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How to Make People Laugh

comedy laughter leadership Jul 11, 2019

So, you want to make people laugh, huh? That’s easy! Okay, maybe not. But don’t worry! I’m here to help. Let’s dive into some scenarios and I’ll give you some things to keep in mind before your meeting, performance, company party, or whatever you’ve got going on! 

There are a lot of steps to leveraging other people’s laughter. So, let’s break it down. 

What’s the setting?

  • Are you in a meeting?
  • Are you performing?
  • Are you at work?
  • Are you at a company party?

The setting matters! Things that are allowed to be said during a performance versus a business meeting are COMPLETELY different.

Be sure to keep in mind: 

  1. Where you are
  2. Who you’re with

Before letting all of your family holiday party jokes fly, consider your audience. If you have to think about whether or not something is appropriate—play it safe and leave it out. You’re a creative person! Find a better alternative.

Details, Details, Details!

Don’t forget about the details! There are plenty of nuances in your setting.

Here are some key things to keep in mind:


  • Lighting – Can everyone see your facial expressions? Or is it too dark? This could impact how something you say is interpreted.
  • Seating – Can everyone see you? Are people spread out or close together? Can they see each other? Getting this right can help you leverage the contagious effect of laughter and audience engagement. (Can you say "mirror neurons"?)
  • Group size – Although it can be nerve-wracking for some people to stand in front of a large crowd, it’s actually easier to get them laughing! Leverage social proof. Getting even part of your audience to laugh can help do some of the work for you.
  • Atmosphere – Does your audience have energy? High energy crowds are the best! If you’re talking to them after a long lunch meeting, conference or presentation, make sure you find something to get the energy level up! Use a "pattern interrupt" to get their energy up: get them to move, get them to interact, or get them to laugh. This will get their energy up—and higher energy means higher responsiveness to your humor.

Learn to leverage your environment

One of the biggest keys in getting people to laugh, especially in a group setting, is to make sure they can see each other. Whenever possible, make sure you leverage the seating so that people can make eye contact with other people. 


Because laughter is contagious!

Trust me. It makes things SO much easier. Our brains contain mirror neurons and when we can see others smile and laugh, we automatically respond in kind. And when we hear laughter—even if we don't know why others are laughing—we begin to laugh as well (thus the science behind sitcom laugh tracks). If you keep these factors in mind—then the next time someone in your audience starts to bust up laughing, you’ll quickly have your whole audience belly laughing!

IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t want people to be TOO comfortable.

For example, a group of people that just ate a huge meal maybe had a couple of drinks, and are ready for a nap…probably not the right audience! They’re just focused on getting back to their Puffy Lux. Make sure you and the audience are in the right state of mind. You want a crowd to have energy that you can harness and turn that into laughter!

Tap into their pain

Now, the pain has to be something they’re emotionally detached from. It's a bit of a delicate balance. Zero discomfort will result in indifference. However, if it sparks a threat response, the humor will fall flat.

For example - The lack of parking in your organization.

  • Everyone can relate to it (commonly held experience)
  • It’s safe (nobody will get offended!)
  • It’s only a minor stressor and joking about it can help people put it in perspective

 "Here at Acme Corp, "getting lucky" means finding a parking place!"

Weave some things in that come with a little bit of pressure. Leverage the pressure and give them release.

Boom! You just successfully leveraged laughter!

If you’re looking for more high-performance humor tips – check out my social!

Connect with Me!

YouTube: Karyn Buxman
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: Karyn Buxman Speaks
LinkedIn: Karyn Buxman

Karyn Buxman is a TEDx speaker, author, and neurohumorist (she lives at the intersection of humor and the brain.) A pioneer in the emerging science of applied humor, Karyn helps high performers expand their influence, strengthen their relationships, and boost their resilience. From the Mayo Clinic to the Million Dollar Round Table, organizations around the world hire Karyn to educate, inspire, and entertain their audiences again and again. She’s one of 194 people (and only 43 women) in the world to be inducted into the National Speakers Association's Speaker Hall of Fame. Her latest book, Funny Means Money will be published by Forbes in 2019. Karyn is serious about humor!


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