Victor Borge, the late, great, Danish comedian once said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."

Well, it can also be the longest yard in trying to make an audience laugh, as I tell you what happened to me when I once performed on a cruise ship.

Remember: when it comes to public speaking start powerfully to get the “undivided” attention of your listeners and then build to a large close.

I thought! Oh, my God... I-Am-In-The-Bermuda-Triangle-of-Humor!

So there I was performing on a huge show stage in the middle of international waters. On the night before was a variety act aptly called, “The Village Idiots.”

Yes, that was their name. They juggled fire, machetes, bowling balls, and walked on stilts. Great guys, very amusing and good performers. FAST FORWARD to the next night when it was “my turn” to perform for these people.

When I hit the stage that night I felt a little cocky because I came up with what I “believed” was a very funny opening line.

I went out and looked at my audience which consisted of over fifteen hundred seniors (seventies, eighties and upwards) and said, “Hello folks… what a pleasure being here.

Did you enjoy “The Village Idiots” last night? (AUDIENCE APPLAUSE) Well, I’ve know them for years… I’ve known theses guys since they were morons.”

COMPLETE SILENCE. I was stunned. It was like, “Uh, oh… Houston we have a problem.” Not even a smattering of laughter. I am talking NADA!

What happened? I know that was a funny joke. And it was: for a younger, hipper, crowd who got the sarcasm and play on words.

Fogel’s humor tip: I don’t care how seasoned a pro you are… never open with an unproven joke or humorous story. And most of all… know who your audience is.

What I learned about elderly people is that they somehow “lose” the sarcasm gene once they age. Yes, I believe it will happen to all of us. (sigh)

You see, seniors, don’t find this type of humor amusing. In fact, if it doesn’t sound like a joke to them they will invariably take it as face value.

Yes, all these seniors somehow collectively “thought” I was insulting “The Village Idiots” – you guessed it -- by calling them morons.

Funny bit; wrong audience. “Me bad.”

Luckily, I recovered to go on to have a good show. But, I had to win them back.

PLEASE don’t ever make the same mistake. If you have to break in a new bit or tell a humorous story do it in the middle of your speech and always have a back up, a saver one–liner, if it falls flat.

Author's Bio: 

Peter “The Reinvention Guy” Fogel is a humorist, speaker, seminar leader and proud member of the National Speakers Association. He delivers presentations on humor, reinvention, copywriting and marketing to corporation and associations across America and parts of Jersey. Peter’s specialty is delivering strong content with an equally humorous side. Just as important he can show you how to take a stale presentation & boost it with humor for optimal LAUGHS!

As an information marketer he is also the creator of Peter Fogel’s Guide to Effective Public Speaking. For more information on his products, more articles, and to sign up for his FREE 7 Days to Effective Public Speaking E-course, go to