It is a commonly held belief that ‘funny’ is only funny haha. Like, stand-up comic level funny.
It’s no wonder so many people (leave alone brands) shudder at the thought of bringing some levity into the way we communicate.
Think about this: one of the most terrifying things to do for many people, is standing up on a stage and presenting something. Whether a keynote, or a quarterly budget report.
The glare of lights (or eyes, or Zoom boxes).
The complexity of distributed eye contact when more than 7 people are present.
Imposter syndrome dialogues in your head.*shudder*
Yet, when someone new to the speaking-circuit expresses nervous anxiety around it, they are often greeted with banal advice like ‘try a joke at the start, it’ll reduce the tension’.
Nope. I’d argue that’s the worst idea ever.
We tend to assume that comedians just show up and perform. And that we all should be able to do it too, or we’re not actually funny.
It takes a lot to pull off a joke, folx. Most comics would tell you they pre-write their jokes, even the ones that sound effortless and spur-of-the-moment.
“I assume the confusion stems from how stand-up routines often have the feel of the spontaneous conversations you have with your friends. In fact those jokes have been written, rewritten and honed in front of audiences, sometimes over the span of years. Making something so rehearsed feel natural is one of the skills stand-ups develop over time.” according to Alex Kerri of Fucking Comedy… Just Comedy (on Quora)
So, really, by holding up the direct delivery of humour as the standard for the mainstream, we’re setting ourselves up to fail when it comes to incorporating entertainment in our content.
So what instead?
I’ll tell you. But first. Absorb this!
(Very important lesson number 7 in entertaining with your content) Humour is not confined to the performance format.
Turn your attention to these 4 stellar examples of entertaining content creators.
One in each medium common to the digital world – written, visual, video and audio.
First, say hello to Cole Schafer. One of the most entertaining writers of our times. He’s not funny ha-ha in the least. It’s MUCH more nuanced, considered, and filled with advanced references that make his writing addictively readable.
That is the opener to one of his weekly emails 👆
1. The headline draws you in by being just unfamiliar enough and just short enough.
2. In the first line he uses that straight faced humour thing that some people do so well. In which they say something quite different to what you thought they were going to say.
As you dive further into it, you find this 👇
That’s when you start to discover Cole’s mastery in the medium.
1. The use of Japanese is not just a click-bait (note: Aishiteimasu is “I love you” in Japanese)
2. This is a really entertaining telling of a tale of the human condition (he’s talking about his recollection of his grandmother’s funeral juxtaposed against the loss a friend)
3. And through it all he’s putting on display (authentically) his superb sale-able skill – writing.
4. And lastly, this isn’t just a one-off. He always writes as gorgeously as this.
“Ok, Susan! Of course the writers know how to do this. This still sounds highly lust worthy but unachievable for my data-driven world of *insert your boring topic of choice here*”
“Data-driven” you said?
Well, I’m so glad you did. Say hello to one of my favourite doodlers, Michelle Rial
Michelle brings together “introspective turmoil, boring charts (and) comedy with a handful of small, shaky lines, some all caps’d text, an oval or two, and ironically corporate scatter plots, venn diagrams and pie charts”
This incredible venn diagram 👇 that mashes up the immigrant experience with the sentiments and lyrics of “My Shot” from Hamilton, the musical, is legendary 👏
She touches on subjects of deep significance with sensitivity and insight, wrapped up in a super endearing style of sketching that makes for FINE content.
Yas, people, yas.
If the writers and the doodlers can entertain, imagine what regular, non-stand-up-comic folx can do on video? Allow me to introduce you to media artist, singer/songwriter and TikTok sensation, Sheena Melwani who has 6.8 million followers that tune in to watch her laugh (and laugh with her).
Sheena’s videos involve her doing something mundane when her partner ‘The Real Indian dad” who only ever appears in her videos as a memoji, interrupts and makes her laugh.
Sheena says their collaboration began randomly and at the start of the pandemic when she, like many others, began to do things to stay connected online. As a musician, “I started doing live concerts on my Facebook page, where I’d take requests, almost like a human jukebox, three times a week. Then I decided to record a song after one of my online sessions to post on Instagram. The song was Saxe’s “If the World Was Ending.”
As I started the song, the heckling started. I decided to keep singing, fully expecting to delete the video. But after seeing how we both were laughing so hard, I decided to post it on my TikTok page” (where she had 8 followers)
The rest is viral social history at his best. Being remembered as that laughing lady on TikTik is a rich legacy to leave in the world in the year of a pandemic.
In this video, JP Saxe returned the favor with a duet using audio from Sheena’s “Interrupted” series 👇
Hey Alexa, play a podcast!
And finally, my personal favourite medium, the audio medium. And if you haven’t heard it yet, get right on this podcast 👉 Sidenote by ASAPscience. Meet Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, podcasters and YouTubers extraordinaire.
In the podcast, each week Mitch and Greg explain the science behind a new subject. Using “studies, anecdotes and interviews” to keep people entertained while learning.
And of course, people who know how to entertain this sumptuously in their content have content on the subject of laughter.
“Laughter is a beautiful, biological cue to those around you that you are safe” says Gregory Brown in this episode of their podcast where they talk about the science of what makes something funny. Here’s the video 👇
Did you see the little clue I left in that last paragraph? No? We’ll it’s pretty big and shaped like a video 🙂 See how the podcasters are also funny on video? And not even just this one series.
But more on that next week. What happens next week? We talk about how you take some of that levity you have going in one medium or format, and transfer/repurpose it to others.