Last month Katrine and I did trade show presentations for an audience of cancer doctors. (I wrote about how we dealt with that in my previous article: “That’s Not Funny.” This month, I pick up where we left off.)
The main tactic Katrine and I employed in our comedy writing for this gig was: Attack the periphery. Rather than making jokes about cancer, we made jokes about machines that are used to fight cancer.
This flanking attack allowed us to be funny about a topic that most people would consider out of bounds and to do it without offending our audience or our client.
And while it’s possible you will never have to do a comedy show specifically about cancer, at some point you will have to be funny about a situation that is equally sensitive, so here are some suggestions from your comedy juggling pals on how to make jokes about things that are definitely NOT FUNNY, like cancer, genocide, hypnotists, or poi:
1. Establish the right context
2. Establish your right to the context
3. Give the audience permission to laugh
4. Attack the periphery
5. Apologize in advance
6. Never apologize
7. Be ready to take the heat
8. Play the fool
9. Don’t be an idiot
10. Just don’t do it
I created this list with the help of Greg Dean, Thomas John, Mark Hayward, Frank Olivier, Jon Wee, Scot Nery, Dan Holzman, and of course Katrine Spang-Hanssen to ensure that most of the information below would be wrong.
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