I realize this post isn’t for everyone and many (even communicators who just “get up and preach”) won’t appreciate the element of “craft” that I’m suggesting is needed for effective communication.
Let’s pick up with the email I wrote to some friends on my “speaking team” (all volunteers, friends, people I’ve “gathered” over the years):
The email I sent: “I’m sending this email to a couple of my “funny” friends because I need better lines than what I currently have.
Here’s the context of the paragraph: I’m trying to communicate that saying “no” is easy when it’s said to the bad things in life. Anyone can say “no” to bad stuff! The difficult part of life is saying “no” to the opportunities that are really good, but don’t ultimately matter the most. I need better/funnier comments.”
Here’s what I’m planning on saying: “I realize it’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff. (1) “Hey, do you want to go for a swim to Catalina?” Easy no. (2) “Do you want to try my mother-in-laws three bean salad?” Again, easy no. (3) “Do you want to come over and watch Honey Do-Do?” Uh, no thanks. Friends, unfortunately our lives are not filled with easy choices like: (a) Do I pet a puppy? or (b) put Tabasco sauce in my eye? Our struggle lies in choosing between the good and great.
Brian: [He sent me several better options and then ended his email stating]: “In regards to the reference to Honey-Doo-Doo… the little pageant queen’s name is Honey Boo-Boo.”
Doug: “Brian, great stuff as always! Thanks for your contribution to this message. BTW: I was going for the obvious mistake because I thought Honey-Do-Do would sound funny (as in doodoo—can’t escape the youth pastor in me and my love for cheap humor).
Brian: The Honey-Doo-Doo line breaks the “joke within a joke” rule. While you’re thinking the audience will get how clever it is to do a riff on Honey Boo-Boo, they’ll probably just think you don’t know the correct name of the show. The underlying joke is just the idea of having to watch Honey Boo-Boo, which is horrible enough… trying to get an extra satirical joke out of it is “gilding the lily.” It would have to be done as a secondary joke after the first joke scores. For instance, after the laugh from saying the initial “Honey-Doo-Doo” line, you play naive and add, “that’s her name right? The little beauty queen girl, little Honey-Doo-Doo… Little Doo-Doo.” You milk that a little bit until somebody corrects you with “Boo-Boo,” then you just play it straight and say “that’s not as funny as Doo-Doo” or something like that. Sorry if that’s a lot more than you’re asking for, but that’s just what 8 years in a half-hour comedy room taught me.
I love it! I’ve been teaching every week for 30 years and I love learning from people like Brian.
By the way, here’s how I ended up crafting that particular paragraph:
It’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff.
(1) Do you want to try my mother-in-laws 3 bean salad? No.
(2) You want to listen to my niece play the accordion? No.
(3) Do you want to come over and watch Honey Boo-Boo? No.
Life is not filled with easy choices like: Do I pet a puppy? or get a colonoscopy?
What about you? Who are you learning from? Who have you “invited” into your message preparation? Are you taking intentional steps to improve as a communicator?
Question: What do you think? Is word-choice really that important? Especially word choice that’s connected to humor or illustration? Share your thoughts here.
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