4 out of 4 stars
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“He’s as sharp as a balloon.” “You’re like the skinny nerdy version of Drake.” Do you hear people make these clever comments and wonder how they came up with them on the fly? Me too. I’m lucky if I can come up with words at all, let alone funny ones. See, that was humor – not great humor, granted. Laughing at yourself is just one of the techniques discussed by Gregory Peart in his 2019 nonfiction book, You Can Be Funny and Make People Laugh.
The book is a practical guide to conversational humor. It’s not a book of jokes. It won’t teach you how to tell a joke, either, but it could make you funnier and more interesting. Interjecting a little appropriate fun and playfulness into a conversation elicits an emotional response and allows us to relate to each other and feel more connected.
After years of watching funny people, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, and Conan O’Brien, the author discovered good humor comes from observing your surroundings and observing yourself. He breaks down his guidance into 35 techniques, giving real-life examples of each one and providing a brief analysis of why they work. Exaggeration, misdirection, and hypotheticals are among the many memorable techniques.
The importance of delivery is emphasized at every turn, and Peart shares some of his delivery secrets. He demonstrates by building dialogues around each technique and offers homework ideas. As a bonus, the Recommended Viewing section provides links to real examples of the techniques. From the masterfully self-deprecating Jennifer Lawrence and Conan O’Brien to Barack Obama, demonstrating the “Rule of Three” technique, these clips are funny.
I enjoyed reading this book, not because it made me laugh uproariously; that isn’t the point of the book. It caused me to think about how I interact with others. It spotlighted some common tendencies, like retreating into a “Literal Larry” persona when you (I) could be taking risks and making things interesting. The author’s tone is playful, in a brass-tacks sort of way. I appreciate Peart’s grasp of the vulnerability humor demands and his encouragement to push through it. I remember watching Johnny Carson (yep, I’m old) and being impressed with his ability to capitalize on the audience’s reaction to a joke that bombed. He eventually got the laugh, one way or another. In that vein, the book encourages learning to laugh at your own failed attempts at humor. It’s a tightrope not everyone can walk, but it’s a great exercise in authenticity and humility.
Technically, the book is very solid. The consistent structure and the step-by-step teaching style make the information digestible and the techniques, achievable. The examples helped, and I can see how rehearsing them could be fun, especially with a safe friend to practice with. I was impressed that the author stayed away from cruel and hurtful techniques. Humor that is achievable only at the expense of others is a comedy cop out, and Peart doesn’t go there. The book is professionally edited; I found only a handful of minor errors.
Gregory Peart is a skilled writer; he has authored numerous books in the realm of social skills. He definitely hit the mark with You Can Be Funny and Make People Laugh. I gladly rate the book 4 out of 4 stars for its solid, accessible guidance and compassionate, playful tone. I was in a really good mood after reading the book, and I encourage adults and young adults to try it. It would also make a great gift for your “Literal Larry” friends. If being funnier and more interesting in everyday interactions appeals to you, you will enjoy this book. If it doesn’t appeal to you, the book might be perfect for you.
You Can Be Funny and Make People Laugh
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