Did you hear the one about the TV Host who tried to make the Dalai Lama laugh?

Many speakers think that it is a good idea to open their presentations with a joke. The theory is that it introduces humour and put the audience at ease, and thus builds trust.

But even in a one-on-one situation jokes can go horribly wrong as Carl found out. Don’t let this happen to you!


Why did it fail?

There are many reasons why this (and other jokes) fail!

  1. It was a clever joke that required 2 levels of understanding – An understanding of Pizza shops and an understanding of the the Dalai Lama’s religion. Unfortunately the Dalai Lama appears to not be too familiar with Pizza shops. Does everyone in your audience understand the small nuances of your humour.
  2. The translator had to intervene. As the old saying goes, timing is everything. The translation in this caused the timing to die. Comedians who tell jokes for a living have their timing tested and down-pat and that is why they are funny.
  3. The need to explain the joke just drops Carl further into the hole. When you have to start explaining your joke you lose all credibility as a speaker. This is tough to come back from.
  4. ‘I knew that wouldn’t work’. He knew that his opening was going to bomb, but went with it any way. Why do people do this? It comes from focusing on yourself and wanting to show how good/funny/knowledgeable you are. The job of an interviewer is to allow the guest to show how good they are. Not the other way around. In this case, Carl’s desire to show up the Dalai Lama backfired big time.
  5. The result? The Dalai Lama had a good old laugh with Carl, but as his expense. That’s not the way you want to start an interview or presentation.
  6. The more disturbing result? Watch the discussion after the interview. This is what happens when your jokes bomb. They just don’t say it in front of you.
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