“I'll be back!”
“Consider that a divorce!”
“Hasta la Vista, baby!”
Recognize these lines? These are from Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies, “The Terminator”, “Total Recall” and “Terminator 2” respectively.
Schwarzenegger is so known for these funny (some may say cheesy) lines in many of his movies, that you can find numerous sites with his “Top 10 One-Liners” with a simple Google search.
I recently read his biography, “Total Recall”, and though it was a long read, it was very interesting.
Sure, Arnie has made mistakes in his life – who hasn't? It does not take away from the fact that he is one of the most successful immigrants to ever land in the United States of America. He is one of the highest grossing actors of all time, a multi-millionaire businessman (even OUTSIDE of his acting income), and he even ran the state of California as governor from 2003 to 2011.
As a Speaker, you should also be a Reader. There is so much to learn from reading, that will make you a better conversationalist, which will in turn make you more relatable, which will endear you to more of your audiences when you speak.
In addition, you can pick up speaking skills from areas that you would not expect. Case in point: Arnold's book.
When Schwarzenegger started acting, he was admittedly very bad. (Some would say he hasn't gotten much better, but I always thought he was underrated as an actor). However, there is one indisputable fact about him – he was a bankable action star. There was a time when he could do no wrong, his movies earned millions, and he became very rich. To his credit, eventually he was not satisfied with the status quo. He wanted to be seen as not only being a draw as an action star; he wanted to be seen as a viable comedic actor as well.
To improve his “comic chops”, Schwarzenegger got around actors such as Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. He studied comedic timing, and he picked up a key tip that you can also use when you speak. He discovered that when the emotions of a scene were headed in one direction, he could get a bigger humorous response when he changed the direction suddenly. For example, a humorous line would be twice as funny if he delivered it during a violent action scene where everyone was expecting the tension to remain high and serious.
That is the essence of humor. This “twist” is called a “Paraprosdokian Twist”. It occurs when the audience is expecting you to say something that fits with the emotion of the scene or story (or where they feel the emotion currently resides), and you deliver a comedic or unexpected line instead. I once heard a speaker say, “Humor is the gap between what you say, and what the audience expects to hear. And the Bigger the Gap, the Bigger the Laugh.” So true.
As you are writing your next story, think of the following 3 steps to uncover more humor in your speech.
STEP #1: Write out your story, highlighting the areas with the most action, drama, sadness or other emotion.
STEP #2: At the apex or height of the emotion of the moment, ask yourself: “What is the opposite emotion here, or what emotion would they NOT expect?”
STEP #3: Add a line that serves as your Paraprosdokian Twist. BONUS: Aim to make this a line of DIALOGUE instead of Narration.
Remember, humor is the gap between what you say, and what the audience expects to hear. And the Bigger the Gap, the Bigger the Laugh.
So as the old song goes...”C'mon baby! Lets do the TWIST!!!”
PS: Send me an email at CommunicateToCreate@gmail.com and let me know what you try in your next story!!
Kwesi Sekou Millington
Speaker, Mentor, Coach
Kwesi Millington helps speakers to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.