Can your exec joke about the economy?

How to use humor in speeches when times are bleak.

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How to use humor in speeches when times are bleak

Life in early 2009 isn’t all that light and amusing, what with fears about the deepening recession. So is this a bad time for your speaker to crack jokes in his or her speeches? Should your exec adopt a somber and serious tone, in keeping with the times, instead of yukking it up at the podium?

Speechwriters and humorists Eric Schnure and Jeff Nussbaum, known collectively as the Humor Cabinet (a name given to them by Schnure and Nussbaum’s former employer, then-VP Al Gore), see tremendous value in adding humor to speeches—although that doesn’t always mean jokes of the “guy walks into a bar” variety. In good times or bad, Schnure says, humor adds a humanizing element to any speech.

“There’s always room for humor,” says Schnure. “It helps characterize the speaker. The speaker needs the audience to like them, and humor helps do that.” And this holds true even for speeches that aren’t meant to come off as a standup act, Schnure says: “Some of the best eulogies have humor.”

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