Lenny Ravich
Adding Humor to Your Keynote

Adding Humor to Your Keynote

April 14, 2023

Hi. Lenny Ravich here. I have been blessed to have written the bestselling book, “Everlasting Optimism” and grateful to be a humorous keynote speaker in London.

 I will be 87 in July. Last week, I got on a bus and a lovely woman smiled at me. I smiled back. She got up and walked toward me as my heart beat out of my chest. “Would you like to sit down, sir? You can have my seat.”  Well, what did you expect? I was pregnant at the time.   

 Adding Humor to Keynotes

 I have had professionals ask me, “Can you give me some tips on how to use humor in my keynote speeches?” My answer is that there is no formula or solution. Humor is a process to be practiced.

Perhaps you have heard the story of young boy who gets lost in Manhattan. He asked an elderly gentleman, “Sir, can you tell me how I can get to Carnegie Hall?” The older man’s answer is, “Practice, my son. Lots of practice.”

I have traveled this road all my life, taken the blows, and kept walking. I can only encourage you to take that first step. I may be able to give you a few tips, but the hunting will have to be done by you.

People Love “Acted Out” Stories

When I speak I offer my audiences images, metaphors and stories. I act them out. That’s the entertainment element. I talk about how my school administrators recommended that I be referred to a special education class when I was twelve. I was diagnosed as being overly joyous. I used to eat make believe peanut butter and cracker sandwiches during lessons to the delight of my classmates.  As I retell this vignette, I pantomime eating. M-mm. Delicious. It has a hypnotic effect. Though it didn’t work that way for my teachers! 

 I talk about my mother’s sense of humor and how it was passed on to me. She ate garlic every night before bed. (One night she forgot and HERE I AM!  But I digress).  “Mom, why do you eat garlic at night?” She explained, “If the angel of death comes, I’ll wake up and ask, “Whooooooo is it?”

A message is more readily received with a representation. I stand on stage as if holding a bowling ball. I pantomime throwing it with much concentration so as to knock down as many pins as possible. BUT! The bowling ball is headed toward the gutter. I demonstrate my dismay by trying to control the ball by making absurd faces and contorting my body to get it back on track.  I turn to the spectators and ask, “Is that familiar in your life? Is that how you want to live?” One picture and my message is predictable, most often with smiles. Now I can proceed to the narrative as to how this has happened in my life and how I overcame it. Can you think of an image you could use to enhance your meaning? Entertain them and they will remember.

The Ego

I am aware of my constant struggle with my ego. My show could be a great hit on any given night. However, if one person in the audience yawns or doesn’t laugh, I go into a fit. I’m attached to the unattainable belief that everyone must like me.

A man approached me in the supermarket to tell me how much he enjoyed my show. Instead of thanking him, I asked, “Was that the Thursday night or the Saturday night show?”            

Am I neurotic, overly sensitive, or manic-depressive? Maybe all three. Nobody says I have to be perfect. When I realize that I’m asking for the impossible I gently deal with this by joking and laughing at myself. 

Laughing at Myself

Making fun of ourselves does not belittle us. The opposite is true. It makes us stronger. Teaching an audience to laugh at themselves is a healing process.

I was arrested and spent some time in police detention for a mistake that I will talk about in another blog. I wrote to my wife, “You must be all worn out worrying about me. Perhaps we could trade places for a little while so that you could get some rest.” She didn’t think that was funny.

The night before his demise an inmate wrote, “The food in the Nazi death camp is really insufficient; but then again, I don’t think it is their intention to try and fatten us up. “Self-Humor has even eased the tragedy of facing death.      

A woman came up to me before my keynote presentation in London and said, “I came to laugh. It’s been a long time.” I asked her why the lengthy wait and her straight forward answer was: “I lost my son in a traffic accident. I’ve suffered enough. I’ve come here to return to life.”

With a humorous keynote speech, you have a mission. I invite you to recall a real-life situation, sit down and write an image with a funny script describing your most agonizing moments. Your listeners want to identify. But You don’t have to be amusing unless you want to be invited back.  

That’s the best I can offer at this point. 

If would like to invite a humorous keynote speaker to your event, contact www.lennyravich.org. Also for private coaching sessions. 

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