I learned a long time ago to never start telling a story or a joke with the opening line, “This is really funny, or this is a funny story.” You have then, as they say, set yourself up for failure. Maybe it was funny to you and maybe it is funny that you just don’t know how to tell a joke or story. Save yourself public humiliation and skip that preface.
Here is an example.
In the 1970s I was attending a cable TV convention for the company that I worked for. At the time I was their most well known on-air personality. My reputation was for comedy although I never have been a stand-up comedian. So there we were attending an early morning seminar. One of our salesmen and I were standing in the back of the room — both of us extremely hungover. Please remember this was the ‘70s and that was perfectly acceptable. Another of our sales personnel was at the podium doing the usual company pitch when she announced, “Now, our very own Bill Tush is going to come up and be really funny.”
This announcement was a complete and unexpected shock to me. I was neither prepared nor in a condition to be really funny. Whether I was or not, I’ll never remember. Thinking back I must have bombed since I’m claiming memory loss for that event.
That was the day I learned to never use that line, “This is really funny.” It may be funny to you but not to another. I could go on forever about jokes that have made me laugh since childhood that you would think to be totally stupid. Or how about jokes that work for one audience and not another? “If a Chinese guy, in China, contracts Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, do they still call it Lou Gehrig’s Disease?” Now that joke gets them rolling in the aisles at medical conventions but falls flat at a nice dinner party.
This also holds true if you are taking a date or friend to a movie. “This is the funniest movie I’ve ever seen” should not be the close-the-deal line for the date. Two hours later your companion makes a B line for the exit because she just didn’t think “Schindler’s List” was all that funny.
Remember this: “A comic says funny things. A comedian says things funny.” I heard that from Milton Berle. Everybody always said he was a funny guy. I never thought so. See! There’s my point.