OK If I Laugh Now?

It seems the jury is out on this one, with opinion divided on whether or not it is okay to laugh at your own jokes. Maybe it's just me (although I doubt it given the number of comedians and humorous speakers who also laugh at their own jokes.

But I believe the aim of a speaker is to connect with the audience, and sharing a laugh is the perfect bridge to achieve that.

Speakers are entertainers. Entertainers do it because not only do they love what they're doing, they love the interaction with and the reaction of the audience.

Entertainers get up there on stage and they have a great time because they love to entertain and share what they do with their audience.

As a speaker, you also want to interact with a room full of people and the only way to do that is to share and be a part of the experience with them.

Of course, this also depends on your presentation style… the persona you present on stage. So if this means your style is to laugh at your own jokes, so be it. Whatever works. (With the emphasis being on "works".)

Different types of humor and presentation styles can determine whether or not you should laugh at your own jokes on stage.

Obviously, some deliveries would be ruined if the presenter laughed first or loudest, although a huge grin or even a cheeky chuckle is used to great effect by many speakers and comedians.

They may not burst into loud guffaws at some of their funniest witticisms, but you can see by the twitch of their mouths and the glint in their eyes that they're having a good laugh inside.

You can tell by their facial expressions that they are enjoying themselves and they're having a great time making you have a great time. You can't help but smile with them.

Many comedians also get the biggest laughs delivering their funniest lines with deadpan, serious expressions, taking their audience by surprise.

And some humorous talks would be ruined were the presenter to be overly amused the entire time by his own cleverness – especially if the audience wasn't on the same wave length and didn't find him amusing.

On the other hand, some of the funniest comedians in the world laugh at their own jokes, and crack up in the middle of telling them – and even though the audience has no idea of what they're about to say, just the histrionics of the entertainer is enough to make them start laughing too. Think about Robin Williams and Billy Connolly.

Billy Connolly has made it a trademark almost – he's been doing it forever. Not everything he says is pants-splitting hilarious, but his reaction, bouncing around the stage laughing his head off and obviously having a great time is so contagious, it spills over to his audience who can't help but laugh with him.

Of course, sometimes you don't want to laugh because you'll give it away that a joke is imminent and ruin it for your audience.

You want to take them by surprise. This is when you need to develop the deadpan expression so you don't give away any clues that something very special and funny is coming. On the other hand, if you were a Billy Connolly, with his special style, you could probably get away with cracking up before the punchline… but not all comedians and speakers can get away with this.

You have to develop your own style and then stick with it because your audience will come to know you in that style, understand your cues, and interact with you on that level.

Then there are those people who think if you laugh, the audience may fake laughter to save face if they didn't find your joke as funny as you did and you'll end up looking stupid.

I don't necessarily agree. Audiences aren't always that kind. If your joke is that terrible in the first place, they're not going to laugh whether you do or not.

In fact, as laughter is infectious, if your joke is terrible, maybe getting them in the mood to laugh is not such a bad idea… Laugh and the world laughs with you!

If it is appropriate and natural and fits in with your on stage persona and presentation style, it doesn't really matter if you laugh at your own jokes because in doing so, you can also build up more of a rapport between yourself and your audience.

But it must be genuine and not staged or planned because people aren't stupid and can tell the difference. If the presenter is relaxed and obviously having fun and also having a laugh, the audience will respond in kind.

They will also relax and start to enjoy themselves and open up to a good laugh, and they'll be more inclined to react this way if they actually believe what you are telling them and that you are genuinely enjoying yourself, too.

The secret is not to overdo it. Try not to laugh at all your jokes… leave some surprises!

Laughter is not only infectious, it relaxes people. When people are relaxed, they let their guard down.

What happens when people are relaxed and let their guard down? They are more approachable and more receptive to you and your ideas. Bingo!

This is exactly what you, as a speaker, have been aiming for, because it creates an atmosphere where you and your audience can truly interact in a meaningful way.

What else does your laughter tell your audience? It tells them that it's okay for them to laugh and have fun, too. You're having a great time… and so should they.

When a whole room is laughing you can feel the energy! When you can interact with your audience like this and reap this response, you'll get your message across more easily – because you'll have them on your side.

If you're recalling a funny story for your audience, it's okay to laugh. After all, as the storyteller, it is expected that you know what is coming and if you find it funny, all well and good, and they are gearing up to be amused by it as well.

Besides, there is something warm and connecting watching somebody who is obviously having a wonderful time and laughing. You find the corners of your mouth twitching for no apparent reason other than laughing and smiling is infectious!

You can help get your audience in the mood by getting in the mood first.

Also, some intricately involved stories sometimes require that you chuckle or laugh at the right place to let the audience know it's time to laugh.

It's a matter of personal style but regardless of your own style, it won't take long before your audience will figure you out, and they'll pick up on your body language and facial expressions and they will know when it is time to laugh or at least when it is okay to laugh.

So, back to the question… should you laugh at your own jokes?

At the end of the day, it's your call. If it comes naturally to you and if it works with your style to have a belly laugh with the audience at your own jokes, do it.

Keep in mind, less can be more… but most important, if you're obviously enjoying yourself, you're giving your audience permission to let their hair down and enjoy the experience with you.

Author's Bio: 

Before Peter reinvented himself from a successful stand-up comic into an in-demand speaker, freelance advertising copywriter/problem solver, he worked on many TV shows, including Married With Children, Hope and Faith, and Whoopi.
He is the author of the critically acclaimed book If Not Now... Then When?: Stories and Strategies of People Over 40 Who Have Successfully Reinvented Themselves.
For info on his book and to sign up for his FREE Reinvent This! E-zine and get his 4-in-1 Total Success Reinvention Package (a $75 value). Go to www.reinventyourselfnow.com/reboot-your-career/

If you're interested in public speaking, please sign up for Peter's FREE 7 Days to MORE Effective Public Speaking e-course (a $125 value) and get FREE Mp3 downloads at www.publicspeaklikeapro.com.