who can laugh at themselves and reveal their weaknesses are looked at as a secure, confident, and likable.

Key Success Strategies:

  • Call out things we all have in common to be more relatable and better connect to your audience.
  • Make it obvious to the audience when making fun of your physical appearance or a characteristic.
  • Avoid anything that erodes your credibility. Remember, as a presenter you need to have credibility on a subject. Don’t downplay your expertise!

There are many advantages to using self-deprecation. There are also many opportunities! Here are just a few:

  • It lightens the mood in everyday life. (In the elevator, at the water cooler, while having lunch etc.)
  • It builds rapport. Remember, making fun of yourself helps build likeability and is helpful in building relationships.
  • It illuminates key points and lowers the chance of getting a hostile response in presentations and meetings.
  • It keeps people engaged when speaking on technical or other serious subjects because people often aren’t expecting humor.

Before I use humor or witticisms, I ask myself two questions.

  1. Is this a suitable place and time to incorporate levity?
  2. Is it appropriate for the occasion and the audience?

Why are these important? It is critical that you do not inadvertently “step over the line” when using humor. As part of the humor development process I do several phone interviews with people who will attend. I also have discussions with the meeting planner and others to get a “flavor” for the event, the theme, the audience, the people who are hiring me. I ask what is going on in their world and what is on their minds, identify areas where I can use humor, and make sure I don’t enter any sensitive “minefields.”  I also try to find out if they laugh easily or if they are conservative.

Now that you know the basics, let’s look at an example from when I was an engineer. Picture me in a conference room with a group of project engineers with a tough negotiation meeting in front of us. We start off with introductions. When I introduce myself, I state, “my name is Dave Hill, and for those of you have spoken to me on the phone but have never met me in person, I know what you are thinking, “Dave Hill sounds much taller on the phone.” The group of project engineers laughed, and the tension dropped down a notch. I came to this meeting knowing that there would be tough negotiations and potential conflict. I came prepared with my engineering options, my listening skills, and my sense of humor. One of the best compliments I received as an engineer was not the big salary or the juicy bonus. It was the kind words my boss Don Abrahamson documented in an annual performance review. Here is the exact wording:

“David is a master at using his sense of humor to ease tension. When he is around, the atmosphere becomes friendlier and more cooperative. He always sees the humor in things, helping to avoid or defuse difficult situations.”

The following is a simple process I use to identify quips where I can poke fun at myself:

  • Identify aspects such as physical appearance, traits, weaknesses, etc.
  • Brainstorm to identify anecdotes, witticisms and contrary points of view
  • Work on making the quips as short and “punchy” as possible.

Before we go too much further let’s discuss the process of identifying witticisms and contrary points of view:

You might wonder how I identified so many witticisms and a few contrary points of view on my brainstorming table below. It is important to understand that I did not sit down and uncover all of these at once. I accumulated these over a period of several years. Some just “came to mind,” others appeared through quips made by others, and occasionally they came from a focused analysis. Once the humor is uncovered, I immediately make note of the humor on my phone notes or on a small Post-It-Note for future filing.

A way to explore this in a more focused manner is to identify and list the generic characteristics, adjectives, or things that relate to “short” such as: elf, vertically challenged, hobbit, In-laws playfully mocking me, reach-ability, high heels, clogs, kids clothing store, booster seat, etc. Then brainstorm to see if you can find a funny link between “short” and any of the listed items. This takes a bit of work but it’s sure way to identify ways to poke fun at yourself. See the table below to see how I have applied this technique.

Finally, let’s explore poking fun at yourself using a contrary point of view. This additional technique involves identifying the most embarrassing or quirky things that people might be say about you behind your back. You find humor by identifying the advantages of this defect. The items listed in CAPITALS/BOLD in the third column below are examples of using a contrary point of view.

1)
Dave Hill – Appearance, Personality Traits, Weaknesses etc.
2) Identify and list the generic characteristics, adjectives, or things that relate to this. 3) Try and Find a “Bridge” or “Link” Between 1) & 2) to Turn it into a Witticism or find a CONTRARY POINT OF VIEW.
Irish (living in Texas)
  • Ireland
  • Foreigner
  • Accent
  • Immigrant
  • Saint Patrick
  • Beer Drinking
  • Red Hair
  • Freckles
  • Irish Dancing
  • I am from an Island off Texas…called Ireland
  • Some of you may be able to identify that I have a fake Texas accent
  • NON-IRISH PEOPLE FIND MY ACCENT “CUTE.”
  • MY ACCENT MAY SOUND POSH BUT I AM REALLY JUST A HOBBIT WITH AN ACCENT
Bald
  • Aerodynamic
  • Human Radiator
  • Follicle Challenged
  • Shampoo
  • Hairdryer
  • Comb
  • Hairbrush
  • Dandruff
  • Curling Iron
  • I AM AERODYNAMIC. I GET GREAT CAR GAS MILEAGE WHEN I OPEN MY CAR WINDOWS
Short
  • Elf
  • Vertically Challenged
  • Hobbit
  • In-Laws Playfully Mocking Me
  • Reachability
  • High heels
  • Clogs
  • Small Clothing Store
  • High Chair
  • MY BUCKET LIST ITEM IS TO BE AS TALL AS THE HEIGHT ON MY DRIVER’S LICENSE.
  • I DON’T FEEL SHORT UNTIL I SEE A SHORT PERSON WHO IS TALLER THAN ME
  • MY HUNGARIAN IN-LAWS CALL ME DAVID (DANNY) DEVITO BEHIND MY BACK. I DON’T SPEAK HUNGARIAN…BUT I CAN WORK IT OUT WHEN I HEAR, “DAVID DEVITO …GIGGLE…GIGGLE…GIGGLE.”
  • BEING SHORT IS GREAT; WHEN I STAND UP ON MOST AIRPLANES MY HEAD DOES NOT TOUCH THE OVERHEAD LUGGAGE RACK.
  • “GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES”. THIS MISCONCEPTION HELPS ME GET AWAY WITH BEING EVIL AT TIMES!
  • AT 58+ YEARS OLD I STILL BUY SHOES IN THE “YOUNG MEN’S” SECTION OF THE STORE.
  • WHEN I SEE A SIGN THAT SAYS “MIND YOUR HEAD” I SMILE THINKING THAT THIS IS JUST ANOTHER WAY THE WORLD PUNISHES TALL PEOPLE!
  • BEING SHORT IS EXCITING. I FEEL A SENSE OF ADVENTURE AND ACHIEVEMENT WHEN I MANAGE TO RETRIEVE SOMETHING FROM THE TOP SHELF OF A KITCHEN CUPBOARD WITHOUT INJURY.
  • BEING SHORT IS PRACTICAL. WHEN I GO BACK TO THEFAMILY HOUSE IN IRELAND, I STILL FIT IN THE SAME BED THAT I HAD WHEN I WAS 5 YEARS OLD!
Overweight
  • Calories
  • Beer
  • Food
  • Medical
  • Doctor
  • Weighing Scales
  • Exercise
  • Gym
  • Fitness
  • Out of Breath
  • Doctor has been giving out to me about my weight for 20 years. Need to change to a doctor who’s more overweight than I am…
Hearing
  • Hearing Aids
  • Batteries
  • Deaf
  • Ears
  • Volume
  • Ear Wax
  • Noise
  • Music
  • Background
  • I thought I needed hearing aids …turn out my wife does not finish her sentences.
Twisted sense of humor
  • Trouble
  • Diversity Committee
  • Human Resources
  • Conservative Wife
  • Daughter wanted me to drive her to the swimming pool at 4 am to do competitive swimming. I jokingly commented, “Why can’t you just do drugs like a normal kid?”
Color Blind
  • Eyes
  • Navigation Lights
  • Test
  • Red/Green Challenges
  • My wife sends me to work with a “I dressed myself” sticker on my back.
Glasses
  • Bulky
  • Expensive
  • Transition
  • Bi-Focal
  • Duct Tape Repair
  • Engineers Glasses
  • I miss my thick rimmed engineers’ glasses. Women love them!
Frugal family
  • Dollard
  • Spending
  • Frugal Father
  • Savings
  • Shopping
  • Impulse
  • Candle Heat
  • Steam Breath
  • In Ireland to stay warm my family would sit around a candle in the kitchen. When it got extremely cold…my dad would light it.
Storyteller
  • Engagement
  • Personal Stories
  • Family Stories
  • Embarrassing
  • Funny
  • What Happens in this House…
  • My wife hates it when people come up to her and say, “We love the story your husband told us about you.”
Tough
  • Temper
  • Tenacity
  • Bull-Headed
  • Poison Dwarf
  • Angry Elf
  • I got angry with my 3-year-old son for not eating his corn-on-the cob. He cried, “But daddy…I have no front teeth.”
Bad listener
  • Listening Skills
  • Hearing
  • Background Noise
  • ADD
  • Squirrel
  • When I try and remember the short grocery list my wife gives me, I sometimes forget by the time I reach the store. I just buy a six pack of beer. If you are going to be in the doghouse, you may as well be in the doghouse with beer!
Caffeine deficiency is risky for me
  • Coffee
  • Mug
  • Tea
  • Maker
  • Starbucks
  • When bringing my wife’s car to the muffler shop many years ago, I got 3 miles from home and discovered I was driving my car. I do not do errands in a caffeine deficient state anymore!
Emotional
  • Cry
  • Laugh
  • Weep
  • Hysterical
  • Teary Eyed
  • While zip lining in Costa Rica my kids discovered I scream loudly…like a little girl!
Personable
  • Friendly
  • Helpful
  • Solving Problems
  • Build Rapport
  • Make People Laugh
  • When someone on the phone asks me how I am I reply, “fully caffeinated.”
Helpful
  • Solve Problems
  • Good Character
  • Wired to Help
  • Good Citizen
  • Stopped at a crossroads to pick up hitchhikers in Ireland. Put the hitchhikers gear in the car…then discovered they wanted to go in the other direction.
Beer drinker
  • Guinness
  • Cold Beer
  • Warm Beer
  • English Beer
  • Homebrewer
  • Brew my own beer and keg it. I keep it in a temperature-controlled chest freezer. If there is ever a nuclear attack… the cockroaches and I will survive.
I make mistakes
  • Human
  • Bad Engineering
  • Learn
  • Poke Fun at Mistakes
  • My turn to drive the kids to school. Kids started giggling in the back seat of the car when I was well on my way to work.
I pack for business trips at the last moment
  • Rushing
  • Risk Taking
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Laptop
  • Ended up packing a pair of my 3-year-old son’s underwear
Mischief
  • Lightheartedness
  • Playfulness
  • Trouble
  • Playfulness
  • Irresponsible
  • Bored shopping with my wife…started trying on wigs to get her to laugh. Got “caught” by the checkout women who were giggling and pointing at me (the bald guy). Embarrassing!
Terrible at buying gifts for my wife
  • Shopping
  • Jewelry
  • Christmas
  • Birthdays
  • Tools
  • Appliance
  • For an anniversary gift I bought her an Amish step ladder that folded into a chair…that then folded into an ironing
    board
Minimal personal goals
  • Have Fun
  • Make People Laugh
  • Measurable
  • Write Them
  • Follow Them
  • Accountability
  • Life goal to keep shaming the family in funny ways
Not always a good engineer at home
  • Breaking Stuff
  • Inventive
  • Frugal
  • Long List of things to Fix
  • Built a tall fence to keep my Irish Setter dog from getting to the back garden muddy area. Glowing with self-achievement when the dog bounded over the fence without effort.
My ears stick out
  • Dumbo
  • Super Hearing
  • I was worried about never having a girlfriend as a teen…my mother commented, “at least you’ll be a great listener.”

Now it’s time to try it out for yourself.

Exercise – Poke Fun at Yourself:

Using the attached template in the QUIZ/EXERCISE SECTION or the download link below:

  • Identify aspects such as physical appearance, traits, weaknesses, etc.
  • Brainstorm to identify anecdotes, witticisms and contrary points of view
  • Work on making the quips as short and “punchy” as possible.

Download (PDF, 57KB)

Copyright © MMXIX by David R. Hill

Lesson tags: dave hill, dave hill speaks, funny motivational keynote speaker, humor, poke fun at yourself, process, self-depreciating, techniques
Back to: Finding the Funny: How to Create and Deliver Humor in any Speech or Presentation
Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.