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Chapter 18. Ever Hear the One About…?: U... > What Makes a Good Joke? - Pg. 148

Ever Hear the One About...?: Using Humor 148 · Personal style.The joke you tell must suit your specific style. Few women can pull off the tough personas of Rosie O'Donnell and Roseanne; button-downed stockbrokers generally shouldn't attempt to impersonate Rodney Dangerfield. Some comedians can work against type, but this requires years of practice. · Make a point.When used effectively in a speech, humor does more than just entertain the audience, it makes a point. It supports your thesis. Audiences might forget the actual joke, but they remember the point it was meant to reinforce. So The Joke's Not On You... Ask yourself the following questions before you decide to use a joke in a speech: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Is the joke genuinely funny? Can I comfortably tell this joke? Does this joke match the mood of my speech? Does this joke fit with the purpose of my speech? Will my audience understand the joke? Will my audience appreciate and like the joke? Is the joke tasteful? Is the joke fresh? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, play it safe and avoid the joke. Follow this iron-clad rule: When in doubt, cut it out. If you answered "yes" to all these questions, read through these detailed ways to make humor a part of your public-speaking style. What Makes a Good Joke? You can't tell a joke successfully without understanding how the joke works. What makes a joke funny? In part, it's the way the joke is constructed. Try this one: In my neighborhood, we have a word for sushi: bait . Class Act What should you do if a joke falls flat? Nothing. Never explain a joke. You're apt to notice that some audience members didn't get your joke, but even if the entire audience seems baffled, don't retreat. Let it go and move on with your speech. The humor comes from the contrast between the expectations that " sushi " sparks: delicious little expensive morsels of fish, compared to the stinky reality of "bait." By placing the word "sushi" in the same sentence as "bait," the contrast is underscored. The colon (":") allows the speaker to pause for effect. This pause sets up the punch line (or in this case, the punch word). Rewrite the same words in a different way, and the joke falls flat. Here are some examples: In my neighborhood, we call sushi something else. We call it bait. In my neighborhood, we call sushi bait.