The surprisingly easy way to write a funny wedding speech

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So you've been asked to give a wedding speech. You've worked out some stories to tell, thought about how long you want the speech to be, but now comes the really hard part.

How do you make it funny? 

You're not alone in this struggle. Even professional comedians spend months trying to perfect their jokes, testing them out on audiences, tweaking them, getting rid of the bad ones, until they finally have the perfect act for their big tour. So how can you be expected to be funny without any open mic nights to practice at? 

Fortunately it's not as hard as you might think to write a speech that will leaves the guests laughing their hearts out, and it's probably the last thing you would imagine 

Don't tell jokes 

That's right. The number one rule to making people is to not tell jokes. 

But if you're not telling jokes, what are they laughing at. Is it just your terrible speech delivery? 

No, let me explain.....

The problem with jokes is they ofter don't translate. A punchline that might seem hilarious to you and your friends may fall flat with another group of people. So many jokes rely on a common understanding and view that not everyone will share. That's why you get a very different set of people going to Tim Vine than the set going to see Frankie Boyle. 

But humans do have one thing that translate perfectly no matter who's listening... 

THe power of stories

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Once upon a time there was 3 little pigs...

You've heard it before? 

Have you ever stopped to think about why you've heard it before though? Humans are story telling machines. We tell them to our children. We pay to watch them on the screen or the stage. We devote hours to reading them. We even make our own life a story, going back over our memories and re-writing and editing them so they form a coherent narrative. Our very history is a story we tell ourselves. 

As a species we are inherently programmed to tell stories, and incredibly, when we do tell stories, the brains of our listeners sync up with ours - they are literally sharing our thoughts.

So, this is how you make you speech funny. Not by telling jokes, but by sharing stories that make you smile, or make you laugh. Tell a story and the guests will be right there with you, seeing the moment side by side. And so when the punchline hits, they'll find it just as funny as you do.

How to tell a good story

But maybe you think you can't tell a good story? 

Firstly, I assure you, you can. Just think many times have you been sat with a friend and had them howling with laughter because of something you've said. You're funnier than you think you are. 

But incase you're still not convinced, here are the secrets of a good story. 

  • Keep it simple - You don't need to use hundreds of words to tell a story that can be told in 50 words. Set the scene and get on with it 
  • Focus on the emotions - If I say 'he was jumping up and down and laughing out loud'  he is instantly become more interesting than 'he was sat there watching tv.' When you describe emotions, the guests actually feel those emotions themselves.
  • Mention the struggles - drama comes from conflict. Was it the groom's 4th driving test, and the last one he could afford before having to walk forever? Mention it. Up the stakes in the stories and people will be impatient to hear how it all turns out. 
  • Don't make yourself the hero - Talk about the bride and groom. You can be there, but the story isn't about how funny you or what you did. People want to be able to imagine the bride and groom, not you. 
  • Make sure the story has a meaning - this is the important part. when you get to the end of the story the guests must know why they came on that journey with you. The punchline doesn't have to be 'laugh out loud', but it does need to sum up the story and explain why you told the story in the first place. 

5 steps to make your stories hilarious

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But how do you take the above tips and apply them to your own stories. Just follow these three easy steps. 

  1. Break the story down into a beginning, middle and end. 
    • Beginning - John taking his third driving test
    • Middle - Gets in the car and starts the test
    • End - Pulls out the car park and immediately hits a parked car
      It's not that funny of a story yet right?
       
  2. Now, write that story in 3 lines, one for each of the above. 
    John was taking his 3rd driving test. He got in the car with the instructor and started to pull away and he got just about as far as the exit to the carpark. Then, he immediately turned hit the gas and bumped into a parked car.
     
  3. Go through that story and set up the tension
    Use exaggeration and hyperbole to make everything seem a bit more ridiculous.
    John was taking his 3rd driving test. He'd been learning to drive for about 600 years or so, and he was getting a bit desperate. He got in the car with the instructor and started to crawl away, really, really slowly, like he was scared of the accelerator. and finally, hours later, made it to the exit to the carpark. Then, he accidentally slammed his foot on the the gas and smashed straight into a parked car on the opposite side of the road.
     
  4. Add some emotion and direct quotes. 
    John was taking his 3rd driving test. He'd been learning to drive for about 600 years or so, and he was getting a bit desperate. Needless to say he was stupidity nervous. He got in the car with the instructor and started to crawl away, really, really slowly, like he was scared of the accelerator.  Finally, hours later, he made it to the carpark exit, and began to relax a little. Ok, John," the instructor said, "I'd like you to turn left and proceed in a straight line following all traffic signals, until I instruct otherwise." And so John, straightened up, took a deep breath and  accidentally slammed down his foot on the the gas and smashed straight into a parked car on the opposite side of the road.
     
  5. Finally, add some throw away punchlines along the way
    John was taking his 3rd driving test. He'd been learning to drive for about 600 years or so, and he was getting a bit desperate. Needless to say he was stupidity nervous. Although probably not as nervous as his driving examiner. John got in the car with the instructor and started to crawl away, really, really slowly, like he was scared of the accelerator. Finally, hours later, he made it to the carpark exit, and began to relax a little. Ok, John," the instructor said, "I'd like you to turn left and proceed in a straight line following all traffic signals, until I instruct otherwise." And so John, straightened up, took a deep breath and accidentally slammed down his foot on the the gas and smashed straight into a parked car on the opposite side of the road. 

    Needless to say, I didn't let John drive here today. 

Putting it all together 

That's literally all there is too it. The power of a funny speech rests, not in jokes, but in stories. Choose 3 stories that make you smile or laugh when you think about the bride or groom, and give them the above treatment until you've made the stories as funny as they can be. 

Then all you have to do is stand up, tell your stories, and take the guests on an hilarious journey with you.