My first speech I thought was honestly successful was a roast-styled introduction to Seth MacFarlane, where I lampooned him throughout the speech. Being able to poke fun at things, get people to laugh, was something I realized helped me connect to the audience, and helped keep their attention throughout the speech. It kept my anxiety a bit lower, and I honestly thought it made the time run through faster. Even better, because of how much a joke depends on timing, from set up to punch line, it took a large amount of preparation and practice to set up.
The audience loved it, as did my professor. I learned that laughter’s certainly a powerful tool to any public speaker, just as sharp as a well placed pause and endears one’s self to the audience, as a good joke can occasionally add points to a detailed argument (Bjorklund, 1985 p33, p.39). In addition, a joke requires the speaker to put in extra effort, checking body language not to spoil the delivering, not laughing at the joke too soon, keeping one’s smile under control till the joke’s been delivered, and using all of one’s body posture to tell the joke well (Bjorklund, 1985 p. 39).
This isn’t to say that humor fits in all cases, or is a cure-all to any speech. A joke is fine when it’s short and to make a point, but long, drawn out, and pointless, it weakens your overall message and direction (Bjorklund, 1985 p. 40). Even more so, one has to realize how tiring joke after joke can get, as each one made can tire the audience or drown out the message. In occasions when humor would make a point, there are those situations where it is not appropriate or called for, like a business setting where it could be taken as a mark of immaturity rather than wit. The art of the joke is something hard to master, and difficult to work over, but truly it is one of the best assets a speaker has, next to a well-placed pause and eye contact.
Bjorklund, D. (1985). Joking: Humor and demeanor in a public speaking club . Symbolic Interaction, 8(1), 33-46.