When funny isn't
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 9:02 AM
Ann Timmons

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It's an old story: "comedian misses target, shoots self in foot." We expect that when amateur comedians, and even professionals, are trying out new material in a comedy club. But when they are acting as MC for an awards luncheon, the job is somewhat different; they need to walk a finer line. I am sure they know this, intellectually. But they cannot resist. So it shouldn't surprise me when something like this happens. Vanessa Bayer was tasked with providing an opening monologue, so I guess we could cut her some slack for thinking she was the entertainment. But her real job was to honor six women at Variety's Power of Women luncheon. So even if she was going to throw in a joke, she should have made darn sure it wasn't going to be one that would denigrate a woman, especially the mother of one of the honorees. But her friends who saw her rehearse her monologue probably told Vanessa it was "edgy" and "cool," and so she went with it. And bombed. 

I understand this is an occupational hazard for comedians. Sometimes the jokes just don't work. Even for the pros! So why do non-professionals insist on sticking random jokes in their speeches? Just last week I had to lay out my argument for excising a joke from a client's speech. As you can tell from the date of this blog post I have been singing this tune for years now. But the problem seems to be getting worse, not better. These days, with increasing pressure to include "tweetable moments" in every public appearance, speakers are trying to up their game and social media profiles by including a few "zingers" and "one-liners." My advice: don't!  You can make straightforward statements of belief, share compelling snapshots of your vision, and/or dazzle us with the facts in ways that resonate well enough to be tweetable. But leave the comedy to the professionals! If even SNL stars can't get it right all the time, realistically, what hope do you have?

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