Poking Fun At Ourselves Just Got Easier and More Fun
Poking Fun At Ourselves Just Got Easier and More Fun
"I would use self-deprecating humor if I were any good at it.
Wait, is that it?"
The #1 style of humor recommended by speaking experts is self-deprecating humor. The idea being, if you’re the butt of the joke, then no one else is likely to be offended. Most importantly, if done well, it humanizes you and makes you fun, relatable, and likable.
"It's been said that self-deprecating humor is the touchstone
of the soul because when you can make others laugh at your
expense - you are really making them laugh at themselves.
Self-deprecating humor is taking any flaw that you have,
whether physical, reputational, or personal, that would
otherwise, be unflattering, and turning it into a 'self-
deprecating asset' making you more 'relatable' and
'likable' than if you highlighted your 'successful' assets."
It is not hard to poke fun at ourselves given we do funny things worthy of self-deprecating humor every day. For example:
You find nothing good to eat in the fridge, so you close it. Then you stare at the door. Then you open it again to give it one more chance.
You're driving and you realize you’re lost - you feel an urge to turn the radio down.
You can’t have a long conversation on the phone without doing a full walking tour of your home.
You immediately go back and read an email right after you hit send.
You still unconsciously think of the '90s as being 10 years ago.
You can't sleep and have to get up early for work: "I can have about 6 hours, 21 minutes, and 48 seconds of sleep if I fall asleep right now."
You feel guilty that you're not helping when a repair guy is fixing something in your house.
On a road trip, you start to think of the other cars as your travel companions and feel a tinge of sadness when you exit the highway.
About 10% of your shower time is devoted to washing yourself.
The rest is you having an imaginary conversation with someone.
When you pick
up steel tongs for
a barbeque do
So yes, you're funny. Very funny.
The Bread and Butter of Self-Deprecating Humor
In his article, Funny How a Sense of Humor Helps Get Your Point Across, Doug Stevenson lays bare the silliness that we don't
have any self-deprecating stories to tell about ourselves.
"Get this -- you are a walking, talking, breathing joke waiting to happen. Every day you make silly mistakes and do dumb things. In trying to get your act together, it occasionally falls apart. You stumble into tables and chairs and drop things. You miss freeway exits and drop your soda in your lap while talking on the cell phone. You run off to a meeting and forget the contract that you were hoping to get signed. What makes you funny is that you are completely and totally fallible and human.You can be neurotic too. Embrace it. Share it. It's your funny and nobody can do it quite like you."
Are you a neat freak? Make fun of your tendency to organize.
A control freak? Have fun with your fondness for delegating.
Are you data-driven? Poke fun at your refusal to guesstimate?
He suggests some easy places to look for Self-Deprecating humor:
He described a speaker who wanted to poke fun at 'management by the book' and told a story about how he
approached household chores the same way he managed -- by the book. He couldn't even iron a shirt without consulting the manual for the iron. By allowing his behavior to appear ridiculous, he got a laugh and made his point. What is your particular foible? Exploit it for laughs and your audience not only will laugh with you -- they'll learn how to laugh at themselves as well.
A great place to look for self-deprecating stories is
whatever we do for the first time. For example...
Hosting your first virtual meeting.
Using online presentation software and then not being able to find the link.
Not being able to figure out how to turn off the self-driving feature on your new Tesla.
Cooking your first Flambé.
Teaching your grandmother to use an IPad.
Trying to get a family of raccoons out of your basement.
Ice Skating, Snow Skiing, or Water Skiing for the first time.
Meditating for the first time.
Putting together an Ikea bedroom cabinet.
Giving yourself a haircut during a pandemic.
Explaining to your kid why learning math is important when computers do absolutely everything.
I'm sure you have your own favorite firsts.
Usually, they're not so funny at the time, but with the formula, "pain + time = laughter'' telling your story later can make for a wonderful ice-breaking, relatable, entertaining anecdote.
Choosing a Good Self-Deprecating Flaw
The bread and butter topics of self-effacing humor have people poking fun at their height, hair, age, name, personal foibles, and failures. We thought you would enjoy perusing some self-deprecating one-liners others have had success with so you can consider following in their humor-tested footsteps. Feel free to use one that feels right for your situation and sense of humor:
Suppose you’re tall. You can quip that you are the first one to know it’s raining.
Conversely, if you’re short you can joke that you are the last one to know when it’s raining.
Someone who is bald can crack jokes about being “follically challenged.”
"My girlfriend has started calling my hair "the economy"
because it’s begun showing strong signs of recession."
"My wife is the one who talked me into shaving my head. She said I’d look much younger and I do. I now look like I’m a week old."
"My hair isn't grey. I'm just growing tinsel."
A Jewish person with a large nose can say, “I’m thinking about getting a nose job so I can look more Jewish." (Alicia Dattner, Jewish)
Some believe being older could be a liability for a speaker, but with the right touch of self-deprecating humor, you can put the issue to rest right away:
"The best part about getting older is there is very little peer
"I'm happy to say at my age I still love playing golf, but now they make me settle up after every hole."
Poking Fun at Your Name
For many of us, a fun easy place for us to share some self-deprecating humor is our name. Here are some examples:
Keynote Speaker, Burt Teplitzky, decided to go with a joke about his last name: “You’ve all seen my last name before, ‘Teplitzky’ It’s the bottom line on all the eye charts.”
HumorPoint Founders both have last names worthy of humor:
When, Sally Baack PhD., is invited to speak at a conference for a second year in a row her opening PowerPoint slide might say "I'm Baack." (a little Terminator throwback humor.) Or because she is the mother of three chickens at home she can let her audience know how proud she is that they all have learned to say their last name.
When Robert Bostick speaks, everyone in his audience hopes to receive a free Bostitch stapler under their seat. So as not to disappoint them he promises, "You can all pick up your free Bostitch stapler at Staples. Just tell them Robert Bostick sent you." His middle name 'Quick' also has lots of room for fun. He lets his audience know he uses it as a quick reminder to slow down.
If you have an unusual name have some fun with it. It makes for easy self-deprecating humor and adds to your humanness and likability.
A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words
In addition to any of the previous options we've shared, we want to suggest another innovative idea: share a classic, funny, self-deprecating photo of yourself. Not a photo that in any way denigrates you, but a photo that humanizes you in a charming and likable way - a photo that once seen is never forgotten - in a good way.
To demonstrate the idea let’s start with some self-deprecating photos of Robert Bostick, the founder of HumorPoint, and see how he uses them in his presentations.
From Cereal to Serial Entrepreneur
Here, he found a photo of himself in a suit at age 4 and matched it with a photo of himself in a suit a few years later. He began his presentation with this:
“At age 4, after reading Dress for Success, and living on a daily diet of Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs, I dreamed of becoming a cerial entrepreneur. Today, I’m happy to say I have realized that dream and brought a box of Lucky Charms to celebrate. Unfortunately, they were out of Cocoa Puffs.”
You can see how the photos above and his light story poking fun at himself can offer a nice touch of self-deprecating humor. He has many photos he likes to use. Below he shares the text of the remarks he accompanies with this classic photo.
"In life when you reach a fork in the road it's important to know what your goals are. This is me at a fork in the road hitchhiking around the U.S. in my early twenties. My 'pick-up' sign caused people to pull over at 80mph on every interstate. Mainly mothers.”
Sometimes he shares this photo to emphasize the value of customer service by saying "Here at HumorPoint we believe it's important to give our customers lots of treats."
A funny personal photo lets you deliver a business point while sharing a nice touch of humanizing, likable humor where the joke is not only on you, it is you - in an endearing and likable way. It might be a photo of you working at your first job bussing or waiting tables - or bagging groceries - or driving a tractor - or milking a cow on your family farm. The possibilities are as endless as any photo ever taken of you.
It could even be a hilarious video of you on National TV.
HumorPoint's Founder, Robert Bostick, from His Cable TV Talk Show
Public Speaking Self-Deprecating Humor Guidance
As a public speaker, if you're the expert and the audience has been told how wonderful you are, that is always a great time for a little self-deprecating humor to knock yourself down a notch. Although self-deprecating humor is almost always a good choice - here is a little guidance to always use it in the best possible light:
1.) Self-deprecation does not mean self-flagellation. A classic example is Al Gore making fun of himself for being stiff. One or two jokes are funny. Ten jokes are too much - and repeated over and over they only serve to remind people that he really is stiff.
2.) If you are poking fun at one of your shortcomings, especially one which is shared by many others, people may feel that the zinger is aimed at them also. For example. if you make jokes about you carrying a few extra pounds, you may not get laughs from someone dieting and watching the scale. Preferably the humor you use lightens up everyone.
The purpose of self-deprecating humor is to let everyone enjoy a moment of feeling superior to your flaws and imperfections. An embarrassing calamity story that highlights your humanness and universal relatable foibles is a safe bet.
3. Poke fun only at your professional short-comings with which you are at peace and be very selective. Best not to make a joke about something that is annoying that people are waiting for you to correct - like how you're always late to meetings.
Also, self-deprecating jokes don't have to be all about you. You can poke fun at a funny named group in which you have a membership, 'The Club of Amazing Master Marketeers'; or playfully towards the group you're speaking to by poking a little fun at our shared technology addiction, "Thank you for putting your phones away. I realize even though we're not looking at our phones, it doesn't mean we're not thinking about them."
Your successes aren't what make you likable. Your failures are. This is why funny enough when you tell a joke badly, it can make you look good.
Remember a nice touch of self-deprecating wit humanizes you as
a presenter and gets people to relate to you right away - exactly
when you want them to. Towards that end here are some of our
favorite self-deprecating one-liners:
"I noticed a few of you came early to get a good seat…in the back."
"The one phrase that always wakes up my audience I usually save to the end: But today I'm going to start off with it, "And in conclusion.”
"The best way to start any speech is by saying "I'm going to make this quick."
"I don't mind you looking at your watch while I give my presentation, but please do me the courtesy of not tapping it to see if it is still working."
"Most of the speakers you’ll hear today constitute a sort of a who’s who in the industry. I’m more in the category of "Who’s he?”
My wife gave me some last-minute advice before I came out to speak. “Don't try to be charming, witty, or intellectual. Just be yourself."
"I may not be that funny or athletic or good looking or smart or talented or - I forgot where I was going with this."
by Robert Bostick
"Everyone is raving about the Tesla these days but the problem with the Tesla is when you drive it, it has a big blind spot in the back. Now to be fair to Tesla, I have a big blind spot too. It’s called my life." Robert Bostick
"As a presenter, I realize until I make you laugh you will still be deciding whether or not you like me. Thank you for being patient." Robert Bostick
"I don't know why but my mind is always talking to me.
I think it's lonely." Robert Bostick
"My #1 goal in life is to steer clear of the bad neighborhoods of my mind. Whenever I end up there I always get roughed up.
Self-Deprecating Humor Examples and Advocates
Robert Bostick, HumorPoint CEO
"People Say I'm Condescending."
This self-deprecating gem lets any leader poke fun at him or herself.
Robert Bostick HumorPoint CEO
"Over One Million Views"
This demonstrates how a failure makes
for perfect self-deprecating humor.
President National Speakers Association
"The highest form of humility
is the ability to laugh at yourself."
The Power of Humor at Work
"A smart, self-deprecating sense of humor can boost your status."
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