The two years I spent on the comedy circuit was hard work but a lot of fun. I learned three fundamentals of comedy that formed my approach to education.
Let’s dive in.
Fundamental #1: Jokes need their audience to take agency
A joke takes the audience to a chasm, then relies on them to leap to the other side. If the chasm is small there is no sense of payoff and the joke is met with a sigh. If the chasm is too large they will fall and stop trusting that you are funny. The distance needs to be just right to get them to safe ground.
Enabling a learner to be responsible to take their own leap in learning can transform their life. Telling a learner information might help impart knowledge for an exam, but it won’t be meaningful. It won’t grow them as a learner and they’ll likely forget it.
Fundamental #2: Economy of words
Joke writing is about getting rid of words that aren’t necessary. The sooner you get to the punchline the sooner you get to the laughter.
Meaningful learning happens when the teacher gets out of the way. Learners will thank you for your economy of words. The sooner you say what you need to say the sooner they can engage in the process. Too much teacher talk will likely disengage the learner. Hand responsibility for learning over to them.
Fundamental #3: Finding your voice
It can take a comedian years to find their voice. UK comedian Jack Dee decided to give up comedy after an unsuccessful few years. He turned up to his farewell gig annoyed, which gave his jokes a pessimistic energy. The audience found it hilarious and he found his voice.
Outstanding comedians communicate their character immediately. They usually get a laugh before they’ve told a joke. Understanding a person and their motivation is the foundation of trust. Laughter is more abundant when the audience trusts the comedian is funny. In the same way a person will learn more from a teacher they trust. A good teacher has found their voice, their learners understand them and they trust them. Trust enables the learner freedom to fail, to be themselves and to celebrate success.
I hope these three fundamentals of stand up comedy can redefine who you are as an educator.
Oh and one last thing to learn from stand up comedy, make it enjoyable for them!
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